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  Issue No 78 Official Organ of LaborNet 17 November 2000  




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Conspiracy or Class? The Whitlam Sacking

Never trust a man who wears a top hat and tails in Australia, in Summer. Neale Towart considers this and other evidence of conspiracy in the great shonky dismissal.


Some call it conspiracy, with the various versions involving the CIA, Rupert Murdoch, Zionists and the Trilateral Commission. Others say it was largely Kerr, fulfilling the role of his class and station, with Whitlam having a significant role in his own downfall by not being aware of Kerr's mood of self-aggrandisement.

There is of course, a mountain of writings about the events of November 1975- the "Unmaking of Gough"- and much more was generated this year as the twenty fifth anniversary rolled by. Mungo McCallum this week points vaguely to the staunch opposition to Medibank waged by the doctors and the Libs at that time. Were they in on it?

John Pilger's A Secret Country (Vintage, 1990) has a great deal of interesting detail about the fate of the Whitlam government, and the accumulation of actions which seem to have lead to an American reaction. US bases are the focal point, with Whitlam's nationalism seen as a threat to the integrity of US control of its "51st state".

The crucial trigger point was the belief of the CIA that Whitlam would announce the cancellation of the Pine Gap agreement of December 9, 1975. Something had to be done. Pilger documents a Hansard report of 1977 on statements by Andrew Peacock, stating on a visit to Indonesia six weeks before the Dismissal, what would happen in the Australian crisis:

"Whitlam will not agree to hold an election...the Governor General would be forced to ask Malcolm Fraser to form a Cabinet. But this Cabinet would not be able to get a mandate to govern, because parliament is controlled by the Labor Party...Fraser is appointed PM, a minute later he asks the Governor-General to dissolve parliament, following which a general election is held."

Pilger's is an excellent summary of reportage of the time, and books written by Denis Freney, Joan Coxsedge and others. Kerr's intelligence links are set out, as well as the actons and reactions of notorious CIA operative Shackley, who had the full backing of Kissinger (US Secretary of State at the time). The other CIA person who has been linked strongly with Kerr's action was Victor Marchetti and he said in 1980:

"The CIA's aim in Australia was to get rid of a government they did not like and that was not's a Chile, but [in] a much more sophisticated form."

Of course, there is always the point that Whitlam and his ministers by the way they ran the economy didn't need CIA help to sink their ship, but oppositional forces were impatient and had to precipitate the demise.

Pilger's details are based on documentation and interviews but others would press the case to Bilderberg Club extremes. Probable Cause Australia claims to present a world exclusive at Okay I'm a bit slow getting to it as it was posted in November 1995, a twenty year anniversary. This site is dedicated to bringing to Australia "the truth about the Kennedy assassination" so has slipped in some information about our very own national trauma.


Announces the article. It also concentrates on US bases and the fact of Whitlam apparently about to give a speech on 11th November 1975 denouncing the spy bases. It goes pretty thoroughly through the loans affair, buying back the farm and other threats to US national security.

The US has a long record of such actions before and since 1975. We tend to see these as the US acting to guide countries on the correct path (can't let people go communist irresponsibly now can we?) and those countries as poor third world countries. However if they can do it there they can do it here. The difference seems to be that actions in, for example, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Mozambique were pretty much on the public record for those who cared to look. The Australian evidence is based more on comments and apparent actions, rather than State Department documents.

Those who doubt that such documents are public only need to look at just about any of Noam Chomsky's scarifying demolitions of US foreign policy and see that much of his material is actually drawn directly from official statements by US players.

The right have not been inactive in debunking Whitlam myths. Gerard Henderson can be counted on to trot out something each year as he did in a broad review in the SMH on 23 September this year.

Sir David Smith (he didn't have the honourific in 1975 when he worked Sir John Kerr) addressed the Samuel Griffith Society, also in 1995, to defend Kerr and debunk the conspiracy theorists. His speech is at . He mainly defends the actions of the opposition in having the right to block supply, pointing out that the ALP in opposition had tried on 170 occasions to do the same thing. He also defends Kerr seeking advice from Barwick as Chief Justice, saying he was perfectly entitled to do this. He also pedantically accuses the ABC of bias (surprise, surprise) because they constantly referred to him as the one who announced Whitlam's dismissal from the steps of Parliament. In fact he announced the dissolution of parliament and the fact of an upcoming general election. Its part of a general purpose of the Samuel Griffith Society to defend the constitution which they claim as a Griffith document. As Peter Botsman (The Great Constitutional Swindle, Pluto Press, 2000) has pointed out, it was in fact largely written by Andrew Clark. His argument misses the point that just because Kerr consulted Barwick that didn't give Barwick's advice any legal standing. Arguing about the legal rights of Kerr to do what he did seems a waste as the fact is he did it and it happened which seems to me to make it legal.

