Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC (1916-2014) and Sir John Kerr AK KCMG LSt J PC GCVO QC (1914-1991) were both lawyers. Kerr, son of a Balmain boilermaker, was educated at the academically selective Fort Street Boys’ High and the University of Sydney, where he achieved first class honours and a University Medal. Admitted to the bar in 1938, he reached the rank of colonel during the war. By 1964 he was both President of the Bar Association and President of the Law Council of Australia. In 1972 he became chief justice of New South Wales, but in 1974, just after he was knighted, he succeeded Paul Hasluck as governor-general. Upon his appointment, Opposition Leader Billy Snedden remarked that it was ‘the culmination of a brilliant career for an able, warm-hearted man’. On 11 November 1975 Kerr, having consulted the chief justice of the High Court, ?Sir Garfield Barwick, dismissed Whitlam and appointed Malcolm Fraser caretaker prime minister. From the steps of Parliament House, Whitlam cried ‘Ladies and gentlemen, well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the governor-general!’, and predicted that Malcolm Fraser would go down in history as ‘Kerr’s cur’.
At a book launch, Whitlam stands before Clifton Pugh’s portrait of Kerr, painted as the 1975 crisis developed.
Accession number: 2005.5
More about the artist and subject
On the day before the Hon. E. G. Whitlam, AC, QC, died last month, at the great age of 98, there were seven former prime ministers of Australia still living, plus the incumbent Mr. Abbott – eight in all.
Magazine article, Portrait 24
A handful of sand
Ellen Kent examines the portrait of Vincent Lingiari and Prime Minister Gough Whitlam taken by photographer Mervyn Bishop.
Permanent collection catalogue
On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.