Some Australians watching the US federal government shutdown unfold will be feeling a sense of deja vu – that is, those old enough to have lived through the supply crisis of November 1975, when the Australian government also shut down.
At the time, the blocking of the government's supply bills by the opposition-dominated Senate here triggered a chain of events that led to greatest crisis in Australia's political history – the dismissal of Parliament by the Queen's representative.
Late on the morning of Nov. 11, 1975, Australia's Governor General John Kerr, unelected and answerable only to the Crown, fired then- Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, whose government had deferred the passing of two appropriation bills, which effectively left the government out of pocket by about $4 billion a month in adjusted US dollars.
Mr. Kerr then appointed an opposition leader, willing to pass the bills, as prime minister. But when Mr. Whitlam's members revolted and passed a no-confidence motion in the new prime minister, Kerr wielded the "nuclear option": He dismissed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, triggering a double dissolution election. It all happened in just a few hours. And there has never been a government shutdown in Australia since.