The Dismissal

Although I was a child (10 years old) when the Whitlam Government was dismissed, I was fairly politically astute for my age. I knew about and was interested in politics, although I didn’t come from a particularly political family.

I found this book interesting on several levels, both in the choice of those asked to write and in their reflections some of which have mellowed with time and others of which remain unfixed, unquestioning.

Due to the relatively recent occurence there’s still a degree of self-serving going on, with a number of the writers, including Gerard Henderson and Tony Wright still wanting to defend the roles they and those close to them played in the dimissal.

Also interesting is the fact that so many of the journalists will now admit to having no idea that it was about to occur. Indeed, Michelle Grattan tells a story of how she had been out of the office doing some shopping, picking up some dry-cleaning as I recall. Unlike the all-seeing pompousness of many of today’s political reporters, with older events like this one, it’s great they’ll happily admit they got it wrong at the time.

I think my favourite story, though, was that one written by Frank Moorehouse, who describes having been told the news by a waitress at the restaurant in which he was having lunch with Donald Horne and Douglas MacCallum. Telling us more than he should about the attitude of three leading academice, Moorehouse he tells us they all thought the waitress obviously had it wrong. “You have two professors of political science here”, Moorehouse says he told the waitress.

“The Dismissal (Where were you on November 11, 1975?”, edited by Sybil Nolan was published by Melbourne University Press.

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