The Dismissal (1983)

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Released 17-Jun-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Docudrama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 270:33
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By George Miller
Phillip Noyce
George Ogilvie
John Power
Kennedy Miller
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Ron Blair
Terry Hayes
George Miller
Phillip Noyce
John Allen
Vincent Ball
Tony Barry
Alan Becher
Tony Blackett
Robin Bowering
Carol Burns
Tim Burns
Peter Carroll
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, Frequently
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     "Well may we say "God Save The Queen" because nothing will save the Governor General"  Gough Whitlam to the gathered crowd on the steps of Parliament House, Canberra. 11th November 1975.

     The dismissal of the Whitlam Government on November 11th 1975 is regarded as the greatest constitutional crisis in Australia's political history. The remarkable chain of events that led to the government's demise is the subject of this brilliant mini-series, The Dismissal.

    Produced in 1983 by the production company Kennedy Miller, the mini series features the directing talents of five renowned and respected Australian directors. George Miller, Phillip Noyce, George Ogilvie, John Power and Carl Schultz all direct various parts of the saga, while maintaining an amazing level of consistency throughout the series.

     The complexity of this constitutional crisis always threatens to isolate its audience in an ocean of complex political rhetoric, but the intelligent writing team of Ron Blair, Terry Hayes, George Miller, Phillip Noyce, Sally Gibson and Daphne Paris keeps the narrative at a suitable level for all audiences.

    The performances from a wonderfully strong cast bring the required conviction to the screen. The players include Max Phipps (Gough Whitlam), John Stanton (Malcolm Fraser), John Meillon (Sir John Kerr), John Hargreaves (Dr Jim Cairns) and Bill Hunter (Rex Connor). These are only a few of the excellent cast that included many of the top Australian actors of the day.

    When the Whitlam Government was elected to power in December, 1972, it broke a twenty-three year stint in the political wilderness for the Labor Party. Led by the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, their mandate to govern brought many sweeping changes to the country. These included the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, the introduction of Medibank (National Health Insurance, known today in its current form as Medicare) and the abolition of educational fees, to mention just a few.

    The government was, however, stained by a series of scandals, ranging from the trivial Morosi affair to the ill-fated Khemlani and Harris loans affairs, in which the government attempted to raise money through unconventional means. Although this was done with good intentions, by not following the normal protocol of raising funds via the treasury department, the government was more susceptible to allegations of scandal.

     In October 1975, inflation and unemployment had reached very high levels, ministerial sackings were devastating the government and the loans affair became a punishing issue for them in the parliament.

    The Opposition Liberal/Country Party Coalition used its majority in the Senate to block the government's supply bills, thus stopping the flow of money needed to govern. The Opposition would only pass the budget if the Government agreed to call an immediate federal election. The Government, who were determined to serve their full term in office, rejected this condition outright.

    For almost one month the Government and the Opposition held their political ground, both determined not to give in. The Coalition, lead by Malcolm Fraser, resisted enormous public and internal political pressure to pass the budget, a decision that would eventually bring the ultimate reward to him and his party.

    On Tuesday, November 11th 1975, The Governor General, Sir John Kerr, intervened and brought an end to the political standoff. He used his constitutional power to dismiss the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, and appointed Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister, under a raft of conditions, two of those conditions being the immediate passing of the supply bills and the calling of a double dissolution election.

    This election was held on December 13th 1975. The people of Australia failed to maintain their rage and the Whitlam Government was soundly defeated.

    To summarise the events of 1975 in a few paragraphs tends to trivialise this incredible period in Australian political history. The hopes and dreams of many were shattered, just as the hopes and dreams of others were realised.

    The constitutional power that allowed this dismissal to occur remains in place today. The mini-series acknowledges this by concluding with the proverb, "Those who forget the past, are bound to relive it".

    The Dismissal is presented on DVD in three episodes, spread over two discs. Each episode is actually in two approximate forty-five minute parts, but it plays on the DVD as one episode. It is quite easy to define the end of each part, both in time and in noticing a slightly longer fade to black.

    A very brief run down of each episode is as follows...

    Disc One - Episode One (87:54)

    The Labor Party is elected to govern Australia after twenty-three years in opposition. The Minister for Minerals and Energy, Rex Connor, commissions Tirath Khemlani to search for a loan of four billion dollars to fund a major project. Treasurer Dr Jim Cairns sends businessman George Harris on a similar ill-fated money finding mission. Cairns and his personal assistant, Junie Morosi, are at the centre of a scandal over an unfortunate newspaper interview. Dr Jim Cairns is sacked by Whitlam for misleading him on his dealings with George Harris. Bill Hayden is appointed to the position of Treasurer, replacing Cairns. Billy Sneddon is dumped as leader of the opposition in favour of Malcolm Fraser.

