The Dismissal (TV Mini-Series 1983) Poster


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First Class Docudrama
bjohnson-326 June 2000
A sensitive, well-researched reconstruction of a critical event in Australia's political evolution. An excellent cast rising to the challenge of playing the giants of Australian political life. I was 26 in 1975 and watching the series 25 years later brought back all the feelings of disbelief and bewilderment I experienced at the time. Wonderful television.
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Well made and balanced
mattrochman23 August 2006
After traveling around the world, it dawned on me that Australia really lacks one thing that other countries have: history.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Australia wasn't establish following a war, it has not had a civil war and most of its political history is rather..... boring! Nothing "big" happened to mark some sort of turning point in Australia's history.... until the dismissal of the Whitlam government by the Governor-general of Australia - John Kerr.

For those outside Australia who may not know, we are constitutional monarchy - we have our own constitution, but retain reigning British Monach as the head of state. The Queen is represented in Australia by her "Govenor-General" though the role is somewhat regarded as a bit of a "rubber stamp" role. Theoretically, the Governor-general can refuse to sign a law passed by Australian parliament if (s)he thinks fit, though the power isn't exercised by convention. Now the events of 1975 - covered in this film - gave rise to a precedent on this particular section: if the governor-general is somehow 'displeased' with the government and/or Prime Minister, it would appear that section 64 of the Australian Constitution allows him to lawfully sack the government (which happened in 1975... hence the title of the film "the dismissal.")

Now that this background aspect is out of the way, let's get back to discussing the film. It was well made. The pace was patient, but didn't drag at all. The drama was well contained and very realistic. It didn't over-dramatise the events and most importantly, it did not present its point of view from one political perspective. On the contrary, I felt that it was fair and balanced, even though concluding text before the credits indicates that the film-makers probably didn't approve of the Governor-general's decision to dismiss the Whitlam government. But I wouldn't describe the film overall as bias in one direction or the other.

In terms of accuracy, it was virtually spot on. The film-makers certainly did their homework and evidently read the books and writings from all the principle players concerned. There were a number of finer details that were somewhat skipped over, largely because they took a long time to explain and ultimately had little impact on the events of 1975, so I forgive them for that. Further, I think it was difficult to recreate the public sentiment of that post-Vietnam war era, but Noyce pretty much pulled it off.

Finally, I was pleased that the film attempted to raise individual policies of both sides without becoming analytical, obsessive or judgmental over them. Moreover, any that we're raised, for example Connor's pipeline, had a great deal of relevance to the story. The film makers realised that their task was to tell the story of the events leading to the dismissal and not to present a political endorsement or opposition in relation to policies and viewpoints. This was smart because it meant that the film can't be accused of misrepresenting one side's policies.

The dismissal is probably the most incredible piece of political history that has occurred in Australia in its short life. I am glad that it has been crystallized in celluloid. Essential viewing for any Australian.
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Brilliantly executed dramatisation of Australia's greatest political crisis
pollbludger3 November 2006
Kennedy-Miller could hardly have done a better job at tackling a very challenging exercise: making dry political events work as human drama, and providing an even-handed representation of explosively controversial subject matter.

The key to its success on the first count is brilliant acting, although I was less impressed by Max Phipps' performance as Gough Whitlam than some other commenters here. The clear standouts for my money were John Stanton as Malcolm Fraser and Bill Hunter as Rex Connor. The latter must have been one of the easiest casting choices in history - Hunter could not have been more perfect for the role. On the second count, the series avoids the "myth of objectivity" trap through a narrator who articulates the sympathies of the director (Phillip Noyce, who more recently demonstrated his left-wing credentials in Rabbit Proof Fence), while being carefully even-handed and sympathetic in its dramatic portrayal of all parties. The adherence to the Lady Kerr/Lady Macbeth theme popular among Labor partisans was perhaps a little partial, though not ruinously so. In particular, credit is due for the sympathy shown to Kerr and the extraordinarily difficult position he was placed in, whatever one might think of his actions.

However, there is one sour note for which the producers were perhaps not entirely to blame - the portrayal of the Jim Cairns/Juni Morosi affair. Those who come to the series with no background to these events will get the impression that Cairns and Morosi were the innocent victims of a smear campaign by a prurient gutter press. The producers may have been restrained in this respect by Australia's stultifying defamation laws, and the recently demonstrated willingness of Cairns and Morosi to use them against those who suggested their relationship was sexual (which Cairns would eventually admit to a year before his death). However, more could have been made of the bizarre fashion in which Morosi managed Cairns's office as Treasurer.

