This clip directly follows David Smith, official secretary to the Governor-General, reading a proclamation dissolving both houses of Parliament on the steps of old Parliament House, Canberra, on 11 November 1975, a few hours after the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, had dismissed the government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. At the start of the clip, Mr Whitlam follows Mr Smith’s proclamation with some famous words on what will befall the Governor-General.
Gough Whitlam was already warmed up by this stage. He had been addressing a large crowd for some time before Smith was brought forward by the Usher of the Black Rod and the Sergeant-at-Arms, with the clerks of both houses of Parliament. There was some concern for his safety, given the emotions of the crowd.
Whitlam’s delivery gives a good sense of his skills as an orator. The pauses are long, for maximum effect. He speaks slowly and clearly, waiting for the effect of each phrase on the audience, saving his more powerful phrases for the end of each sentence. There are a number of news microphones recording his words. One of these is the source of this recording, although curators at the National Film and Sound Archive are not sure which one.
Television news cameras captured the speech and this material was used extensively in the climactic final scenes of the miniseries The Dismissal (1983) (see clip three). Margaret Whitlam describes her version of the day’s events – including her advice to her husband that he should have ripped up Sir John Kerr’s letter dismissing him – in The Life and Times of Margaret Whitlam (1993), clip two.