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.