I’ll be attending former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s 90th birthday celebration on Tuesday 11 July. It will be held, appropriately some might feel, at Sydney’s Machiavelli Restaurant. It’s impossible to mention Whitlam, of course, without thinking of his nemesis, John Kerr, the first Principal of ASOPA.
Sir John Kerr [1914-91], a former Chief Justice of NSW and Australia’s 18th Governor-General, dismissed Gough Whitlam’s Labor government on 11 November 1975, provoking one of the most significant political crises in Australian history. Kerr was born in Balmain, his father a boiler-maker, and won a scholarship to Sydney University, graduating in law. He spent World War 2 working for an Australian intelligence organisation, the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, under Colonel Alf Conlon. In 1946 he became the first Principal of ASOPA and the first Secretary-General of the South Pacific Commission before returning to the bar in 1948, where he became one of Sydney's leading industrial lawyers.