Bombshell to reveal what the Queen knew

 

More than 200 previously secret letters between the Queen and former governor-general Sir John Kerr will be released Tuesday morning, shedding light on what really happened during the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Mr Whitlam was dismissed without warning on November 11, 1975, about a month after the Senate refused to pass the Government's budget bills.

Malcolm Fraser, then opposition leader, was appointed caretaker prime minister, and a double-dissolution election was held on December 13, where the Whitlam Government was defeated.

Queen Elizabeth II in 1975. Picture: Serge Lemoine/Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II in 1975. Picture: Serge Lemoine/Getty Images


Letters between Mr Kerr and the Queen date from 1974 to 1977, made up of more than 1200 pages. The Governor-General had at times written to Buckingham Palace more than once a day, with his correspondence reportedly becoming more feverish in the lead-up to the dismissal.

The "Palace Letters" have been held as personal records at the National Archives and were not set for public release until 2027 - and only then with the permission of the Queen, The Conversation reported.

But a lengthy court battle led by Professor Jenny Hocking reclassified the documents as Commonwealth property in June despite a fight from the Palace to keep them a secret.

Professor Jenny Hocking won a lengthy court battle for the release of the letters between Governor-General John Kerr and the Queen in the lead-up to the dismissal of PM Gough Whitlam. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross
Professor Jenny Hocking won a lengthy court battle for the release of the letters between Governor-General John Kerr and the Queen in the lead-up to the dismissal of PM Gough Whitlam. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross

After the dismissal, Speaker Gordon Scholes wrote to the Queen, asking her to reinstate Mr Whitlam as prime minister.

Her private secretary Martin Charteris, whose correspondence is understood to be on behalf of the Queen, wrote back claiming she did not involve herself in Australian politics.

"The only person competent to commission an Australian Prime Minister is the Governor-General, and The Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution," the letter read.

The letters will reveal how much the Queen knew about, and the extent of her involvement in, the dismissal of Mr Whitlam, shedding further light on what has always been a murky part of Australian history.

"It has been a distorted history, one for which the true details have emerged crablike over decades after strong research work to unravel what really happened," Prof Hocking told The Age.

"The release of these letters is in itself momentous but also typical of the way the history of the dismissal has come to light - gradually, after great effort, and with quite volcanic repercussions."

Originally published as Bombshell to reveal what the Queen knew


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