Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/831/19593

From The Socialist newspaper, 29 October 2014

Australia: when the Queen's representative sacked a government

Becci Heagney

Gough Whitlam, former Australian Prime Minister, has died at the age of 98. His time in government raises important concerns for the working class about so-called democracy under capitalism.

Whitlam led the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to power in 1972 after 23 years of Conservative government. Despite not being from the left-wing, trade union side of the party, he carried out important reforms under pressure from an increase in workers' struggle.

The reforms included: scrapping university tuition fees, equal pay legislation, the introduction of a universal health insurance scheme and the withdrawal of troops from South Vietnam. He reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 which involved a new generation in politics.

Removed

For all of this, he was undemocratically removed from power by the Governor-General John Kerr. The position of Governor-General is appointed, ironically by the Prime Minister, as the representative of the monarchy in Australia. They have similar 'reserve' powers to the Queen in Britain, including the power to appoint or dismiss ministers, to dissolve parliament and to give assent (or refuse assent) to laws.

The Governor-General is head of the Federal Executive Council, a body which consists of all current and past government ministers and legally enacts the policies of the Cabinet, which actually has no legal power at all. They are also the head of the armed forces.

By 1974, a constitutional crisis was developing. The ALP had a majority in the parliament, the House of Representatives, but the Liberal-Country Party coalition (an alliance of right-wing parties) controlled the upper house, the Senate. The Liberals, led by Malcolm Fraser, were using their majority to block bills.

During 1975 they refused to pass the budget Supply Bill, which meant that the government was not receiving money to function. The deadlock apparently went as far as the government only having enough money to last two more weeks.

It was then that the Governor-General struck, dissolved parliament, removed Whitlam from power and appointed Fraser Prime Minister. A vote of no confidence by ALP MPs, who still had a majority in the House of Representatives until a general election, was ignored.

Outrage

Instantly, Australia was rocked by outrage. Thousands of civil servants in Canberra took strike action and a huge protest was held outside parliament in support of the ALP. In Melbourne, dockers protested. Fraser was physically attacked as he left parliament. Unfortunately, Whitlam failed to mobilise this resistance and lost the following election.

The 'reserve' powers of the monarchy and the Queen's representatives in the Commonwealth will be used against democratically elected governments if they think that it is necessary, especially left wing ones. Whitlam didn't carry out radical socialist policies but he went too far for the Australian ruling class. Revelations since show the involvement of both MI6 and the CIA in the run up to the dismissal, just a couple of years after a violent CIA-backed coup in Chile.

Working class

They weren't worried about what Whitlam was doing, but about the rising confidence of working class people - Whitlam wasn't trusted to hold that back. More recently, in 2008 the Governor-General in Canada suspended a minority conservative government to allow it to avoid a vote of no confidence from the opposition.

The position of Governor-General should be scrapped - along with all other undemocratic 'reserve' powers, they can be used against the workers' movement if it is seen as a threat to their system.

The monarchy and other feudal relics have no place in a democratic society and should be abolished. The workers movement must be prepared to fight for genuine democracy - a socialist society.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 29 October 2014:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Millions robbed by greedy bosses

Capitalism - 'the new mediocre'

Record numbers of workers suffering poverty pay

NHS: More cuts planned

Our health is not a game!

Scottish Labour in crisis

Them & Us


Socialist history

Lessons from history: 1917 Revolution in Russia

Australia: The sacking of a government


International socialist news and analysis

Building a political alternative in Seattle


Socialist Party workplace news

Support FBU pension strikes: Save our fire service

St Mungo's Broadway workers discuss next action

Sheffield recycling workers to start indefinite action

Ritzy workers threatened with redundancy

Fighting for better pay for workers

Wales colleges: Vote 'yes' in pay strike consultation

NASUWT members strike at Swinton High School

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Leicester holds historic People's Budget talks

Southwark Labour demolishes homes

Donate for socialism!


Readers' comments and reviews

Film review: On the streets of Belfast in 1971

Red Dylan Thomas


Obituary

Bill Webster 1941-2014

Ronnie Sookhdeo 1946-2014


 

Home   |   The Socialist 29 October 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Australia:

triangleCWI news in brief

triangleThe ongoing capitalist crisis and the struggle for a socialist world

triangleWomen's oppression: the struggle goes on

triangleAustralia: massive yes vote for marriage equality

Queen:

triangle'Paradise' for billionaires - austerity for us

triangleEd Balls: 'Speaking Out' for capitalism

Government:

triangleUCU Wales suspends FE strike action

triangleCorbyn supporter wins Welsh Labour leadership

triangleFrance in revolt

Parliament:

triangleSocialist Party members and supporters outside parliament demanding a general election, 11.12.18 , photo by Ra Ragavan

triangleEnd Tory misery - general election now!

Monarchy:

triangleRoyal wedding opulence... during longest pay squeeze in 200 years

Democracy:

triangleVictory for democracy at CWU 'redesign' conference

International

International

12/12/18

France

France in revolt

5/12/18

Iran

Workers defy brutal Iran regime

5/12/18

Midwives

Midwives go on strike in New Zealand

5/12/18

France

France: mass demonstrations force president to back down

28/11/18

Iran

Workers at the forefront of the new wave of protests in Iran

28/11/18

US

San Francisco Bay Area's toxic smoke crisis and capitalism's mismanagement

28/11/18

France

Eyewitness: French protesters seize streets against President Macron

21/11/18

US

How can Trump be defeated?

21/11/18

Sri Lanka

Political turmoil in Sri Lanka

21/11/18

Spanish state

Over one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education

14/11/18

US

US midterms: Republicans weakened - but workers' fightback needed to end Trumpism

7/11/18

Sexual harassment

Worldwide walkout at Google against sexual harassment

7/11/18

CWI

CWI news in brief

7/11/18

Antisemitism

Pittsburgh Synagogue shootings: Unite to fight anti-Semitism and far right

31/10/18

Brazil

Bolsonaro - a threat to Brazil's workers and all oppressed people

triangleMore International articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999