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Sir John Kerr dies alone at 76: the storm goes on
Sir John Kerr
SYDNEY: Former Governor-Gen eral Sir John Kerr died on Sunday and was buried privately yesterday, his family said.
Sir John, 76, the centre of a bitter political storm in 1975 when he sack ed the Whitlam Labor Government, was admitted to hospital on January 17, diagnosed with a brain tumour.
His son, Philip, said the funeral at St James' Anglican Church was pri vate and his father was buried at Northern Suburbs Cemetery.
He said a memorial service would be held next week, also at St James.
Mr Kerr said he and other family members, including the former Gov ernor-General's wife, Anne, had visit ed him on Sunday, but no-one had
been with him when he died.
Survivors include two daughters
and a son by his first wife, Alison,
who died in 1974.
He married Anne in 1975.
The Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, said Sir John had been an active and energetic Governor-General whose decision to dismiss the Whitlam Gov ernment would continue to remain a matter of debate among Australians.
Mr Hawke said Sir John was a very prominent Australian who had had a distinguished legal career and rose to high office as Governor-General.
"Sir John was an active and ener getic Governor-General who took a genuine interest in people from all walks of life," Mr Hawke said.
Sir John had had an active interest in improving the position of Aborigi nes and he had made a positive con tribution towards enhancing
Australia's role in the Asia-Pacific re gion.
"I extend my deepest sympathy to Lady Kerr and other members of his family," he said.
The Prime Minister Sir John dis missed, Gough Whitlam, had no comment last night.
The Queen was sending a private message of condolence to the family of Sir John but would make no public comment, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said yesterday.
The former Leader of the National Party, Doug Anthony, said the secrecy surrounding Sir John's funeral was "a real embarrassment to Australia".
Mr Anthony, who became Deputy Prime Minister in the 1975 crisis, said the real tragedy was the bitter cam paign waged by Mr Whitlam.
"Here was a man given the respon
sibility and he did the only thing he could in the circumstances and yet Gough Whitlam led the Labor Party in a campaign of absolute bitterness," Mr Anthony told ABC radio's PAf program. "Sir John Kerr never really got over that.
"He really had to shun himself from the public as an outcast because of that bitter campaign.
"It's a real embarrassment to Aus tralia to think that he's got to have a private funeral in case of any embar rassment that might have taken place."
Malcolm Fraser's Senate Leader, Reg Withers, who was instrumental in organising the numbers to block Supply which led to the dismissal of the Whitlam Government, said last night he felt "terribly sorry" for Sir John's family.
Mr Withers said Sir John had been justified in his decision to dismiss Mr Whitlam and his government by the public support for the Coalition at the
"I think the best judgment on Sir John Ken is, not only did Malcolm Fraser win the 1975 election by the biggest majority in Australia's history in spite of what happened over the next two years when Kerr was virtual ly hounded out of public office, he won the 1977 election by the same majority," Mr Withers said. "Irre spective of personal feelings, the elec torate overwhelmingly supported his actions in 1975 and 1977."
Sir John's former official secretary, Sir David Smith, said Sir John was a great Australian. His whole life's work was evidence of that fact.
"He was a courageous man and he
was a first-class person to work for," Sir David said.
"He was someone I was very proud to know and very proud to serve."
Sir David was secretary to Governors-General from 1973 until his retirement last year.
His face became famous around the nation after he was photographed on the crowded steps of the old Parlia ment House reading the proclamation from Sir John dissolving Parliament
after the dismissal.
The Acting Leader of the Opposi tion and the Leader of the National Party, Tim Fischer, said, "Sir John made a unique contribution in service to the community both as Governor-General and in many other positions held over the years, particu larly with the law."
Obituary. — Page 8.