A much further "out there" conspiracy view is at where the New Zealand and Australian Labor governments are brought down by the Roundtable and the Trilateralists. Please note that the Trilateral Commission, established by David Rockefeller, and which included such figures as President Carter's Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski, Vice President Walter Mondale and Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher (who later was Clinton's Secretary of State) sought to make the world "safe for democracy" by making sure the US view got its way. The MAI and WTO continue their work today.

This paper contains lots of interesting names, details of Swiss bank accounts held by John Kerr and Mafia figures implicated in events of 1974-75 and attempts by the CIA to place subliminal broadcasts on TV screens in Australia at this time! Names include Michael Hand (of Nugan Hand Bank infamy), Aristotle Onassis, being crowned mafia king in 1968, a deal to get oil from an area under NZ control in 1967; the covert heroin operations in the Golden triangle from the 1960s run by the CIA.

The paper states categorically the NZ PM Norman Kirk was killed by the Trilateralists using sodium morphate and his replacement Rowlings quickly buried Kirk's anti monopoly legislation.

The paper is partly diarised and the entry for 6 October 1974 claims:

"Ray Cline implements William Colby plan to oust Australian Prime Minister Whitlam. Nugan Hand Bank finances payoffs to Malcolm Fraser and other pro-US politicians. A joint bugging operation commences between CIA and ASIA.

Rupert Murdoch, playing his part, uses his newspapers and television network to spread lies and misinformation. Whitlam, as well as refusing to waive restrictions on overseas borrowing to finance the aluminium consortium, had plans to ensure that all corporations were at least 50% Australian-owned. This interfered with the Seven Sisters' plans to build three oil refineries at Cape Northumberland in South Australia to exploit the Great South Basin discovery. [this was an oilfield apparently discovered by J H. Hunt's company in about 1967 in NZ territory]

In December 1974 Kerr joins the same payroll. He received his first pay-off of $US200,000 credited to his account number 767748 at the Singapore branch of the Nugan Hand Bank."

This stuff is pretty hard to top.

Cline was CIA deputy director of intelligence at the time. Pilger notes in A Secret Country that Cline said the CIA passed on information to the opposition to discredit the Whitlam government and to put pressure on Australian civil servants who in turn would pressure the Governor-General. This other document goes much further than Pilger.

The anonymous author of "I Don't believe in all these conspiracy theories" at does in fact believe them and is convinced that anyone reading a particular book by Carroll Quigley called the Anglo-American Establishment has been systematically removed from library shelves (the few libraries it ever made it to) as soon as she/he read them (unfortunately without the money to photocopy the crucial bits).

This conspiracy covers Whitlam, and the Republican Movement, the New World Order, The Trilateral Commission, Jews, Zionist and Gentiles.

Please excuse me. I'm going to hide in the cupboard now, making sure there are no cameras and listening devices installed first.


Some good non-conspiratorial analysis is around, including a terrific left wing paper by Phil Griffiths at called Strike Fraser Out! The labour movement campaign against the blocking of supply and the sacking of the Whitlam Government, October-December 1975. He analyses of how the labour movement responded at the leadership level and at the rank and file level.

Most of the histories leave out labour movement reaction, actions and the potential of those actions. Griffiths says "Amongst the Labor and trade union left, the vicious media campaign against Whitlam, conspiracies by the CIA, Whitlam's failure to consult, and the 25% tariff cut which led to thousands of job losses, were all emphasised. Very few sought to ask whether or not the working class upsurge of October and November might have stopped Fraser's attack had things been done differently. Indeed, the scale of the Labor Party's defeat on 13 December led many to conclude that the campaign hadn't mattered at all."

The official union leadership reacted with alarm to the spontaneous walkouts many workers were involved in as soon as they heard about the sacking.

As he notes, the working class was very angry indeed with Whitlam by the end of 1974, and the conservative forces had started to mobilise in earnest (this was the beginnings of what was called the New Right) against the government. Various crises had the government looking pretty terrible. However as soon as supply was blocked anger at the actions reversed opinion, with the ALP leaping ahead in opinion polls after looking pretty dismal all year.

A savage campaign from then by the Libs and the media reversed this again by election day. Was the working class response fading? Not according to Griffith, who rather sees it as a failure of an organised leadership to grasp the potential (or a fear of grasping that potential).

In summary Griffith says "The movement against the blocking of supply and the Kerr Coup has been misrepresented in most histories as an enthusiastic and bitter campaign of meetings and rallies focused on the re-election of the Whitlam government.

Yet at the beginning, there was a serious attempt to stop Fraser's bid for power using strike action that involved well over half a million workers - a major industrial campaign in anyone's terms. There was also a widespread, popular radicalism that was so militant that for perhaps the third or fourth time this century, the leaders of the labour movement were forced to discuss demands for national, general strike action. Indeed, for a time it looked as if the powerful left unions, such as the Metal Workers, might lead a struggle, but for reasons as yet unknown, they backed away from this. This was a struggle the labour movement could and should have won, and it paid a bitter price over the coming years for its defeat.

