A day of drama –Timeline of 11 November 1975


Government and Opposition leaders meet to discuss a compromise over the timing of forthcoming Senate elections. The Opposition rejects the compromise, leading Gough Whitlam to move ahead with plans for an immediate half-Senate election.


Gough Whitlam telephones the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, to discuss his plans to call a half-Senate election. He arranges to visit Government House during parliament's lunch recess at 1.00pm.


Sir John Kerr's letter informing Gough Whitlam that he had been dismissed as Prime Minister
Letter of dismissal

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam is dismissed by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at Government House.

Soon after, Malcolm Fraser is sworn in as caretaker Prime Minister. Fraser agrees to move immediately to obtain the passage of the Budget bills and to make arrangements for a double dissolution.


The Whitlam Government is dismissed by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr.


Gough Whitlam returns to the Lodge and summons senior staff and members, including: Frank Crean, Fred Daly, Kep Enderby, Gordon Scholes, John Menadue, John Mant, Graham Freudenberg and David Combe.


Motion drafted by Gough Whitlam
Motion drafted by Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam drafts a notice of motion to be presented in the House of Representatives in an attempt to overturn his dismissal:

That this House declares that it has confidence in the Whitlam govt and that this House informs HM the Queen that, if HE the G-G purports to commission the hon member for Wannon as PM, the House does not have confidence in him or in any govt he forms.


The House of Representatives resumes after the lunch recess. Frank Crean resumes debate on the Opposition censure motion without mentioning the Dismissal.


Events in the Senate, 11 November 1975
Events in the Senate

Amid confusion about the status of the government, the budget bills are reintroduced into the Senate and passed with the support of both parties.


Malcolm Fraser announces to the House of Representatives that he has been commissioned by the Governor-General to form a caretaker government.


In the House of Representatives, Gough Whitlam presents a motion expressing the House's lack of confidence in the newly-appointed Prime Minister and calling on the Governor-General to reinstate the Whitlam government. The motion is carried by 64 votes to 54.

The Speaker, Gordon Scholes, expresses his intention to convey the House's opinion to the Governor-General 'at the first opportunity'. However, he is unable to obtain an appointment with the Governor-General until 4.45pm.


The budget bills are returned to the House of Representatives from the Senate. The House is suspended until 5.30pm.


Memo by ID Emerton (PM's Department) describing the events of 11 November 1975
An insider's account

Officials from the Prime Minister's and Attorney-General's departments deliver the documents necessary for the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament to the Prime Minister.

Under the Constitution, a double dissolution can be triggered if the Senate twice rejects a bill passed by the House of Representatives. Before he could advise the Governor-General to call a double dissolution election, Prime Minister Fraser needed details of any legislation that fell into this category. In the hours immediately following the Dismissal, government officials quickly assembled information on 21 bills that had been twice rejected by the Senate. They also prepared a proclamation of the double dissolution for the Governor-General's signature.

Prime Minister Fraser left with these documents for Government House at about 3.50pm.


Sir John Kerr signs the proclamation dissolving both houses of parliament.


The Senate votes to defer passage of the Budget until the Whitlam government agrees to a general election.


David Smith, official secretary of the Governor-General, reads the proclamation of the double dissolution from the steps of Parliament House.


The Speaker is admitted to Government House for his meeting with the Governor-General. He informs Sir John Kerr of the motion passed in the House, but is told that parliament has been dissolved.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019