Queen’s secret letters to be made public next week lifting lid on constitutional crisis

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Private conversations between the Queen and former Australian governor general Sir John Kerr in the run up to the dismissal of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlan in 1975 are to be made public. Historians believe the documents will shed light on one of the most controversial moments in the country’s political history.

In November 1975, Sir John Kerr removed the then Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and replaced him with the opposition leader Malcolm Fraser.

Mr Whitlam was dismissed after he failed to get parliament to approve a national budget and then declined to resign or call an election.

Critics branded the unprecedented move as a constitutional coup and sparked protests around the country.

As Australia is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as head of state, the governor-general had the authority to change the Government.

After being sacked Mr Whitlam famously said on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra: “Well may we say ‘God save the Queen’ – because nothing will save the governor-general.”

Sir John cut his five-year term as governor-general short and resigned in December 1977 and eventually moved to London.

The letters, deemed “personal and confidential correspondence” have been deposited into the National Archives of Australia – seven years earlier than planned.

The so-called palace letters were intended to remain private until at least December 2027.

In May, the Australian High Court overturned an earlier decision relating to the cache of letters.

The court ruled Australia’s National Archives should reconsider the request of historian Professor Jenny Hocking to access the documents.

National Archives director-general David Fricker said all the letters will be released without exemption next Tuesday.

He said: “In line with the High Court ruling of May 29, the National Archives has examined the records for public release under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983 and I have determined all items will be released in full.”

Professor Hocking said she was “delighted” the archives had decided to release the documents.

She told The Guardian: “I think this is the most appropriate response to what has been an emphatic high court decision and I thank the archives for their trouble in reaching this decision.”


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The records to be released on Tuesday at 11am, cover the period of Sir John’s term in office from 1974 to 1977.

There are six files, which include more than 1,000 pages.

There are also 212 letters, many with attachments such as newspaper clippings, reports, and copies of letters related to meetings and events attended by Sir John during his tenure as governor-general.

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