This was forwarded to me ages ago by Rob Schaap. In the light of recent
discussions I think it's important that it should be in the PEN-L archives.
Kerr briefed on CIA threat to Whitlam
EXCLUSIVE: THE NATIONAL LIBRARY TAPES
By ANDREW CLARK
THE AGE Sunday 15 October 2000
The first evidence of possible CIA
involvement in the dismissal of the
Whitlam government in 1975 has been
revealed by the defence minister at the
time, Bill Morrison.
The American intelligence connection is
linked to a crucial meeting called by the
Governor-General, John Kerr, a few
days before he sacked Prime Minister
Sir John sought and received a high-level briefing from senior defence
officials on a CIA threat to withdraw intelligence cooperation from
Australia, according to Mr Morrison in an interview with The Sunday Age.
Speaking at his home in Sydney's southern suburbs, Mr Morrison, a career
diplomat before entering parliament and a former Australian ambassador to
Indonesia, said: "Kerr loved the cloak and dagger. I don't think (the
briefing on the CIA threat) was decisive, but I think it reinforced his
position (about sacking the Whitlam government).
"The CIA was pissed off because their cover as far as Pine Gap was
blown. Kerr could say that as Commander-in-Chief (a formal position the
Governor-General holds under the constitution) he could take briefings from
Defence," Mr Morrison told The Sunday Age.
Mr Morrison's revelation - 25 years after Australia's greatest
constitutional crisis - underlines the significance that Sir John, who had
an intelligence background, attached to the CIA threat.
It has previously been reported that three days before the sacking Sir John
briefed on security issues by the Defence Department, but the CIA threat
and the Pine Gap furore have never before been identified as part of the
The US Government has officially denied any involvement in the dismissal of
Whitlam government. Sir John sacked Mr Whitlam on November 11, 1975, and
appointed Opposition Leader Malcolm Fraser caretaker prime minister on the
condition that he called an immediate election.
The CIA threat was made after Mr Whitlam revealed that the American spy
agency ran Pine Gap, the powerful satellite-tracking station in central
Australia that played a crucial role in America's Cold War readiness for a
nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union or China.
Pine Gap was used to eavesdrop on military movements in China, the Soviet
and parts of Europe. Its crucial significance to the US military remains
today, even though the Cold War has ended.
In a cable sent to ASIO on November 8, 1975, the CIA said: "They (the CIA)
that if this problem cannot be solved they do not see how our mutually
beneficial relationships (with Australian intelligence agencies) are going
On the 25th anniversary of the opposition's decision to block supply, a
Sunday Age investigation of the dismissal, which has accessed special
tape-recorded interviews made by key figures for the oral history section
of the National Library, also reveals how close Australia came to a
breakdown in the system.
The investigation shows that:
Gough Whitlam, when he returned to parliament after being sacked, asked
minister Bill Morrison: "Who's got the army?"
Former Liberal Party leader, the late Billy Snedden, said Australia came
close to an insurrection. Crises "don't come bigger than that without a few
shots", he said.
The Labor government's upper house leader, Ken Wriedt, said that he had "no
doubt" that the caretaker government led by Mr Fraser would, "if need be",
called in the army.
The late Clarrie Harders, a former head of the Attorney-General's
revealed that less than three hours after he had dismissed Mr Whitlam, Sir
John rang him up to discuss the latest parliamentary manoeuvres. "Looking
back," Mr Harders sensed "a desire by Kerr to seek protection in the
circumstances he had been faced with and to endeavor to enlist others in
supporting the action that he had taken."
Mr Snedden said that only days after the dismissal he was "sickened" and
"ashamed" at a drunken display by Sir John when he was Sir Robert Menzies'
guest at a dinner of the Melbourne Scots at Leonda, in Hawthorn.
Mr Fraser confirmed earlier reports that Sir John raised the issue of the
conditions under which Mr Fraser could agree to be a caretaker prime
minister in a telephone call with him at 10.15am on November 11, nearly
three hours before Sir John sacked Mr Whitlam.
The claimed involvement of the CIA in Mr Whitlam's dismissal comes against a
backdrop of traditional distrust of the ALP by the US during the Cold War.
