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November 11: Whitlam's Dismissal and the CIA

November 11, 2015 - 16:51 -- Admin

Maintaining my rage with a reprise of a 2010 post about the Whitlam government's dismissal and the role of United States:The question in my post WikiWobbles: What is Julia Gillard Thinking? about what US cables might have revealed about the dismissal of the Whitlam government prodded me to troll/trawl the web for documents from the time. All I’ve found so far are some declassified State Department communications from 1973 -75. They are kept by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). They are mostly bland rehashes of the news of the day. Many are extracts from the Financial Review or The Australian newspapers. Somewhat unexpectedly Malcolm Fraser’s handling of the Blocking of Supply crisis receives strong criticism from the embassy. Their author did not seem to be a fan of Fraser's, relaying negative comments on his tactics of the time. The documents include:Gough Whitlam’s linking of Country Party Leader Doug Anthony with the CIAFrom Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:4 NOV 1975SUBJECT: WHITLAM ACCUSES ANTHONY OF RECEIVING CIA MONEY1. YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO APPROACH THE GOA TODAY AT THE HIGHEST AVAILABLE LEVEL, CATEGORICALLY DENYING ON BEHALF OF THE USG THAT THE CIA PAID MONEY TO THE NATIONAL COUNTRY PARTY OR ITS LEADER DOUGLAS ANTHONY. NEITHER THE CIA NOR ANY OTHER US AGENCY HAS GIVEN OR PASSED FUNDS TO ANY AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL PARTY OR CANDIDATE FOR AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL OFFICE.2. YOU SHOULD ADD THAT, AS A MATTER OF STANDING PRACTICE, THE USG NEITHER CONFIRMS NOR DENIES PUBLICLY ALLEGATIONS OF THE TYPE REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN MADE BY THE PRIME MINISTER. THE USG REGRETS, HOWEVER, THAT SUCH A CHARGE AGAINST NCP LEADER ANTHONY, IF CORRECTLY REPORTED, COULD HAVE DAMAGING FALLOUT ON OTHER ASPECTS OF US-AUSTRALIAN RELATIONS.4 NOV 1975CALL FOR US REBUTTAL OF WHITLAM'S ACCUSATIONSEMBASSY CANBERRA HAS BEEN RELIABLY INFORMED THAT THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENSE SECRETARIES WOULD WELCOME A FORMAL USG STATEMENT DENYING ANY CIA FINANCIAL INVOLVEMENT WITH AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL PARTIES. THE EMBASSY RECOMMENDS A STATEMENT BE ISSUED PROMPTLY, SINCE A DELAY WOULD ENCOURAG PRIME MINISTER WHITLAM TO CONTINUE IMPUGNING THE US THROUGH CHEAP POLITICAL SHOTS AT HIS OPPONENTS.Comment on the blocking of Supply in the Senate by Fraser’s Coalition oppositionFrom Percival, US Embassy Canberra:7 NOV 1975SUBJECT: AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL CRISIS6. OPPOSITION LEADER FRASER'S DECISION TO WITHHOLD THE GOVERNMENT'S SUPPLY BILLS IN THE SENATE HAS BACKFIRED BADLY. THE LONGER HE REFUSES TO BUDGE THE MORE LIKELY IT IS THAT HIS PERSONAL POPULARITY AS WELL AS THE POPULARITY OF THE OPPOSITION PARTIES WILL CONTINUE TO FALL. FRASER IS ALSO HAVING INCREASING DIFFICULTY HOLDING OPPOSITION SENATORS TOGETHER. A SENIOR SHADOW MINISTER SAID THAT FRASER WAS RELYING EXCLUSIVELY ON THE ADVICE OF COUNTRY PARTY LEADERS; ANTHONY, NIXON, AND SINCLAIR, ALONG WITH A FEW HARDLINE LIBERALS LIKE SENATOR WITHERS AND DEPUTY LEADER LYNCH AND HARDLY CONFERRING AT ALL WITH OTHER IMPORTANT LIBERAL MEMBERS OF THE SHADOW CABINET. THIS SHADOW MINISTER SAID THAT FRASER WAS QTE ONLY CONSULTING WITH FELLOW GRAZIERS END QTE AND SAID POINTEDLY QTE WHEN SNEDDEN WENT TOO FAR WE HAD TO GET RID OF HIM END QTE HE ALSO STATED FLATLY THAT AT LEAST TWO LIBERAL SENATORS WOULD REFUSE TO REJECT RATHER THAN DEFER THE GOVERNMENT'S SUPPLY BILLS IF THEY WERE ASKED TO DO SO.8. IN OUR VIEW, WHAT FRASER HAS DONE IS