December 5

The dismissal, televised

The Dismissal, the Kennedy Miller production was recently shown again, this time  on the Foxtel History Channel.  Three decades after declaring it Australia’s best television show, Tom Krause “remains a true believer.  The former TV critic for The Australian and managing editor of Nine’s Sunday program was writing in The Weekend Australian’s Review, appropriately  on 11-12 November, 2006.  For Labor voters, he says, there is no new ending.  The narrator says so: "And so it’s done, this thing that can never be undone. For the first time, the representative of the Crown has signed a document that will dismiss an Australian prime minister."  And, despite that vice-regal intervention, Whitlam’s exhortation to "maintain the rage", and protests and violence across Australia on Remembrance Day, the Coalition was elected with a resounding majority, 91 seats to 36 for Labor.  This was no constitutional crisis; the action of the Governor-General resolved a bitter political crisis between two obstinate politicians when one persisted in behaving unconstitutionally, trying to govern without supply. The decision was transferred to the people.

 

 

But Mr. Krause will have none of this.  “The closing voiceover and graphic make the point that the Constitution still allows an unelected governor-general to dismiss an elected government. So that well-known republican, Fraser, should be happy to see a repeat of The Dismissal because it reminds Australians that "those who forget the past are bound to relive it". And it should be required viewing for Kim Beazley. Lest he forgets.”   ( This was before the ALP Caucus, and not a viceroy,  dismissed Mr. Beazley.)

 

 

I watched the series recently on DVD.  I fear the series would be of interest to few outside those who lived through it. It is complicated – too complicated. That is not the fault of the programme -there was a vast cast of characters and the story is complicated.  I found the ending far too partisan. It took away the sense of objectivity which is so important in an historical series. I think this also spoiled the film on King George III. The reference to hereditary and porphyria, from which the King may have suffered, came across as a pointed and infantile attack on the present Royal Family.

 

 

This sort of comment is unnecessary. Being the last word, it tends to undercut the dramatic effect of the film itself, and the assessment the audience themselves will make without any such assistance.

 


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