The Queen's representative in Australia dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 "without informing the palace beforehand" because decades of rumors that Her Majesty had ordered his release were lifted in more than 200 letters that have remained secret to this day.
Her Majesty's alleged role in dismissing Mr. Whitlam, who had not budgeted and then chose not to step down or hold elections, was the greatest constitutional crisis in Australian history and has been the subject of ongoing speculation for 45 years since then.
Activists had believed that the letters between Buckingham Palace and Australian Governor General Sir John Kerr, Her Majesty's Down Under, would prove that the Queen had ordered Whitlam's release, and show that modern Australia is still not entirely independent of British rule.
However, the letters, which were released after a four-year trial, showed that Governor-General Sir John Kerr did not give Mr. Whitlam a chance to hold an election because he feared he would be released.
In one of the letters sent to the Queen's private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, Sir John Kerr admitted that he had taken unilateral measures to remove Mr. Whitlam without first obtaining the Queen's express permission.
He wrote: "I should say that I have decided to take the step that I have taken without informing the palace in advance because after the constitution the responsibility lies with me and I thought it was for Her Majesty is better not to know in advance. although of course it's my duty to tell her immediately & # 39 ;.
Minutes after his release, Mr. Whitlam said on the Canberra Parliament steps: "Well, may we say" God save the Queen "- because nothing will save the Governor General." Sir John shortened his five-year term as governor general and resigned in December 1977, eventually moving to London.
Although Australia became independent in 1901, the queen is still head of state. A referendum on becoming a republic failed in 1999, but Republicans hope the recent royal scandals could help revive efforts to separate ties with the monarchy. The letters still show Britain's “startling” interference in Australian affairs.
The bomb letters also reveal:
- The Queen was not in favor of Prince Charles becoming Governor General of Australia, at least until he was married and had "a lady by his side".
- The Queen's Private Secretary Sir Martin Charteris had written to Sir John Kerr, Her Majesty's Governor General in Australia, to remind him that he had the authority to remove an incumbent Prime Minister a week before Gough Whitlam was released.
The letters between the Queen and former Governor General Sir John Kerr (pictured together) during Gough Whitlam's release were released today
A key letter to the Queen's private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, after the release, which was published for the first time today, makes it clear that there was no warning
Gough Whitlam was released on November 11, 1975 as Australian Prime Minister. He is pictured above and speaks to reporters after he is released
Why was Gough Whitlam released?
The Gough Whitlam Labor government was elected in December 1972 after 23 years of coalition rule, but had only a narrow majority.
The Senate, which had separate elections at the time, was still controlled by the opposition, which held its government as a ransom.
Whitlam grew tired of the opposition threatening to block supplies and in 1974 called for a double option.
The Labor Party lost two seats in the House of Representatives and the balance of power in the Senate was held by two independents after dirty tricks by the Prime Ministers of the Liberal Party.
A series of scandals further weakened the government and lost a by-election for a seat that Labor had held for 60 years.
By October 1975 opposition leader Malcolm Fraser had Whitlam on his neck and demanded a new election, otherwise he would block supplies in the Senate
This would mean that the budget would not be adopted and the government would not have access to the funds needed to pay for civil servants, social security or government programs.
Whitlam refused to hold another election, and both sides remained at a dead end before Governor General John Kerr got involved.
After weeks of failed negotiations, Whitlam made an appointment with Kerr on November 11 and called for half a Senate election for December, against which Fraser spoke out.
Whitlam met Kerr at Yarralumla House, the governor-general's residence, and tried to hand over documents calling for the election.
Instead, however, Kerr informed him that he was being released and gave him an explanation of his reasons.
Kerr said the couple only had to live with the situation to which Whitlam replied. & # 39;You will surely & # 39 ;.
The letters were published by the National Archives of Australia, which tweeted on Tuesday due to high demand that its website was "temporarily unavailable" after a ruling by the Australian High Court overturned an earlier decision declaring the correspondence "personal" and "personal" was not classified by any state records.
In a letter written more than a week after the November 20, 1975 release, Sir John said that Mr. Whitlam had told him that the crisis could end in a “race to the palace” and the Governor General “simply did not risk the outcome for the sake of the monarchy & # 39 ;.
He said: “If he (Mr. Whitlam) had advised the Queen in the least 24 hours in which he (Mr. Whitlam) thought about his position, that I should be released immediately, that would be the position I would actually try to fire him while he wanted to fire me – an impossible position for the Queen. & # 39;
The documents showed an almost constant dialogue between the two, with Sir Martin writing on November 17, 1975 that the Queen had read "Your Statement With Close Attention" and assured Sir John that his confidentiality would be protected.
