Whitlam dismissal: historian appeals decision to keep Queen’s letters secret | Australia news


Monash University professor Jenny Hocking has lodged an appeal to the full bench of the federal court against the decision to keep secret the so-called “palace letters”.

The court ruled in March that the correspondence between the Queen and the then governor-general over the 1975 dismissal of the then Australian prime minister, Gough Whitlam, was personal communications rather than official commonwealth records.

The court found that the letters, held by the National Archives of Australia, did not have to be released as they were the personal property of the then governor-general, John Kerr.

The case involves access to Sir John’s communications with the Queen in his capacity as governor-general. Hocking believes there could be 40 to 60 letters regarding the Whitlam dismissal.

In 1975 the governor general dismissed Whitlam and his government from office at the height of a constitutional crisis after the Senate blocked supply.

Hocking says it is time for the “obscure quasi-colonial control over our historical knowledge to end”.

“The fact they’re embargoed by the Queen is something I find particularly concerning,” she said on Tuesday.

“It was a very polarised period in our history and so it’s quite important that we know and understand what version of that history the governor-general was passing on to the Queen.

“There’s [also] a genuine issue to be resolved regarding the use of the term ‘personal records’.”



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