Home Television Drama Dismissal, The

Dismissal, The

1 9 8 3 (Australia)
3 x 120 minute episodes

Like other momentous world events – for example, the assassination of JFK – the sacking of Gough Whitlam as Australian Prime Minister in November 1975 is a subject for endless debate and speculation.

For this reason, The Dismissal – a lengthy television re-enactment of the most controversial constitutional moment in Australian history – would be interesting even if it were only a documentary.

As a drama series, this show offered the further fascination of watching a group of highly experienced actors playing the principal political figures in the event.

At the time, The Dismissal was the most expensive series produced in Australia, costing $2.6 million. It was an enormous critical and popular success and the Australian Ten Network issued a schools curriculum package based on the six-hour, three-part series.

The series sold well overseas and was particularly well received in Britain where it screened on the BBC.

The performances and impersonations of the five leading actors are excellent. The interaction of the group is followed through a chain of events that focus on the extent to which Whitlam was misled in succession by Jim Cairns (Minister for Overseas Trade), Rex Connor (Minister for Minerals and Energy) and John Kerr.

At the same time, Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser is an implacable foe and part of the mechanics sweeping along to the actual dismissal.

Two endnotes conclude this magnificent mini-series – a postscript on the later lives of the principals and a note that there has been no change to the Australian Constitution in the light of the events of 1975.

Malcolm Fraser 
John Stanton
John Kerr 

John Meillon
Gough Whitlam 

Max Cullen
Jim Cairns 

John Hargreaves
Rex Connor 

Bill Hunter
Junie Morosi
Neela Day