Sir Martin wrote that he viewed Sir John's actions as "from a constitutional perspective not simply to question how much politicians will be angry, of course."
He added: "I have no doubt that Mr. Whitlam will try to make the constitutional question the heart and soul of his campaign, but as an extremely smart politician who lives not very far from this house, he told me on November 11th . " It is never possible to make a choice on a subject. & # 39;
Mr. Whitlam called him at 4.15 am on the day of his discharge, wrote Sir Martin.
"He spoke calmly and didn't ask me to approach the queen or do anything other than suggest that I speak to you to find out what was going on."
Sir Martin said Sir John had shown "admirable respect" for the Queen by not informing her prior to her release.
He wrote: "If I may say that with the utmost respect, I believe that by NOT informing the Queen of what you were up to, you were acting not only with full constitutional appropriateness, but also with admirable respect for Her Majesty's position. "
The removal of Labor leader Whitlam and his replacement by opposition leader Malcolm Fraser is one of the most controversial moments in Australia's political history.
The published records cover the period from Sir John's tenure in 1974–77 and include 212 letters with attachments on more than 1,000 pages.
What do the letters say and why are they important?
Newly published correspondence has revealed that Her Majesty has not been informed of her representative, who was informed of Australia's decision to dismiss Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 and replace him with opposition leader Malcolm Fraser.
– What do the letters say?
The greatest discovery from the correspondence is that the then Governor General of Australia did not inform Her Majesty in advance of his decision to remove Mr. Whitlam.
In a letter to the Queen's private secretary at the time, Sir Martin Charteris, Sir John wrote: "I should say that I have decided to take the step I have taken without informing the palace in advance since after the Constitution is my responsibility and it was my majesty that it was better not to know in advance, although of course it is my duty to tell her immediately. & # 39;
Sir Martin replied by informing the Governor-General that the Queen had read "Your statement with great care" and he believed that Sir John's actions "from a constitutional point of view are not easy to question how politicians are." will naturally be angry ".
– Why are they important?
The letters are important because they add details to one of the most important moments in Australia's political history.
The overthrow of Mr Whitlam's Labor government is the only time in the country's history that a democratically elected federal government has been dismissed under the authority of the British monarch.
The event also raised questions about Australia's political independence from Britain.
– Why was Mr. Whitlam removed from office?
Mr. Whitlam was released on November 11, 1975 as Prime Minister.
In the midst of a difficult economic situation and a turbulent political situation, a constitutional crisis was reached when the Australian Senate refused to adopt a state budget until an election was scheduled.
Mr. Whitlam, who had a majority in the House of Representatives, declined.
After three weeks of parliamentary stalemate, Sir John finally made the decision to fire Mr. Whitlam and put Mr. Fraser's oppositional Liberal Party in power as the caretaker government – until they were elected a little over a month later.
The correspondence has also shown that Sir John acted out of fear of his own dismissal and the position the Queen would get into.
Sir John wrote: “If he (Mr. Whitlam) had advised the Queen in the least 24 hours in which he (Mr. Whitlam) thought about his position, that I should be released immediately, the position would be this Either I would actually try to fire him while he wanted to fire me – an impossible position for the queen. & # 39;
– Why wasn't the correspondence published earlier?
Under normal circumstances, government documents kept in the National Archives of Australia are published 30 years after they were written.
However, the archive had declared the letters "personal" rather than state records, which meant that they should remain private at least until December 2027 – although the private secretaries of both the sovereign and the governor general would have their indefinite release in 2027 can refuse.
– Why were the letters published?
The correspondence was finally published after a lawsuit initiated by historian Jenny Hocking in 2016. She had argued that the correspondence should be published regardless of the queen's wishes, since the Australians have the right to know their own history.
In May, the Australian High Court overturned a previous letter store decision and ruled that the archive should re-examine Ms. Hocking's request for the documents to be published.
Why would it have been controversial if the queen had interfered in Australian politics?
Secret letters between Queen Elizabeth and the Australian governor-general in the weeks leading up to the dismissal of left-wing prime minister Gough Whitlam were released today after a long battle under the Supreme Court down under
Some speculated that the letters might reveal that the Queen had influenced Governor-General John Kerr's decision to dismiss Whitlam in 1975 – but she did not appear to do so, and Her Majesty was only informed after this had happened.
If the Queen had influenced it, it could have caused a crisis, as it would have shown that modern Australia was not entirely independent of British rule.