This distrust dates back to World War II, when H.V. Evatt was foreign
minister and the sensational proceedings of the Petrov royal commission,
which investigated Soviet espionage in Australia, implicated members of Dr
The US State Department has formally denied any US involvement in the
dismissal of the Whitlam government. But it has not directly rebutted Mr
Whitlam's claim that the former US secretary of state, Warren Christopher,
referred in a private meeting to US interference in Australian domestic
Mr Whitlam claimed in his book, The Whitlam Government, that Mr Christopher,
then the State Department's assistant secretary for Asia and the Pacific,
told him in Sydney in 1977: "The US administration would never again
interfere in the domestic political process of Australia."
The reported Christopher comments, if correct, appear to back the claim
that the CIA had been involved, directly or indirectly through Australian
intelligence agencies, in the dismissal.
Mr Whitlam declined to be interviewed for this story.
Shorn of spy jargon, the CIA theory rests mainly on the crisis in
intelligence relations between Australia and the US in October-November,
and that this might have influenced Sir John - in timing and manner - in
his dismissal of the Whitlam government.
At the height of the constitutional crisis that followed the opposition's
blocking of supply in the Senate, Mr Whitlam claimed the coalition parties
were funded by the CIA. Denied by the National Country Party leader, Doug
Anthony, the claim led to Richard Stallings being identified as a senior
CIA officer working in the officially joint US-Australian communications
base at Pine Gap.
The Australian Government was due to decide whether to renew the joint
on the operations of Pine Gap, and at the time of the Pine Gap furore this
reporter was told by a senior US official that if relations deteriorated
further, the US Government would move the entire facility to Guam, a US
island possession in the South Pacific.
The CIA theory, and the specific revelation about Sir John's briefing about
Pine Gap and the CIA threat to withdraw cooperation with Australia, cannot
be checked with Sir John because he died in 1991.
However, Bob Ellicott, QC, a former attorney-general in the Fraser
government who spoke regularly to Sir John in his latter years, said Sir
John never once mentioned the CIA briefing to him.
In his book The Falcon and the Snowman, New York Times journalist Robert
Lindsay speculated that information sold by two US spies to the Soviet
Union about the operation of the CIA in Australia may have been relayed by
the Russians to the ALP, and may have helped touch off the government-CIA
dispute shortly before Sir John sacked Mr Whitlam.
Mr Lindsay wrote the book after one of the spies, Christopher Boyce,
claimed at his trial it was CIA activities in Australia during the Whitlam
years that incensed him and turned him into an anti-American activist.
Boyce worked for a communications company, TRW, that received and
CIA communications from, among other places, Pine Gap.
Boyce claims that as the political crisis in Australia deepened, he heard
agents at TRW refer to the governor-general as "our man Kerr". What this
phrase means - and after the significant assumption that Boyce's claim is
true - is unclear.
However, Sir John had an intelligence background, working for the shadowy
Directorate of Research in Australia in World War II under the enigmatic
According to Jonathan Kwitny, a journalist working for The Wall Street
Journal, in 1944 the Curtin Labor government sent Sir John to the US to
work with the OSS
(Office of Strategic Services) which in 1947 became the CIA. In the 1950s
he joined the Australian Association of Cultural Freedom, which, according
to a US
congressional report, was heavily subsidised by the CIA.
In the 1960s, according to Mr Kwitny in his book The Crimes of Patriots,
which has never been published in Australia, Sir John helped to organise
and run the Law Association for Asia and the Western Pacific, which was
helped by the Asia
Foundation, a body exposed in Congress "as a CIA-established conduit for
Victor Marchetti, the retired CIA officer, says in his book The CIA and the
Cult of Intelligence (written with former US diplomat John Marks) that the
Asia Foundation "often served as a cover for clandestine operations".
"The CIA paid for Kerr's travel, built his prestige, and even published his
writings through a subsidised magazine," Mr Kwitny claims. However, as Mr
acknowledges, there is no more evidence than the facts, speculation, and
claims listed here to connect the CIA with Sir John's decision.
But as Australian expatriate journalist and intelligence expert Phillip
Knightley writes in his recent book, Australia: A Biography of a Nation,
"the whole point of a covert intelligence operation is to leave no trace
that it ever took place, much less who organised it. So there is no paper
in the CIA archives setting out how the Whitlam government could be
Copyright © The Age Company Ltd 2000. Any unauthorised use, copying or