The dismissal of the Whitlam government by governor-general Sir John Kerr was marked by secrecy and collusion on a scale that has only recently been uncovered. Its history has been no different. From the outset we were treated to a carefully constructed narrative that masked the governor-general’s secret collusion with members of the High Court, with the leader of the opposition, Malcolm Fraser, and his acknowledged deception of Whitlam regarding the half-Senate election that Whitlam was set to announce on the afternoon of November 11, 1975.
All of this, and more, has come to light only in recent years, much of it with the continuing revelations from Kerr’s papers in the National Archives of Australia. These included Kerr’s remarkable 12-page record of his lengthy secret discussions with High Court justice Sir Anthony Mason, and Mason’s own drafting of the letter of dismissal for Kerr. With those revelations in Gough Whitlam: His Time in 2012, others soon followed. A combination of the posthumous records of key participants, historical reinterpretation and detailed exploration of Kerr’s papers has changed our understanding of the Dismissal forever. Chief among these was final confirmation of Kerr’s secret telephone conversations with Fraser in the week before the Dismissal, an unconscionable betrayal of the very essence of parliamentary government that had been repeatedly and emphatically denied by Kerr and Fraser for decades.