Jennifer Hocking, who has led the multi-million dollar lawsuit for four years, told The Guardian: “As an autonomous postcolonial nation, we assume that the Queen will not exercise any remaining monarchical power over our government system, let alone kept by records from our National Archives. & # 39 ;.
Historian John Warhurst said: "The British Crown interfered in 1975 in the argument that should offend anyone who wants Australia to be a completely independent nation."
He added: "The palace was not above the fight."
A letterhead from Buckingham Palace appears on a letter that says "Personal and Confidential" during the publication of the Kerr Palace Letters in Canberra on Tuesday
The Queen – as Australian head of state – is represented by the Governor General, who can make decisions on her behalf.
On the advice of the Prime Minister, she chooses who should take on the role.
This is the Queen's only constitutional task.
According to the Australian Constitution, the Governor General alone can convene, dissolve and promote Parliament.
Before Kerr released Whitlam and dissolved Parliament in 1975 for a double resolution, more than 200 letters were sent between the Queen, her then private secretary Martin Charteris, and Kerr herself.
The National Archives of Australia has been managing correspondence since 1978.
Since they were classified as "personal" Australians, they were only denied access to them 50 years after Kerr's death as Governor General – and only with the consent of the royal representative.
Hocking said it was absurd that communication between such key officials in the Australian government system could be considered personal and confidential.
"The fact that they can be considered personal is frankly an insult to all of our intelligence as a whole – they don't talk about the race and the Corgis."
She added, "It was not only the fact that they were described as rather bizarre that they were personal, but also that they were under an embargo imposed on the queen at will."
The British royal family is known for protecting their privacy and keeping conversations confidential.
The family made significant efforts to hide letters from Prince Charles – in a similar case in Britain that has been fought in court for five years – but lost in 2015.
In the last letter to Sir John before being released on November 4, Sir Martin made it clear that the Queen was staying out of the chaos of her former colony
The queen actually refused to interfere
Whitlam discharge schedule
December 2, 1972: The government of Gough Whitlam is elected
May 18, 1974: Whitlam wins a double resolution option that was given after the opposition threatened to block supplies. He only has a head start of five seats in the House of Representatives and independents control the balance of power of the Senate
July 11: Sir John Kerr is sworn in as Governor General after being promised a ten-year term. It was Whitlam's fifth choice after the others rejected the job
August 7: Whitlam holds the only joint session of parliament that passed six reform laws that had blocked the opposition in the Senate
February 1975: Liberal NSW Prime Minister Tom Lewis breaks the tradition and refuses to replace a retired Labor senator with another, instead appointing an independent one
March 21st: Malcolm Fraser becomes opposition leader
6th of June: Whitlam is forced to fire Treasurer Jim Cairns on the loan case, in which the government attempted to obtain a $ 4 billion loan from the Middle East through a Pakistani financier
June 28th: Labor is strapped into the bass by-election in Tasmania and loses its seat for the first time in 60 years
July: The Prime Minister of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, also refuses to appoint a Labor Senator, which further affects Whitlam's ability to govern
October, 16th: Opposition blocks pension bills in the Senate
November 3rd: Fraser demands a general election in return for the delivery of utility bills, which Whitlam rejects
November 9: Kerr seeks advice from the Supreme Court Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, who approves the decision to dismiss the government the next day.
November 11th: Kerr fires Whitlam and appoints Fraser until an election as interim prime minister
13th December: The coalition wins the election through a landslide and Fraser remains prime minister until 1983
In the last letter to Sir John before being released on November 4, Sir Martin made it clear that the Queen was staying out of the chaos of her former colony.
"I think it's good that people know that the queen is being informed, but of course that doesn't mean that she wants to intervene even if she had constitutional authority to do so," he wrote.
"As you say, the crisis in Australia needs to be resolved."
Sir Martin went on to give Sir John an encouraging lecture on his ability to deal with the "unenviable, but certainly very honorable position" he was in.
“If you do what you want, what the constitution requires, you cannot do any preventable harm to the monarchy. Chances are that you'll do well, ”he wrote.
The two men seemed to have become good friends through their correspondence when Sir Martin insisted on the same letter that he visited in England during his planned vacation in France.
He said the Queen would be happy to see Sir John and his wife in Norfolk "whenever they like".
Sir Martin said he would find a guest house for them since Sandringham House was being renovated at that time.
However, Her Majesty followed the events with "great interest".
Although she refused to attend, Sir Martin made it clear on many occasions that the Queen was interested in reading what he wrote.