TO RESCUE THE WHITLAM GOVERNMENT FROM AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE POSITION AND TO GIVE IT A FIGHTING CHANGE TO SURVIVE UNTIL THE END OF ITS ELECTED TERM IN 1977. IN THE PROCESS HE REVEALED POOR JUDGMENT IN WITHHOLDING SUPPLY AND SHOWED THAT HE IS UNABLE TO BEST WHITLAM IN PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE. FRASER HAS A NUMBER OF POTENTIAL RIVALS WITHIN THE LIBERAL PARTY WHO MIGHT WELL BE TEMPTED TO TRY TO REPLACE HIM AS LEADER AS A RESULT OF HIS PERFORMANCE TO DATE. GIVEN THE PRESENT SORRY STATE OF THE OPPOSITION, WHITLAM MAY WELL INSIST THAT THE OPPOSITION BACK DOWN COMPLETELY AND PASS THE SUPPLY BILLS IN THE SENATE.This is not the stuff of deep intrigue, though the reported role of the Secretaries of the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments certainly seems at odds with their own government. If the conspiracy theories about the dismissal are correct and evidence is online, it’s hard to find. I wonder how long materials held by the Intelligence organisations are kept under wraps.Also came across this reference to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the murder of the Balibo 5. The Timor cable may be of interest to Shirley Shackleton, widow of Greg Shackleton who was one of the Australian murdered journalists, though I’m sure she will have seen it.Comment on the Missing Balibo 5 in East TimorFrom Percival, US Embassy Canberra:31 OCT 1975SUBJECT: TIMOR1. IN A SPEECH TO THE SENATE ON OCTOBER 3, FOREIGN MINISTER WILLESEE REVERSED THE GOA'S POLICY OF NON-INVOLVEMENT IN THE TIMOR CRISIS BY OFFERING TO HELP ARRANGE DECOLONIZATION TALKS IN AUSTRALIA. THE STATEMENT WAS IN REPLY TO LEFTIST ALP SEN. GEITZELDT'S CALL FOR THE GOA TO RECOGNIZE FRETELIN AS THE DE FACTO GOVERNMENT IN EAST TIMOR. 2. SENATOR WILLESEE SAID THAT THE GOA DEPLORED THE FIGHTING IN THE BORDER AREAS AND BELIEVED QTE THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS IN PORTUGUESE TIMOR SHOULD BE SOUGHT THROUGH PEACEFUL MEANS FREE OF INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION. END QTE. THE GOA WAS PREPARED TO PROVIDE THE LOCALE FOR TALKS TO DETERMINE JUST WHAT THE PEOPLE OF EAST TIMOR WANT. IN A CAUTIOUS REBUKE OF INDONESIA, VIEWS IN THIS REGARD AND URGED TO PURSUE HER INTERESTS THROUGH DIPLOMATIC MEANS. END QTE. 3. COMMENT: THE FOREIGN MINISTER'S STATEMENT MARKS A RELUCTANT CHANGE IN THE GOA'S PREVIOUS POLICY OF NON-INTERVENTION IN TIMOR WITH TACIT GOA SUPPORT FOR A GOI TAKE-OVER. AS NOTED IN REFTEL, THE ALP LEFT HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY CRITICAL OF THE GOA'S TIMOR POLICY. PRESS REPORTS WIICH INDICATE THE POSSIBILITY THAT FIVE AUSTRALIAN JOURNALISTS WERE FIRST SHOT AND THEN BURNED BY INDONESIAN SUPPORTED FORCES IN TIMOR HAVE HEIGHTENED THIS CRITICISM. THE ALLEGED REFUSAL OF ANTI-FRETELIN FORCES TO PERMIT AN AUSTRALIAN OFFICER INTO THE AREA TO EXAMINE THE BODIES FURTHER AROUSED SUSPICIONS AND PUBLIC REACTION. THE GOA'S ACTION OFFERING AUSTRALIA AS POSSIBLE SITE FOR TALKS ON THE TIMOR PROBLEM WAS PROBABLY THE MINIMUM THE GOVERNMENT COULD TAKE TO PLACATE THE ALP LEFT. PROTESTS AND OPPOSITION WILL BECOME GREATER AS THE EXTENT OF GOI MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN EAST TIMOR BECOMES KNOWN. THIS WILL PRESENT THE WHITLAM GOVERNMENT WITH A MOST UNWELCOME, POTENTIALLY DEVISIVE ISSUE DURING A PERIOD OF DOMESTIC POLITICAL CRISIS.Shirley was awarded the Best Book Award for The Circle of Silence at the 2010 Walkley Awards on 9 Dec. In her acceptance speech she says that , “our democracy is under threat because of WikiLeaks …”. The video of her speech is below.

There are lots of other documents from those years. But it’s more a job for post-grad Politics or History students than a busy citizen journalist.