Queen read letters from Sir John Kerr about whether to sack Whitlam

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    Queen Elizabeth’s private secretary confirmed she read letters from former governor-general Sir John Kerr in which he deliberated over sacking Gough Whitlam in 1975.

    Letters from the private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, confirm the Queen read Sir John’s despatches from Canberra on his approach to the crisis, including his deliberations about whether to dissolve Parliament or sack the Prime Minister.

    In a crucial letter on November 4, one week before the dismissal, Sir Martin supported the key argument that the governor-general could fall back on his « reserve powers » to resolve the impasse in Parliament over the Senate’s refusal to pass the budget supply bill.

    The revelations are the most important disclosure about the dismissal in decades and come after Monash University professor Jenny Hocking took action in the High Court to force the National Archives of Australia to release the correspondence between Government House and Buckingham Palace.

    In a handwritten note on September 24, Sir Martin told Sir John that the work of constitutional scholar Eugene Forsey supported the idea of dissolving Parliament.

    Sir Martin said Mr Forsey, an eminent constitutional expert in the Canadian Parliament, found it was « proper » to grant a dissolution if supply was refused. The note was added to a formal type-written letter offering Sir John the support of the Palace in facing the crisis.

    Eight days later, Sir Martin sent a letter that canvassed options for Sir John and offered an insight into the level of interest being taken by the Palace in Sir John’s search for solutions.

    In this letter, dated October 2, Sir Martin asked whether one option was for Sir John to give his assent to the supply bill even if the Senate refused to pass it. Sir John did not take up this option.

    The 211 letters between Sir John and the Palace offer an extraordinary insight into the dismissal and will be released online at 11am on Tuesday after the High Court ruled they were official papers and should be revealed, over the objections of the Palace, the federal government, Government House and the National Archives.

    In a letter on November 4, Sir Martin praised Sir John’s « skill and wisdom » in his handling of the crisis and offered him further thoughts on how to handle the impasse in the Parliament.

    « With great respect, you are playing the ‘vice-regal’ hand with skill and wisdom, » Sir Martin wrote to Sir John on November 4.

    Sir Martin praised Sir John’s impartiality in handling the Australian political leaders and made it clear the despatches from the governor-general were being read closely in London.

    The Queen’s private secretary wrote on November 5 that Sir John was in an « unenviable » position but that the Palace was confident he would not do the monarchy any harm in the course of action he chose.

    However, Sir Martin made it clear that the fundamental decisions were for Sir John to make and for Australia to resolve. He said it was not for the Queen to intervene.

    Archives director David Fricker acknowledged the role of Professor Hocking in securing the release of the papers and said the Archives was a « pro-disclosure » organisation that had to keep the letters secret because the Federal Court had ruled they were personal, before the High Court overturned this verdict and found they were official documents.

    In his letters to the Palace, Sir John attached news clippings and documents on the deadlock in Parliament, drawing sympathy from Sir Martin on the scale of the problem and the « formidable » talents of Gough Whitlam, sacked from the prime minister’s office on November 11.

    As early as September, Sir John was telling the Palace that he was keeping his mind « open » on constitutional issues if Mr Whitlam refused to go to a general election.

    « My role will need some careful thought, though, of course, the classic constitutional convention will presumably govern the matter. »

    The letters from the Palace also confirm the role of Prince Charles in hearing Sir John’s concerns when the two met in Papua New Guinea in September.

    Sir John told Prince Charles of his concern that Mr Whitlam might ask the Queen to remove Sir John as governor general if the prime minister gained any hint that the Queen’s representative in Australia was considering dismissing the prime minister.

    Sir Martin canvassed this conversation and a clear warning that the Queen would have to act on the prime minister’s advice if Mr Whitlam sought to remove Sir John.

    This advice, never revealed prior to the release of the Palace Letters, canvassed a central point in Sir John’s decision to give Mr Whitlam no warning that he was about to be dismissed.



    SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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