‘Palace letters’ display the queen didn’t advise, or inspire, Kerr to sack Whitlam govt

‘Palace letters’ display the queen didn’t advise, or inspire, Kerr to sack Whitlam govt


For greater than 4 many years, the query has been requested: did the queen know the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, was once about to disregard the Whitlam govt, and did she inspire or enhance that motion?

The discharge of the “palace letters” between Kerr and the palace can now lay that query to leisure. The solution was once given, unequivocally, by way of the queen’s non-public secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, in a letter to Kerr on November 17 1975. He stated:

If I might say so with the best admire, I imagine that during NOT informing The Queen what you meant to do sooner than doing it, you acted no longer best with best constitutional propriety but in addition with admirable attention for Her Majesty’s place.

Surely, Kerr had saved the palace up-to-the-minute with the quite a lot of trends in Australia. Whilst governors-general typically be in contact with the queen best 3 or 4 occasions a 12 months all the way through abnormal occasions, it’s common all the way through a disaster for updates at the political state of affairs to be made each and every few days – in particular if there’s a possibility of the queen turning into concerned or the workout of a reserve energy.




Learn extra:
The massive expose: Jenny Hocking on what the ‘palace letters’ might let us know, in any case, about The Dismissal


Drawing the palace into the disaster

In 1975, there have been more than one problems that would possibly have drawn the palace into the disaster.

First, there was once the query of whether or not Kerr must workout a reserve energy to refuse royal assent to an appropriation invoice that were handed by way of the Area of Representatives however no longer the Senate. Thankfully, Whitlam dropped this concept, in order that controversy disappeared.

Then there was once the query of whether or not state premiers would advise state governors to refuse to factor the writs for a half-Senate election, and whether or not Whitlam would then advise the queen to instruct the governors to factor the writs. This didn’t occur both, as a result of Whitlam didn’t get to carry his half-Senate election. However the prospect was once sufficient to fret the palace.

The Whitlam govt was once disregarded on November 11 1975.
AAP/Nationwide Archives of Australia

Subsequent there was once the problem of what to do with the Queensland governor, Sir Colin Hannah. Hannah, in a speech, had referred to the “fumbling ineptitude” of the Whitlam govt. Hannah held a “dormant fee” to behave as administrator of the Commonwealth when the governor-general was once away.

Whitlam, opposite to the recommendation of each the Division of the High Minister and Cupboard and the Legal professional-Normal’s Division, prompt the queen to take away Hannah’s fee to be administrator.

One after the other, the Queensland opposition petitioned for Hannah to be got rid of as governor, however that required the recommendation of British ministers, as Queensland was once nonetheless in the ones days a “dependency” of the British Crown.

So the palace needed to juggle recommendation on Hannah from two other assets.

A race to the palace

Some other urgent query was once what must be achieved if Whitlam prompt Kerr’s dismissal. Kerr’s letters greater than as soon as referred to Whitlam speaking of a “race to the Palace” to look whether or not he may disregard Kerr sooner than Kerr disregarded him.

Kerr noticed those “jokes” as having an underlying risk. Kerr knew he didn’t need to race to the palace – he may disregard the high minister straight away. However he additionally knew, after Whitlam prompt Hannah’s elimination simply for the usage of the phrases “fumbling ineptitude”, that Whitlam wouldn’t hesitate to behave.

Sir John Kerr.
AAP/Nationwide Archives of Australia

The letters additionally display Kerr were advised that whilst the “Queen would take maximum unkindly” to being advised to disregard her governor-general, she would in the end achieve this as a result of, as a constitutional sovereign, she had no choice however to observe the recommendation of her high minister. This is able to inevitably have introduced her into the fray in an necessarily Australian constitutional disaster.

Kerr defined in a letter after the dismissal that if he had given Whitlam 24 hours to advise a dissolution or face the chance of dismissal, there was once a substantial possibility Whitlam would advise the queen to disregard Kerr. He wrote:

[…] the placement would then were that both I might if truth be told be seeking to disregard him while he was once seeking to disregard me, an not possible place for The Queen, or anyone utterly green within the trends of the disaster as much as that time, be it a brand new Governor-Normal or an Administrator who would should be a State Governor, could be faced by way of the similar implacable High Minister.

Recommendation from the palace

The letters expose a lot of Kerr’s pondering, however little from the palace. Charteris rightly authorised the reserve powers existed, however they had been for use “within the remaining lodge after which just for constitutional and no longer for political causes”.

Charteris wired the workout of such powers was once a

heavy accountability and it is just on the very finish when there’s demonstrably no different direction that they must be used.

This didn’t give Kerr any “inexperienced gentle” or encouragement to behave. No-one instructed to him that the top had come and there was once no different direction to be adopted. That was once for Kerr to pass judgement on, and rightly so, for the reason that powers may best be exercised by way of him – no longer the queen.

Whether or not the top had come and there was once no different direction is largely what is still debated as of late. Will have to Kerr have waited? Will have to he have warned Whitlam? Used to be every other plan of action to be had?

All of those questions might justly be debated. However, no, the queen didn’t direct Kerr to disregard Whitlam. He was once no longer inspired to take action. He was once best inspired to obey the Australian Charter, which is one thing all of us must do.



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