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Unholy Fury - Whitlam vs Nixon

04 Jun 2015
By Cam Hawker
James Curran and Cameron Hawker. Photo Credit: AIIA

ACT Branch President Cameron Hawker conducts an interview with James Curran, Associate Professor at the Department of History and US Studies Centre, the University of Sydney regarding his new book Unholy Fury: Whitlam and Nixon at War. 

In the period from December 1972 until November 1975 the US-Australia alliance faced its greatest ever crisis. In the hands of President Richard Nixon and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, a relationship that had endured the heights of the Cold War veered dangerously off course and seemed headed for destruction. For Whitlam the world emerging from the ashes of Vietnam offered an exciting opportunity to recast Australia’s image in the eyes of the world and redefine the alliance. For Nixon, the ongoing difficulties in securing an end to the war and the mounting pressures of the Watergate scandal produced a visceral reaction to any criticism—but especially that from once close and trusted allies. In his rage he threatened to rip apart the very fabric of the alliance, asking that options be explored for pulling out top secret U.S. intelligence installations in Australia and ending all intelligence sharing. In Australia, although some saw Whitlam as the great moderniser of Australian foreign relations, others feared he was recklessly endangering the protective umbrella provided by the United States. This presentation explores the roots of this crisis and assesses the extent of its legacy for contemporary US-Australia relations.

 James Curran is Associate Professor at the Department of History and US Studies Centre, the University of Sydney. He is the author of Curtin’s EmpireThe Power of Speech: Australian Prime Ministers Defining the National Image, shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards and the NSW Premier’s History Prize—and, with Stuart Ward, The Unknown Nation: Australia After Empire, shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Australian History Prize. Curran was a Fulbright scholar at Georgetown University in 2010 and the Keith Cameron Professor of Australian History at University College Dublin in 2013.