|Electoral law considerations and the dismissal|
|Written by John Paul|
|Thursday, 01 December 2011|
[In this eighth instalment of his essay on the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government, John Paul examines the way in which proposed changes to the electoral law affected the political debate. They were well aware of the way the law was changed to ensure that a coalition Government newly elected in 1949 would have to confront a Labor-dominated Senate.]
The Opposition under Fraser’s leadership feared that that redistribution was so skewed in Labor’s favour that it would prevent the coalition parties from winning an election even if they gained a very comfortable majority of the two-party preferred vote. The coalition parties were determined that they should avoid, if possible, being reduced to a near permanent Opposition.
Providentially the Loans affair re-emerged with the claim that its principal proponent, Rex Connor, had so misled Whitlam as to beguile him into misleading Parliament and he was forced to resign. Presented with this “extraordinary and reprehensible” circumstance the Opposition parties moved in their own protection to force the Whitlam Government to an election for the House of Representatives on the existing boundaries.
Their determination to avoid an election for half the Senate alone was what guided their subsequent dealings with the Whitlam Government over the denial of Supply. In passing I should mention that when the Hawke Government took office in 1983, the Minister whose responsibilities included the Australian Electoral Commission was known, with grim determination among Government members and with gallows humour among their opposite numbers, as the Minister for keeping Labor in office.
In the 1990 Federal Election Labor was returned to office despite being narrowly outpolled by the Coalition parties in the two-party preferred vote.
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