    Disc One - Episode Two (89:39)

    Rex Connor waits for news on funds from Khemlani, who is constantly stalling in delivering any form of a deal. The opposition has the government on the ropes in parliament, as the economy and unemployment issues become increasingly problematic. Connor's authority to search for funds is revoked due to cost cutting, but Connor continues his dealings in secret. A journalist from Melbourne newspaper The Herald is hot on the trail of a big story. He tracks down Khemlani overseas and exposes the loans affair to parliament and indeed the entire country. Connor is asked to resign for causing Whitlam to unintentionally mislead parliament. Whitlam has now lost two senior ministers from his government. The opposition uses its numbers in the Senate to defer the budget until the government agrees to call an election.

    Disc Two - Episode Three (93:00)

    The passage of the budget remains deadlocked in the Senate. The Governor General, Sir John Kerr, meets with The Prime Minister and The Leader of the Opposition in an effort to reach a compromise. Both parties are confident that the other will collapse under the weight of the situation. With the stand-off continuing, Kerr takes advice from Chief Justice of the High Court Sir Garfield Barwick, who has connections to the Liberal Party. This advice is taken against the direct instruction of The Prime Minister. Kerr decides to terminate the commission of The Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, under section 64 of the constitution and appoints Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister. Protests and disruptions sweep the country as people come to the realization of what has transpired in Canberra.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer of The Dismissal is very poor.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The packaging claims this to be the correct aspect ratio, although I could not confirm this through other sources.

    Levels of sharpness vary considerably over the course of the three episodes. Basically, though, the entire mini-series is exceptionally soft and lacks any form of decent clarity. This degree of clarity was dependant on the source material, which varied between actual real life footage and production footage. The transfer is simply riddled with excessive grain from start to finish. Blacks were generally very poor and exhibited varied but substantial amounts of low-level noise. Shadows displayed very murky detail and were generally of poor quality. I sampled some of the worst affected scenes on a smaller 4x3 display and found the grain problems were still evident, but obviously not as intense. Unfortunately, in terms of viewing comfort, this mini series is probably best viewed on a standard sized 4x3 display.

    Colours appeared sedate and bland. Much of this was a result of the production design, which is predominantly based around the drab, smoke filled interiors of parliament and surrounding offices. The saturation of colour, although adequate, was not helped by the poor level of overall clarity.

    I found no MPEG artefacts. Moiré patterns and some minor aliasing were evident throughout the first two episodes in particular. Two examples of this occur during episode one at 31:28 and 71:00. There also appears to be many minor instances of brief, but noticeable, tracking errors. A more obvious example of this occurs during episode two at 12:53. Film artefacts were noticeable, but were not a significant issue.

    This DVD includes English subtitles for the hard of hearing. These are in white, are easily legible and quite accurate.

    Disc one is a single sided, dual layered disc, with the layer change occurring at 3:55 during episode two. This is very well placed and difficult to pick up during normal viewing. Disc two is a single sided, single layered disc, so there is no layer change to negotiate.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is thankfully a vast improvement on the video transfer.

    There are two audio tracks available on this DVD, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (228Kb/s).

    This mini-series is heavy on dialogue and fortunately this aspect of the audio holds up very well. I had no problems hearing and comprehending any of the dialogue.

    There were a few minor lapses in audio sync, but nothing of great consequence.

    The musical score is not actually credited. The only reference given to the music in the credits is to Albert Landa, for his playing of Chopin's Revolutionary Etude.

    The 5.1 audio mix of The Dismissal is very subtle and probably a little unnecessary for a mini-series that is so heavily dialogue driven. The musical score is nicely spread over all channels, as are occasional ambient effects. Although not particularly frequent, some nice effects were achieved with the background murmurs and protests of politicians in parliament.

    The subwoofer is reasonably active, highlighting music and the subtle bass elements in the audio track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Unfortunately, there are no extras at all on this two DVD set. I feel this is a wonderful opportunity gone to waste, when so many options for extras on this topic are available.


   The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and has looped music. Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There was no R1 version of The Dismissal available at the time of this review.


    The Dismissal is one the best mini-series ever made in this country. Its depiction of this incredible era of change and crisis on the Australian political landscape is outstanding. The demise and dismissal of the Whitlam Government is an element of our history that is truly fascinating, even if politics is not really on your list of hobbies.

    The video transfer is very poor overall and will disappoint those with big screen displays in particular.

    The audio transfer is subtle and quite effective.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, August 01, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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