Politics: Living in the ’70s

It’s time for freedom,

It’s time for moving, it’s time to begin.

Yes it’s time

It’s time Australia,

It’s time for moving, It’s time for proving,

Yes It’s time

Written by Paul Jones and Mike Shirley arranged by Pat Aulton lead singer Alison McAllum

Advertising jingle for the Labor Party in the 1972 election

Gough Whitlam with the singer Little Pattie, wearing T-shirts announcing ‘It’s time’ as part of his Labor election campaign in 1972.
Photograph: Graeme Fletcher/Hulton Archive The Guardian Newspaper Tue 21 Oct 2014 

11th November 1975.   Joanne kicked her off her shoes and flopped on the bed. The second English exam was over and she was free of university until next year.  She idly switched on the clock radio beside the bed.  What she heard made her sit bolt upright.  The Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, had been dismissed by the Governor General.

She heard the words of Gough Whitlam as he said, ‘Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General’

The Labor leader addresses reporters outside parliament in Canberra after his dismissal by the governor general during the constitutional crisis of 1975.
Photograph: Keystone/Hulton ArchiveThe Guardian Newspaper Tue 21 Oct 2014 

There would be a general election to determine a democratic outcome.  Meanwhile the opposition leader had become PM.

How had it all come to this when three years before half the country was rejoicing over the end of twenty three years of conservative government?  For people like Joanne politics had become exciting.  It actually was affecting the lives of people including herself.  The university course she was now undertaking part time was free since the Labor Party had come into power.  Even her grandmother approved of the new no-fault divorce laws because she had been through a nasty divorce herself.

The new government voted in on 5 December 1972 was unusual to say the least.  Two people, the PM and the deputy, Lance Barnard, held 27 portfolios between them. The duumvirate, as the mini ministry was called, made 40 significant decisions in a short time, including release of all draft resisters from jail, the removal of troops from Vietnam and recognition of Communist China.   The Governor General, Sir Paul Hasluck made the third in the quorum so that there was no breach of propriety. Thirteen days later the 27 ministers were sworn in.  A new era of reform had begun.

What went wrong?

Well, there were scandals and dodgy loans and accusations of overspending. In October, 1975, the Senate refused to pass supply, which meant the Commonwealth would soon run out of money and thus not be able to function. The Whitlam government decided to tough it out (bad decision). The Opposition Leader said supply would be passed if an election was called for the following May or June 1976. Whitlam refused. That meant there would be no money over the long Christmas break

The Governor General then dismissed the Prime Miinister and his government, appointed the Opposition leader as caretaker Prime Minister and called for an election in December. The Opposition led by Malcolm Fraser, had a resounding win.

Looking back at the 1071 days the Whitlam government was in power, most would agree Australia was never the same again. Reforms to education, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders rights, women’s rights, foreign affairs, human rights, healthcare, social security, defence, multiculturalism, the arts, the law, heritage etc left a lasting legacy.

How the Whitlam government handled the economy has been the source of much public controversy. Inflation, the 1973 oil crisis and other factors saw the end of the post-war boom and coincided with the huge increase in expenditure by the government. Of course the Opposition was scandalised by the Khemlani loans affair and the state of the economy and because Labor did not have a majority in the senate, the Opposition was able to block supply and bring them down.

Surprisingly Whitlam and Fraser formed an unlikely friendship in later life.

Just to take you back to the heady days in the lead up to the 1972 election I will add this website showing the musical advertising campaign.  For those of you who live overseas and know nothing of Australian politics it might still be fun to watch.


Thanks to The Conversation for their reference material Australian politics explainer: Gough Whitlam’s dismissal as prime minister Published: April 19, 2017 1.56pm AEST 

6 thoughts on “Politics: Living in the ’70s

  1. I will wax on poetically on how great the 80s were. I miss the 90s with the fondness of someone who was in his 20s when Bill Clinton was president only can. But the 70s? Now that is a mystical, magical land for me. A place I knew only from afar. Like someone on a boat who can see the land, but I did touch dry soil till 1979. I was just too young in the 1970s to really appreciate them.

    Thanks for this series!

    Tim Brannan
    The Other Side | The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories

    Liked by 1 person

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