The Dismissal, 1975 – Fact sheet 240

When he assumed leadership of the Liberal Party in March 1975, Malcolm Fraser pledged that the Opposition would only use its Senate numbers to block supply in the 'most extraordinary and reprehensible circumstances'. Fraser cited the loans affair, 1974–75 as an example of these circumstances in his October announcement that the Opposition would defer voting on the Whitlam government's appropriation bills.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced that he would not be forced into calling an early election. The bills were reintroduced and deferred several times. Faced with dwindling funds, the government devised a plan to borrow money from banks so it could continue to pay public servants and creditors when supply ran out.

The Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, met with Fraser and Whitlam several times in an attempt to resolve the Senate deadlock. He also received advice from the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General on the constitutional position. Controversy still surrounds the role of the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, who provided advice to the Governor-General before the dismissal.

On 11 November at Government House, Sir John advised Whitlam that he was terminating his commission as prime minister and swore in Malcolm Fraser as caretaker prime minister. On the afternoon of 11 November, the Senate passed the appropriation bills and the two houses were dissolved.

Despite demonstrations across the country, Fraser's LiberalNational Party coalition won the 13 December elections with a devastating swing against the former government. The new Fraser ministry was sworn in on 22 December 1975.

The records

The National Archives holds many records relating to the dismissal, including departmental and personal records. Some of these files are listed below. Commonwealth records become available once they enter the open access period.

To identify other records, search the collection using keywords such as ‘double dissolution’, ‘caretaker government’, ‘senate appropriation bills’, or ‘dismissal prime minister’ (with the date ‘1975’).

Selection of departmental records about the Dismissal

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Governor-General

Attorney-General’s Department

Treasury

Selection of records on the dismissal from personal collections

Sir John Kerr

Sir Clarence Harders (Secretary, Attorney General’s Dept)

Edward Gough Whitlam

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemLetter by Mr Whitlam to Martin Charteris (private secretary to Queen Elizabeth II) of 26 December 19751975M1734, 1

Photographs

You can use our PhotoSearch database to locate photographs relating to the dismissal. Use the search term ‘double dissolution’ to identify images of interest.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016