Jun 19, 2017

Will Turnbull ever urge the Queen to release Whitlam Dismissal letters?

Self-described republican Malcolm Turnbull made a promise to lobby the Queen to release the "Palace letters". Historian and author Jenny Hocking wonders why he hasn't made good on that yet.

Pressure is building on the Prime Minister to intervene in the long-running dispute over the release of the Palace letters, the secret correspondence between the Queen and the governor-general Sir John Kerr in the months before Kerr’s 1975 Dismissal of the Whitlam government. These letters are held by the National Archives in Canberra where they have been designated as “personal” — not official — correspondence and embargoed “on the instructions” of the Queen until at least 2027, with her private secretary retaining a final veto over their release even after that date. The reality is that we, as Australians, do not own our history, while these historic letters, written at the height of our greatest constitutional crisis, remain hidden from us at the behest of the Queen.  

Turnbull now faces pressure to intervene on three fronts: from his own rash commitment in 2015 to seek the release of the letters from the Queen, from an important question in parliament about the letters which the Prime Minister has so far refused to answer, and from the Federal Court action that I have taken against the National Archives, seeking the release of the letters, and which is to be heard on 31 July.

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5 thoughts on “Will Turnbull ever urge the Queen to release Whitlam Dismissal letters?

  1. Barbara Haan

    Because our Malcolm is a cowardly lion? He’s so desperate to hang onto power he appears to be willing to do absolutely anything the alt-right wing of his party demands of him.

  2. The Curmudgeon

    We really are paying the price for this monarch’s longevity.
    But, let’s assume that the Queen knew in advance that Kerr was going to sack Whitlam. Is there some principle that obliges her to tip Whitlam off? Not sure, but I would contend that she was certainly obliged to urge Kerr to be utterly frank and open with his PM. The right/duty of the monarch (or in this case, her “rep”) to “warn” the PM is fundamental (see Bagehot 1867) and it is here that Kerr failed horribly, motivated by his desperate obsession with saving his own arse. If the Queen so advised Kerr and he declined to follow the advice, what then? Again, not sure, but the failure to release the correspondence can only lend credence to the suspicion that the Queen acted less than properly. It’s a bit of a cliche, but if there’s nothing to hide….

  3. Charlie Chaplin

    I knew about the Dismissal of course – I was ten when it happened- but had no idea the Queen refused to release the relevant correspondence. Almost as outrageous as the British monarch ( via her representative) dismissing our elected government in the first place. Meanwhile, her grandson Harry’s here holidaying on us yet again, isn’t he?

  4. AR

    Don’t be surprised if these documents somehow go missing or are eaten by moths or silverfish.
    Another Constitutional matter over which Talcum does have full, untramelled power, not to say responsibility AND obligation, is to remove the PM&C office instruction sealing the documents relating to his predecessor’s rescinding of his British citizenship.
    Was he eligible to be elected as MP for Warringah when still a citizen of the UK?

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