Gough Whitlam as he labels the incoming Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser as
Gough Whitlam as he labels the incoming Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser as "Kerr's cur".

Fight for Queen's secret Whitlam letters hits court

A BATTLE is under way in the Federal Court to release secret correspondence between the Queen and former Governor-General Sir John Kerr about the extraordinary dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Mystery surrounds how much the monarch knew in the lead up to the move by Sir John Kerr, who in his capacity as Governor-General sent the PM packing during a constitutional crisis.

A landmark case before the courts seeks to have the documents dubbed "the palace letters" made public - a move being fiercely resisted by the National Archives.

Their contents signify the final elusive piece of the puzzle that is the dismissal, those fighting to see them believe.

So closely guarded is the correspondence with the Queen that they were locked in a safe for three years after the November 11 sacking of Mr Whitlam, before being copied by hand "in the dead of night" and squirrelled away by Kerr's official secretary in 1978.

 

Gough Whitlam with his wife Margaret and Governor-General John Kerr, pictured the month before the dismissal.
Gough Whitlam with his wife Margaret and Governor-General John Kerr, pictured the month before the dismissal.

The original letters have remained in the "care and custody" of the National Archives since and aren't due for sanctioned disclosure until 2027.

And even then, there's a chance their release could be blocked.

Gough Whitlam with his wife Margaret and Governor-General John Kerr, pictured the month before the dismissal.

Lawyers representing the National Archive argued that governors-general act "personally and independently" of the government of the day and shouldn't be subject to normal public scrutiny.

The late Mr Whitlam's son Anthony, a QC representing academic and Whitlam biographer Professor Jenny Hocking in the bid to reveal "the final piece of the puzzle" of the dismissal, appeared in court yesterday.

"Mr Whitlam mentioned a conversation - relayed in an extract of one of Kerr's letters accidentally released by the National Archives - where his father told Kerr the crisis could be resolved by a rush to the phone by both men seeking to have the Queen sack the other," The Australian reported.

But the National Archives insisted the letters were "personal records" rather than official records.

The case has been adjourned until September.

News Corp Australia


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