Dear Gough ...

Letter from John Kerr to Gough Whitlam, 12 March 1974
Letter from John Kerr to Gough Whitlam, 12 March 1974. (NAA: A1209, 1974/6544)

‘21 months is a long time in politics’ … ‘the rest is history’ … ‘how the tide turns’ … ‘it’s time’!

Australia has had 30 years to digest the sacking of the Whitlam government and there’s not a cliché or headline that hasn’t been used. But what do you make of this?

Dated 12 March 1974, it’s a letter from the then Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir John Kerr to the Honourable EG Whitlam, Prime Minister of Australia saying how much he is looking forward to being Governor-General.

I appreciate very much everything that you did in connection with my appointment ... I shall enjoy very much the association with you.

But 21 months later, almost to the day, Gough lived to rue his decision.

The Senate, where Labor was outnumbered, refused to pass the Supply bills. The Governor-General decided to step in to resolve the crisis, dismissing Whitlam and appointing Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018