The drama surrounding the dismissal of Mr. Gough Whitlam as the Labor Prime Minister of Australia - on 11 November, 1975 - by the then Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr - and the...
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The drama surrounding the dismissal of Mr. Gough Whitlam as the Labor Prime Minister of Australia - on 11 November, 1975 - by the then Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr - and the subsequent installation, in Parliament, of the Liberal 'caretaker government' and Mr. Malcolm Fraser as the 'caretaker' Prime Minister.Written by
David McAnally <D.McAnally@uq.net.au>
One of three major film and television collaborations of actress Robyn Nevin and director Carl Schultz. The productions are the feature films 'Goodbye Paradise'' (1983) and 'Careful, He Might Hear You' (1983) and two episodes of the television mini-series 'The Dismissal' (1983). See more »
[referring to Opposition Leader Billy Snedden]
Before the Leader of the Opposition can talk about leadership, let him serve his apprenticeship. Let him do some on-the-job training. Better still, let him do some adult re-training.
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After traveling around the world, it dawned on me that Australia really lacks one thing that other countries have: history.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Australia wasn't establish following a war, it has not had a civil war and most of its political history is rather..... boring! Nothing "big" happened to mark some sort of turning point in Australia's history.... until the dismissal of the Whitlam government by the Governor-general of Australia - John Kerr.
For those outside Australia who may not know, we are constitutional monarchy - we have our own constitution, but retain reigning British Monach as the head of state. The Queen is represented in Australia by her "Govenor-General" though the role is somewhat regarded as a bit of a "rubber stamp" role. Theoretically, the Governor-general can refuse to sign a law passed by Australian parliament if (s)he thinks fit, though the power isn't exercised by convention. Now the events of 1975 - covered in this film - gave rise to a precedent on this particular section: if the governor-general is somehow 'displeased' with the government and/or Prime Minister, it would appear that section 64 of the Australian Constitution allows him to lawfully sack the government (which happened in 1975... hence the title of the film "the dismissal.")
Now that this background aspect is out of the way, let's get back to discussing the film. It was well made. The pace was patient, but didn't drag at all. The drama was well contained and very realistic. It didn't over-dramatise the events and most importantly, it did not present its point of view from one political perspective. On the contrary, I felt that it was fair and balanced, even though concluding text before the credits indicates that the film-makers probably didn't approve of the Governor-general's decision to dismiss the Whitlam government. But I wouldn't describe the film overall as bias in one direction or the other.
In terms of accuracy, it was virtually spot on. The film-makers certainly did their homework and evidently read the books and writings from all the principle players concerned. There were a number of finer details that were somewhat skipped over, largely because they took a long time to explain and ultimately had little impact on the events of 1975, so I forgive them for that. Further, I think it was difficult to recreate the public sentiment of that post-Vietnam war era, but Noyce pretty much pulled it off.
Finally, I was pleased that the film attempted to raise individual policies of both sides without becoming analytical, obsessive or judgmental over them. Moreover, any that we're raised, for example Connor's pipeline, had a great deal of relevance to the story. The film makers realised that their task was to tell the story of the events leading to the dismissal and not to present a political endorsement or opposition in relation to policies and viewpoints. This was smart because it meant that the film can't be accused of misrepresenting one side's policies.
The dismissal is probably the most incredible piece of political history that has occurred in Australia in its short life. I am glad that it has been crystallized in celluloid. Essential viewing for any Australian.
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