Speaking of defamation, there are a couple of disorienting occasions where dialogue is obscured due to injunctions taken out by offended principals - by a beeping noise on one occasion, and a very loud telephone ring on another. A further curiosity: the DVD release excises a line from the comic relief scene where a customs officer (played by the late Paul Chubb) serves Tirath Khemlani on his arrival at Sydney Airport. Next in the queue is a dishevelled looking hippie, who now receives only a disapproving glare from Chubb when he presents his paperwork. In the original version, Chubb said something along the lines of: "drug bust in Bali, eh?". Obviously this line no longer rings true in the wake of the Schapelle Corby case, which dramatically illustrated that those busted for drugs in Bali can expect far worse than deportation.
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Great Docudrama spoiled by very biased commentary
peterws-111 August 2006
Although I lived in Australia in 1975, I moved overseas not long after, fed up with constant industrial unrest, the general worship of mediocrity - unless one is a sportsman! - and the complacency of so many Australians who chose to ignore the breakneck pace of change taking place in countries to their north.

Consequently I missed The Dismissal, along with many other Australian-made TV dramas of the '80s and '90s, such as the superb Janus and Phoenix series, which I have since seen, along with Wildside.

To me the filmed story of The Dismissal is fair and, as far as I am aware, accurate. However, as to public "outrage" it only shows one side of the picture, not how families were riven by the controversy. I know, as my two brothers would not speak to me for months afterward.

But the commentary is, in my view, very one-sided throughout. The inescapable fact is that, notwithstanding fiery expressions of rage from a substantial proportion of the community, the Australian electorate chose - and chose decisively - in favour of Fraser, as they did again two years later.

This apart, a historically accurate and superbly well acted docudrama.
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The way television should re-create history.
Britney-Keira25 June 2005
In nineteen eighty two when it was announced that the Dismisal was going to be made , there was a storm of controversy. This was an event which still left open wounds in the hearts and minds of the Australian people. After some changes (listen out for the well timed telephones ringing to disguise names) the Dismissal went to air. It was nothing short of brilliant. The leads were perfect. Max Phipps as Gough Whitlam lead the way, closely followed by John Stanton as Malcolm Fraser and the evergreen John Mellion as Sir John Kerr. The time was created well, the feelings of the people were well done and the political elements were not two dimensionally made into melodrama as in so many American series. The Dismissal was a faithful re-creation of a time in Australia which some would rather forget and which we cannot forget. it did not take sides and it pointed out the mistakes and lies of both sides. It leaves one wanting to maintain the rage and change the constitution which still allows for this to all happen again. The Dismissal is now available on DVD in Australia. Watch it, learn from it and learn about our modern history.
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Very Detailed but Understandable Account of Events
Stanley-630 August 2009
As a Canadian, I didn't know very much about the Whitlam dismissal. I had read the Wikipedia page about those events, but that was about it. Earlier this year, when Canada went through a potential constitutional crisis (it fizzled out, thankfully) that might have led to intervention by our Governor-General, the Whitlam dismissal was mentioned in the press. In an effort to learn more, I ordered the DVD of this mini-series through EBay.

I was greatly impressed by how interesting the account was. As dramatic as events were, this could have been a very boring political drama. However, it was a pretty suspenseful mini-series. I was also impressed by how understandable it was, despite my lack of familiarity with Australian politics. It didn't take long to figure out who everyone was, and what their roles were.

Having said that, it is not an entirely impartial account. Malcolm Fraser is certainly portrayed as a rather Machiavellian figure, who lets no person or thing get in the way of his quest to be Prime Minister. Gough Whitlam is portrayed in a more noble, almost saintly, light. However, the actor portraying Whitlam channels the nobility in such a way that it comes across more as pomposity. I thought that Sir John Kerr was portrayed in a fairly sympathetic manner.

I must warn people that the DVD is of very poor quality. I understand that it was made for television in the early 80s, but it would appear that no effort was made to restore the picture quality or sound quality. It was very disappointing that no extras were added either. A documentary, or even some interviews with the historical figures, would have enhanced the experience, but there is nothing.

I highly recommend this mini-series for anyone interested in the real-life events.
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Fine television - tough subject
MAX-786 August 2000
One of the fitting things with this series is the narration, which introduces it: "This isn't going to be easy." It's not an easy ride for anyone who remembers it. Mention of these events can still start screaming matches in any Aussie pub. That's the second reason to see it.

The first reason to see it is the stunning portrayal of Gough Whitlam by the late Max Phipps - one of Australia's greatest actors.
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The day democracy was saved
subiaco17 November 1998
O.K., here's another chance for those out there to have their little bit of a whinge at the Governor General saving our democracy by calling an election (gee, what a really subversive thing to do... ask the people what they want).

The series is good, well acted and highly worth watching. If you are not an Australian and want to get an excellent idea of the difficulties the nation was facing at by far the most critical moment in our history, this is not a bad way to get it.

It is just such a pity that inevitably, despite good efforts of those involved in the production, the story will be hi-jacked by the "chip-on-the-shoulder" set, who are so caught up in their own pathetic political beliefs, that they fail to realise that the result of the Governor General stepping in to resolve a serious subversion of our democratic system was to allow the people to decide.

