10 October 2016

The news that Whitlam had been dismissed spread across Australia during the afternoon, resulting in angry protest demonstrations by his supporters. Over the following month, leading to the double dissolution election scheduled for 13 December 1975, Whitlam and ALP supporters constantly and intensely denigrated Kerr, no doubt in the belief that the electorate would prove sympathetic to the deposed Labor government.

In the ensuing election campaign, the Australian Labor Party’s focus was predominantly on the asserted illegitimacy of the dismissal (with the slogan of “Shame Fraser, Shame”), while the Coalition focused on criticism of Labor’s economic management. Some expected a major backlash against Fraser in favour of Whitlam (who had launched his campaign by calling upon his supporters to “maintain your rage”), based on opinion polls in October and early November which had shown disapproval of Fraser’s tactics.

Once the election was called, however, the majority focused on the economy and responded to the Liberals’ slogan “Turn on the lights”. Despite the passion of die-hard Labor supporters, furious at what they saw as an establishment plot to destroy a Labor government, Labor suffered its greatest-ever loss (7. 4% down on its 1974 vote) at the hands of the Coalition, which continued to hold power until 1983. Labor supporters continued to voice criticism and demonstrate against Kerr. He found the personal attacks on him and his wife (whom Whitlam and others accused of having been a sinister influence) deeply wounding.

For the rest of his term as Governor-General, Kerr was rarely able to appear in public without encountering angry demonstrations. [11] On one occasion his life was thought to be endangered when he was unable to leave a speaking engagement in Melbourne except by having his car drive through an angry crowd. Labor parliamentarians, federal and state, refused to accept his legitimacy as Governor-General, shunning official functions where he was in attendance. Near the end of his term, he famously appeared to be drunk when he presented the 1977 Melbourne Cup. 12] Resignation [edit] Concern about his health may have been one reason why he cut short his five-year term and stood down in December 1977. In fact, his resignation had already been proposed as early as March 1977, during the Queen’s visit. Fraser denounced Kerr’s detractors as “a hostile and bitter minority” whose actions were unjustified. [1]:p. 423

Sir John was appointed to the post of Ambassador to UNESCO, an office which he felt unable to take up because of continuing bitter attacks on him both inside and outside the Parliament. 1]:p. 424 Bill Hayden, the new leader of the Labor Party, now in opposition, was one of the critics of the UNESCO appointment. In the Parliament he stated, “The appointment of Sir John Kerr as Ambassador … is not just an indecent exercise of the rankest cynicism. It is in every respect an affront to this country. “[1]:p. 428 According to historian Phillip Knightley, “The remaining years of Sir John Kerr’s life were miserable ones. He was subject to relentless harassment whenever he appeared in public. [13]:p282 He therefore moved to London “where he could be seen most days, usually the worse for wear, at one or other gentleman’s club. “[13] Kerr died in Sydney in 1991. The family deliberately withheld announcement of the death until after Kerr was buried. This ensured the then-Labor government would not be put in the position of deciding whether to offer a state funeral, an honour that would normally be considered automatic for a former Governor-General. His wife Lady Kerr died in 1997. They were survived by two children. Honours [edit]

John Kerr was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) on 1 January 1966 for services as President of the Law Council of Australia. [14] On 1 January 1974, he was made a Knight Commander of that order (KCMG), for services as Chief Justice of NSW. [15] In 1974 he was made a Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. [16] On the establishment of the Order of Australia on 14 February 1975, as Governor-General he was made Principal Companion of the Order (AC). [17] When the category of Knight was added to the Order on 24 May 1976, he was made Principal Knight of the Order (AK). 18] In 1976 he was elevated to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG). [16] He had asked Gough Whitlam for this appointment shortly after becoming Governor-General in 1974, but was rebuffed;[3] it was Labor Party policy not to recommend knighthoods.

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