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A momentous phone call

The dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975 was one of the most significant events in the political history of Australia. Like all good historical controversies, it can still stimulate debate today.

Held in the Malcolm Fraser collection is a note written by Fraser during his phone call with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, on the morning of 11 November 1975. The note, written on the back of an agenda for the joint party meeting that Fraser was about to attend, observes the time as 9.55 am. It lists the undertakings that the Governor-General required of Fraser before he would dismiss Whitlam.

According to the note, these included an agreement that Fraser would be appointed caretaker prime minister until a double dissolution was called. During the caretaker period there were to be no major policy changes, the coalition parties would pass supply in the Senate and they would drop the pursuit of charges against Labor ministers in relation to the 'Loans Affair'.

The note confirms that Fraser knew of the Governor-General's intention to raise the prospect of the dismissal of Whitlam that day. As remarked in the recently published, Malcolm Fraser: The political memoirs,1 it certainly was 'one of the most momentous phone calls in the history of Australian politics'.

 

1. Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons, Malcolm Fraser: The political memoirs, Carlton, Vic.: The Miegungunyah Press, 2010, p. 304.

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