I may just want to remind everyone that the result of the election was that Whitlam and the ALP were completely trounced (as they were again in 1977).

A great little mini-series!
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All Australians and anyone else interested in the intricacies of the Westminster System needs to watch this!
superegz21 July 2019
This is a superbly acted miniseries that covers the 1975 Australian Constitutional Crisis.

After a series of scandals that engulfed the Australian Labor Party government of the early 1970's, the House of Representatives representing the people numerically and the Senate representing the people of each state went to political war over the budget! With each house controlled by opposing parties and the government running out of money, the Senate demanded that Prime Minister Whitlam call a general election to solve the deadlock. Whitlam refused stating the long accepted convention that as long as his government had the confidence of the Lower House of Parliament, he could stay in office. It was at this point that the long thought irrelevant institution of the Crown, represented by Governor General John Kerr got involved to remind the politicians, and the people that elected them, where power truly resides in the Westminster System.

How this crisis was resolved should not only be of interest to Australians but also to the citizens of other Commonwealth countries, especially Canada and the UK, with their bicameral (yet unelected) Upper Houses. Even Americans, with their elected bicameral Congress, will find some parallels!

This really is a story that should be more well known to those interested in political science and history around the world! Highly recommended!
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Don't dismiss this
videorama-759-8593916 November 2014
First rate telling, all the way, of the sacking of tough nut Gough Whitlam who wouldn't go down without a fight, magnificently portrayed by Phipps, but yet again, every actor is at their acting peak in this. This double cassette pic has you right in from the start and doesn't let go. We also have some awesome stock footage. I honestly couldn't believe how this movie got in. I had politics, which as one shock jock, refers to it, as "A dirty rotting stinking game". That's exactly what it is, in a nutshell. Just watch this. Whitlam's defiance not to be taken down, I found inspiring, in such a detailed account of this great film, beautifully and periodically shot, it's soundtrack unforgettable, with first class performances to boot, the acting cream of the crop, just like this movie's the cream of the crop of other Aussie pics. A must watch. No excuses.
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A fiscal law without meaning ?
rodneymattey17 September 2007
I first saw this docudrama in the UK in the 1980's, and found myself intrigued and then astonished at how such good intentions could go so wrong. Previous commentators (who are Australian) have explained the unfolding plot's detail better than I ever could, but I would like to make an observation about what may lie behind the Governor-Generals 'UK Sovereign power'. All modern laws, as I understand them, need an ethical or philosophical root to exist in the first place and to become A law at all. That being the case, and if say the Conner's/Khemlani mess had been possibly set up,(just how many businessmen/millionares had been served by Khemlani, presumably without complaint), then the Labour government could have been victims of 'entrapment', which would surely have had to have been investigated' by the Governor-General as or until he could see that the budget standoff was A genuine result of Whitlam's fecklessness, and NOT elaborate entrapment, sponsored by 'person or person's unknown'! If its the case that Kerr in effect didn't have to refer to the law because fiscal circumstances overrides everything, then 'royal power' borders onto unreason; the implications in any Commonwealth country is that 'fiscal' rules literally, and that any person or organisation has Carte Blanche to break any other rule, physical or mental, so long as they have the control over the purse strings ultimately!
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Comment on the political background
dimitricas924 August 2007
Governments are elected for three year terms, as Reg Whithers said in 1973, the Liberals were determined to continue forcing Labor to the Polls until they were defeated. If you ask me, this is portrayed in the docudrama, but, anyone who says Kerr acted properly in this fails to acknowledge the self-serving and costly strategy of the Liberal Party of Australia. On the series itself, I though Max Phipps was a poor Whitlam, his voice was too ghostly. Also, more of the key political players on both sides should have been used, though this may have been a reflection of budgetary constraints at the time. Nevertheless, I recommend it, with caution.
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Good political drama with a very Australian flavour
Dave-4993 April 2000
The earlier IMDB comment entry for this mini-series illustrates the contentious nature of its subject matter. I seriously disagree with the reviewer's implied claim that the 11/11/75 dismissal of the Whitlam government was an exercise in democracy. The fact of the matter was that the individual who dismissed the government was in himself NOT an elected representative of the people (he was in fact appointed by the Crown) and the constitutional basis on which he did so was, at best, sketchy.

All of which is to say that this issue divided the Australian public then and still generates hot debate 25 years later. A left-wing, idealistic, socially reformist but economically bungling government caused a groundswell of public optimism and a real belief that significant social reform was possible in Australia. The conservative forces in Australia saw this as a major threat to the established way of things and, naturally, sought ways both commonplace and devious to overthrow the government. This mini-series dramatises these events and is a very capable representation of the key players, in particular Gough Whitlam and Malcom Fraser. In the unlikely event that any non-Australians wish to learn a bit about recent Australian political history, they could do worse than watch this series. Assuming they could get hold of a copy.
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