Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook – 40th anniversary of Whitlam’s dismissal: more questions

In the thick of Australia’s greatest era of social and cultural reform, a vice-regal coup succeeded in overthrowing the elected government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
It was November 1975 and the capitals of the Western world were swirling with hyper-inflation, OPEC’s “oil shock”, massive government debt and rising unemployment.
A year earlier President Richard Nixon had escaped criminal impeachment by resigning from office and the Portuguese fascist regime in Lisbon had been overthrown by a popular revolt led by left-wing army officers. In April 1975 the Viet Cong took power in Vietnam when the US military garrison collapsed, signifying the end of unbridled US hegemony.
In this tumultuous atmosphere, High Court judges (Anthony Mason and Sir Garfield Barwick), senior Liberals and Country Party politicians (Malcolm Fraser, Doug Anthony, Senator Reg Withers), royalists (Yarralumla butler Ian Smith), military men, conservative premiers (Sir Charles Court, Sir Robin Askin and Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen), vice-regal representatives (Sir Roden Cutler) and media moguls (Rupert Murdoch) combined secretly to ambush the Whitlam government and remove it from office.
A new book, The Dismissal: In the Queen’s Name, by “Pope” Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston of Murdoch’s Australian is a travesty. Purporting to tell “the whole story for the first time”, it is nothing more than a squalid attempt to legitimise the theory of “self-assault” – that Whitlam was the author of his own demise.
The only historian who has mastered the historical records of the period and conducted an immense amount of primary research is Jenny Hocking; her new paperback, The Dismissal Dossier – Everything you were never meant to know about November 1975 (MUP), is the one to buy.
Whitlam’s former press secretary Eric Walsh is right to insist that the majority of newspaper reports and books – with the exception with Ms Hocking’s – ignore one central aspect of the events.
On November 11, 1975, the Day of Shame, Governor-General Sir John Kerr greeted Whitlam at Yarralumla and then dismissed him. He then called on Fraser, who was skulking in another room, to form a caretaker government to call an early federal election.
That same afternoon the House of Representatives voted no confidence in the “bandicoot” Fraser government on five occasions. Unable to inform Kerr by telephone – Kerr refused to take his calls – Scholes jumped in the official Speaker’s car and drove to Yarralumla. But Kerr locked the gates and refused to let him in.
In other words, the Speaker had a message from Parliament to the Governor-General but Kerr did not want to receive it. To accept the message would have meant the jig was up and headlines on the news that night – and in the next day’s papers – would have been very different. They would have declared: “Whitlam triumphs … Attempt to unseat Labor fails … Parliament backs Whitlam and rejects Fraser.”
There can be no stronger evidence that The Dismissal was a tightly organised conspiracy by Labor’s political opponents.
What about the CIA? It was in the background urging things along and providing communications support when it was necessary.

Nugan Hand updated

Speaking of the CIA, the co-founder of the Nugan Hand Bank, Michael Hand, is alive and well and living under an assumed name in Idaho Falls.
His whereabouts was discovered by Sydney author Peter Butt for a new book, Merchants of Menace, and shared with Channel Nine’s Sixty Minutes.
He disappeared from Sydney in 1980 shortly after his partner in crime, Griffith-born Frank Nugan, was found shot dead in the front seat of his car near Lithgow. It was a case of “suicide”, said the cops, and everyone in the know burst out laughing.
The Nugan Hand Bank was a CIA front. Its clients included identities from Premier Robert Askin’s entourage as well as the right wing of the NSW Labor Party.
Using its political contacts, the bank wrote business for councils across NSW as well as developers and small crooks looking for a commercial enterprise to “wash” their illegal money. When the bank crashed, depositors, many of them duped by the bank’s hype, lost $50 million.
Hand, now 73, is a fugitive and a wanted man. The Australian Federal Police and the NSW police should do their job and extradite him from the US to face questions about money laundering, drug trafficking, gun-running and foreign exchange fraud.
But no one in the Liberal Party, the National Party or the Labor Party is anxious to call for his return because he could prove an extreme embarrassment.
For instance, the cops said they had no idea how he left the country unnoticed 35 years ago and had no idea where he had gone.
They should have asked me. When I returned to Australia in 1986 I was told on the highest authority that he was smuggled aboard a US Air Force flight from Richmond air base in north-western Sydney by the CIA and returned to US to start a new life under a new identity.
And my informant was absolutely correct.
Does Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, Bob Carr, Graham Richardson, Stephen Loosley or Mark Arbib really want a thoroughgoing investigation into CIA activities in the business world or the labor movement? Not really.
Now if Hand was a Moslem …

Celebrity madness

Call me old-fashioned, but I refuse to join the general eulogising of English celebrity Charlotte Crosby and the rave reviews for her biography Me Me Me.
To my surprise (alarm?) the 25-year-old’s book has found an audience in Australia.
A star of the TV soap Geordie Shore and a winner of Celebrity Big Brother in 2013, Crosby has left no pubic hair unturned in her “tell all” memoir.
Readers will learn about her bed wedding, farting, the collection of at least one pubic hair from all the Big Brother contestants, her brush with chlamydia and that No 5 on her list of bad habits is “scratching my bumhole”.
She calls her vagina her “fairy”, had her first period at 12 and when she first grew pubic hair she spent a whole weekend plucking them out. Now an “adult”, Ms Crosby recommends trimming pubes on special occasions such as birthdays or St Valentine’s Day.
Yes, folks, it’s that uplifting.
Her soap TV boyfriend had a penis “like a parsnip” and as she tells it: “When we finally did shag, I felt like he’d popped my brain out of my skull.”
Her remark assumes that she does have a brain, which is by no means clear to me.
Her view of the suckers, i.e. fans, is revealing. “I hope that in 20 years from now, I’ll be sitting in a massive mansion with two massive cars, a load of dogs, a parrot, another exotic animal, and I’ll look back at all the things I’ve done and think, ‘Thank god I did all of that, because I wouldn’t have all of this’.”
Her sudden elevation to celebrity status reminds me of my final days at Fairfax. At a news conference one of my colleagues suggested we should conduct an interview with Tottie Goldsmith.
“Who’s Tottie Goldsmith?” I asked.
Meaning no disrespect to Ms Goldsmith, I still don’t know who she is but I’ve managed to live my life without her. Which is much the same way I feel about Charlotte Crosby.


  1. Alex, there’s still a bit of boyhood’s fire around, and you continue to add a bit of splendid fuel.
    Lovely reading. I thought at one point that you had made a typo, “public”.

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