December 11

Still smearing

The 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr was within the clearly established reserve powers of a Governor- General.   (For a contrary view see “Dismissal: G-G used power ‘ not known to exist,’ claims law professor.”) The reason for the dismissal was advanced by Sir John was that the government was planning to govern  without a grant of supply, a breach of the constitutional system.

This has led to some bitterness on the part of some of mr. Whitlam’s supporters.  Their bitterness should be directed at Malcolm Fraser, the Leader of the Opposition, who withheld the grant of supply. And as Sir David Smith points out in his authoritative work Head of State, Mr. Whitlam’s party in opposition had between 1950 and 1970 launched 170 similar attempts to topple the then government. As former DLP Senator Jack Kane observed, the only difference was Malcolm Fraser’s attempt succeeded, the 170 all failed.

That has not stopped a campaign, maintained even today, to damage the reputation of Sir John Kerr, even by fabrications. ( See for example “Sir John Kerr : unfounded allegation”.)

…"drinker, not a drunk"…..


Gerard Henderson, the noted commentator, wrote the following letter which was published in the December 2009 issue of The Australian Literary Review  under the heading, “DRINKER, NOT A DRUNK.”

“John Carmody acknowledges that he has not undertaken the kind of “careful behavioural observation” that would put him in a position to assess whether John Kerr was an alcoholic (Letters, November).  Even so, he maintains that it seems “perfectly reasonable” for Ross Fitzgerald and Trevor J. Jordan, in their book Under the Influence, to depict Kerr as suffering from “galloping alcoholism” circa 1975."

" The fact remains that the only evidence for this assertion in Under the Influence is an allegation made by former labor prime minister Gough Whitlam many years after Kerr’s death. Whitlam’s specific claim was refuted in 2002 by Kerr’s physician, Ralph Blacket.”

“Carmody, an academic medico who stood as a Labor candidate in 1975, cites a reference to the former governor-general in Domenico Cacciola’s book The Second Father to the effect that Kerr loved a drink.  This is not news but it does not equate with an allegation that he suffered from galloping alcoholism.”

“Carmody also cites  the former Queensland policeman Cacciola as having said in a recent interview on ABC radio that when he said “in a recent interview on ABC radio” that when he provided  security for Kerr on Heron Island in 1976, the governor-general brought with him a large number of suitcases, most of which were 'filled with whisky bottles'.”

“In fact,  Cacciola made this comment as a light-hearted aside during a recent Brisbane Writers Festival session that was subsequently broadcast on Radio National.  The recording  reveals that both Cacciola and this interviewer were laughing at the time the comments were made.”

“I have spoken to Cacciola.  He told me he had no idea what Kerr had in his suitcases when he arrived on Heron Island, since they were unpacked by the governor-general’s staff.  Cacciola also said he had pre-dinner drinks with Kerr each night during his 14 day stay on Heron Island.  He added that he never saw Kerr drunk and enjoyed his company.”

“At the Brisbane Writers Festival, Cacciola said, with humour, that he was 'pretty sure' he had helped Kerr 'drink a couple of bottles of whisky' over two weeks.  Yet Carmody asserts that Kerr took scores of whisky bottles to Heron Island and, presumably consumed them himself."

" If this was the case, then the only way Kerr would have come off Heron Island in 1976 was in a coffin.  Kerr died of a brain tumour in 1991 at age 76.”       


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