Remembering the Whitlam Dismissal

A Venerable Puzzle

Gough Whitlam died today at the age of 98. His death comes just a few weeks shy of the thirty-ninth anniversary of his dismissal at the hands of the Governor-General. This momentous event was one of the defining moments of Australian politics, but what exactly happened back in November of 1975, and why is it significant?

Whitlam became Prime Minister of Australia in 1972, and although his Australian Labor Party had a small majority in the House of Representatives, the Senate was controlled by the Opposition Coalition.[1] One of the quirks of the Australian constitution is that, unlike most Westminster systems, their upper house has the roughly the same powers as the lower house,[2] and the Coalition was not shy about using its Senate majority to frustrate the Whitlam Government. In 1974, Whitlam sought a double dissolution (i.e., a dissolution of both the Senate and the House of…

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