Sep 14, 2017

What we learned in the court case to release Queen’s secret Dismissal letters

The main thing we learned is that even our supposedly republican Prime Minister won't stand up to the Queen for the right of all Australians to access key information about our history, writes Gough Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking.

The Federal Court case against the National Archives of Australia, seeking the release of the Palace letters, which are embargoed by the Queen, concluded in Sydney last week. The case centres on the critical question of whether these letters, between the Queen and the then-governor-general, Sir John Kerr, at the time of the dismissal of the Whitlam government, are "personal" rather than Commonwealth records.

The archives claims that the Palace letters are not Commonwealth records and are not therefore subject to the Archives Act, which would have required their release in 2005. In doing so, they have accepted the designation of "personal" given to the letters when they were lodged by David Smith, the governor-general’s official secretary, after Kerr had left office. They are embargoed on the instructions of the Queen until 2027, after which date her private secretary retains a veto over the release of these important historical records.

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4 thoughts on “What we learned in the court case to release Queen’s secret Dismissal letters

  1. CML

    The withholding of these letters from the Australian public is an abuse of power. I don’t care if it is the Queen who is responsible for this decision, it is WRONG.
    Having lived through this miscarriage of justice at the time, I still maintain the rage. One law for the rich and powerful, and one law for the rest of us.
    NOT ON in the 21st century!!

  2. Jack Robertson

    How I admire Professor Hocking’s tenacity and scholarly rigour.

    I lived in at Yarralumla for a year as an army ADC under Hayden. It is quite remarkable, the hypnotic spell that the British monarchy seems to cast even this far away, and still, turning even lifelong hardcase republicans into queenly, cocked-knee suitors. I think a lot of it is to do with the (mere) pantomime banalities of pomp and ceremony. Bandy about enough butlers, footmen, toffy protocols and old empire jewellery and the spell takes your balls clean off, turns you into a simpering imperial eunuch.

    The withholding of these documents is a democratic outrage and a constitutional standing embarrassment. Keep up the fantastic effort, Professor, and thank you.

  3. PDGFD1

    Many thanks Prof. Hocking for your dogged determination.
    Our history is our history… and it should be written with all available primary sources to hand.
    These are available, but for hubris.

  4. AR

    I’m not often lost for words but I cannot even muster obscenities to describe this contempt of democracy.

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