Thirtieth anniversary of Australia's constitutional crisis

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Friday, November 11, 2005

On 11 November 1975, Australia faced a constitutional crisis. By failing to obtain Supply, that is, with its financial Appropriation Bills repeatedly rejected by the upper house, the Australian national government had effectively run out of money. In response, the Australian Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. A caretaker government under the Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser was formed and held office until a new general election was called. Despite Whitlam's call for Australians to "maintain the rage", Malcolm Fraser became prime minister in a landslide win to his party.

Immediately following his sacking, responding to the formal "God save the Queen" which ended the proclamation terminating his government, Gough Whitlam declared from the steps of Parliament House:

Well may we say "God save the Queen" because nothing will save the Governor General. . . . The proclamation you have just heard read was countersigned Malcom Fraser, who will go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr's Cur.

While the Labor Party faithful "maintained the rage" and Australia's current prime minister John Howard said Sir John Kerr was "savagely maligned by history", the anniversary was a non-event for most Australians. The day in Australia focused on the 87th anniversary of the end of World War I and the ongoing news events of the day.

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