Whitlam papers to be made public, high court rules

Letters between the Queen and the governor-general who dismissed Gough Whitlam should be released, the High Court has ruled.

The so-called palace letters between Buckingham Palace and Sir John Kerr about the time of the 1975 dismissal had been deemed personal communications by the National Archives of Australia and the Federal Court.

Friday’s judgment follows a legal battle relating to whether letters between the Queen and Sir John Kerr, who dismissed prime minister Gough Whitlam, should be publicly released.
Jenny Hocking with a photo of Gough Whitlam and the Dismissal letter. (AAP)

The so-called palace letters between Buckingham Palace and Sir John about the time of the 1975 dismissal had been deemed personal communications by the National Archives of Australia and the Federal Court.

Her legal team argued that despite being the personal letters of Sir John, they relate to the exercise and function of the governor-general’s power. And, as they are commonwealth property, they should be subject to the same laws that allow cabinet documents to be released after 20 years.

The Federal Court had previously ruled the letters – given to the national archives by Sir John – were personal, meaning they can’t be released until 2027, and only then with the permission of the Queen.

Gough Whitlam speaks to reporters in 1975 following his dismissal by then-Governor-General John Kerr. (Getty)

The 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, also known simply as the Dismissal, has been described as the greatest political crisis in Australian history.

It culminated on 11 November 1975 with the dismissal from office of Whitlam of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), by Kerr, who then commissioned the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser of the Liberal Party, as caretaker prime minister.

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