This movement brought sharply to the surface the inherent contradictions of labourism - setting out to administer the capitalist system while relying on working class organisation and struggle for its existence and success. The result of such politics is that at crucial times in the class struggle, when great issues are being decided, workers find their leaders preferring to accept defeat rather than fight. Half a century earlier, a leader of the British trade union movement declared, in the middle of that country's greatest general strike, "I have never disguised that in a challenge to the Constitution, God help us unless the government won."

The words may have been those of JH Thomas, but they summed up Bob Hawke and his appeal for Australian workers to "cool it". And yet, despite Hawke's efforts, the movement undermined Fraser and made his government more hesitant than either it had intended, or its supporters had wanted."

Humphrey McQueen writing in 1976 for Nation Review (republished in his Gallipoli to Petrov: arguing with Australian history (Allen & Unwin, 1984) notes that "Kerr's dismissal of the Whitlam Ministry so outraged Labor supporters that they could not believe that Sir John had merely fulfilled his constitutional obligations. An enormous variety of explanations circulated, ranging from a few Trotskyites who suggested that Kerr was himself a Trot and had sacked Whitlam in order to bring parliamentary democracy into disrepute, to stories about Kerr being blackmailed into the deed - on grounds of sexual or legal impropriety. Alternatively, Kerr had moved to forestall a military coup against Whitlam. A leading state Labor politician believes that Kerr consulted the chiefs of staff, after 11 November, on the possibility of calling off the election off and declaring a state of emergency. Not to be outdone, Nation Review gave a two-page spread to the 'Bilderberg Club', that standby of those who see the world in the grip of Jewish financiers. Undoubtedly the explanation which gained most coverage gravitated around Kerr's links with intelligence and right wing organisations."

McQueen himself noted the possible connections with a letter to the Canberra Times on 17 July 1975 in which he listed one example from the paper's own vice-regal column on the intelligence and military types who had been Kerr's guests on 20 September 1974.

"...Liberals convinced themselves that Whitlam, Cairns and Connor were lining up for a share of a reported $30million commission from the loans deal. By October 1975, people who had voted Labor in 1972 and 1974 were convinced that Whitlam was planning a personal dictatorship and that he had already nominated a five-person committee of public safety."

As McQueen says in this article (he makes a similar point about the Patrick dispute in his recent book Temper Democratic (Wakefield Press 1998)), the rich and dominant class don't appear to have to organise, its only the workers who are regarded with distrust for doing so. The trouble with cover-all conspiracy theories is that it allows the overlooking of the workings of the dominant class. Conspiracies amongst that class are then a day to day event, in that the continually organise to protect their interests from those who would seek to claim rights. The extraordinary actions that might reveal a more deliberate conspiratorial vein, would occur when the ruling class actors feel the need to assert their authority as the state apparatus is not up to the job.


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 78 contents

In this issue
*  Interview: Doubly Blessed
With that unforgettable name, Grace Grace is making her mark as the first female secretary of the Queensland trade union movement.
*  Unions: On The Line
Trade unions this week entered a landmark partnership with the call centre industry to improve the quality jobs in this growing sector.
*  History: Conspiracy or Class? The Whitlam Sacking
Never trust a man who wears a top hat and tails in Australia, in Summer. Neale Towart considers this and other evidence of conspiracy in the great shonky dismissal.
*  Legal: Return Of The Lock-out
Marian Baird reports on the increasing tendency of aggressive employers to use lock-outs to reduce wages and conditions and promote individual agreements.
*  Activists: Waterfront Hero Bows Out
John Coombs, the man the government compared to Ned Kelly - villain to the bosses, the big land owners and conservatives, folk hero to working Australians - bows out of the union movement next month.
*  International: Morocco Stonewalls In Western Sahara
Morocco has new king but its old game plan of defying world opinion over its occupation of the Western Sahara continues.
*  Review: The Identity-Shifting Pragmatist
If New Zealand should have an Australian as its first Labour Prime Minister, then it is only fitting that Australia should have as its first a man who spent much of his formative years across the ditch.
*  Satire: Hackers Infect Microsoft Computers With Mysterious Windows Virus
SEATTLE, Thursday: Shame-faced workers at Microsoft admitted today that hackers had succeeded in penetrating their network's defences and had installed a sophisticated virus on the Apple Macintosh machines used across the software giant's operations.

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»  Call Centre Group Sets New Standard
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»  Reith Uses the Back Door
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»  Vic Opposition Blocks Fair IR Laws
»  More Reasons to Abolish the Employment Advocate
»  Coca-Cola Hit by Racism Claims
»  Souths or Bust!
»  Fundraisers for Burma, Timor, EMILY's List

»  The Soapbox
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Tool Shed

Letters to the editor
»  Heaps of US Presidential Feedback
»  George W's Words of Wisdom
»  Cancer of the Soul
»  Explaining to to the Gott - Slowly
»  Desperately Seeking George Scurry

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