"Your letter was of course seen by the Queen, who is not disturbed by your" bombing of the paper "at all," he wrote in a letter dated June 25, 1975.
"Indeed, Her Majesty finds everything you write of great interest."
Other letters as the crisis worsened also had a reassuring tone from Sir Martin that Sir John did not bore the Queen.
On October 23, he made it clear that the Queen was thinking of him as he considered how to resolve the impasse.
Your letter of October 17 was read with great interest by the Queen, who is very concerned about you and your difficult problems. It follows events closely as they unfold, ”he wrote.
Four days later, Sir Martin announced that he had hoped & # 39;The mere writing of these letters helped him make decisions.
In your letter of October 20, you asked whether the material you are sending on the crisis is too detailed. I can assure you that it is not, ”he continued.
"The Queen takes it with interest and is very grateful to you. for trying so hard to keep them up to date. & # 39;
Sir Martin mentioned in a handwritten addition the work of Canadian constitutional scientist Eugene Forsey, who said it was appropriate to fire a government if supplies were blocked
Governor-General feared that Whitlam would release him first
In another letter on November 20, Sir John stated that he had not warned Mr. Whitlam in advance because he feared the Prime Minister would try to fire him first.
"As you know from previous letters, he (Mr. Whitlam) said occasionally, sometimes jokingly, sometimes less, but on all occasions that I thought were serious that the crisis could end in a race to the palace." he wrote to Sir Martin.
“If necessary, I could act directly according to the constitution. I am sure that he would have known that and talk about running to the palace was really another threat. & # 39;
Sir John said he saved the queen from the inconvenience of having to choose which one to fire and launched a preemptive strike.
Sir John Kerr (pictured) was the governor-general who released Whitlam and documented his decision-making in letters to Buckingham Palace
"History will undoubtedly provide an answer to this question, but I was in a position where I just didn't think I could risk the result for the monarchy," he wrote.
If, during the 24 hour period that he (Whitlam) was considering his position, he had advised the Queen that I should be released immediately, the position would have been that either I would actually try to release him while he was tried to fire me – an impossible position for the queen.
"I just couldn't risk the result for the monarchy."
Mr. Whitlam joked about Sir John's possible dismissal in October, but the Governor General is said to have considered this a serious threat.
"It could be a question of whether I will come to the Queen first to call you back or whether you will arrive first with my discharge," said Whitlam.
Sir Martin discussed this possibility with Sir John in another letter on October 2.
"In all of these difficult matters, I am sure that you are right to keep your options open and not now to decide what you will do in certain circumstances," he wrote.
"I hope you rightly believe that the crisis is likely to be avoided and that something will" give ".
Gough Whitlam holds up the original copy of the letter of discharge he received (see illustration above at a book launch in Sydney in 2005).
Prince Charles told me a lot about his conversation with you, and in particular that you had spoken about the possibility that the Prime Minister advised the Queen to quit your job, with the aim of replacing you with someone who might better suit you. & # 39;
Sir Martin admitted that although the Queen would not be pleased that Mr. Whitlam demanded that Sir John be released, the Queen would have to take part.
"If such an approach were chosen, you could be sure that the queen would be the most unfriendly," he wrote.
"But I think it is right that I should point out that the queen at the end of the street had no choice but to follow the Prime Minister's advice.
"Let us hope that none of these unpleasant opportunities will arise. I think the more you think about them, the less likely they are to happen. & # 39;
Whitlam's anger and fallout for Kerr
Sir John wrote on November 24 that he had had a "difficult time" in the two weeks since his release from Mr. Whitlam, who waged war against him.
Whitlam's reaction after leaving Yarralumla turned out to be a very big rage, which was expressed in many of his public statements, the earliest of which were on the steps of the (old) parliament at the time (the release notice is being read, ”he wrote.
Sir John told of the immortal moment when Mr. Whitlam followed the end of the proclamation "God save the Queen" with one of the most famous lines in Australian political history.
"You can say God saves the queen, but nothing will save the governor general."
Sir John told of the immortal moment when Mr. Whitlam followed the end of the proclamation (pictured) with one of the most famous lines in Australian political history
Sir John also noted that Mr. Whitlam referred to Mr. Fraser as "Kerr & # 39; s Cur" and that the repressed Prime Minister caused anger over his campaign.
"Anger seems to be subsiding to a certain extent and could be counterproductive across the country," he wrote.
"However, Mr. Whitlam seems to believe the opposite and, I believe, will try to keep the topic as the main topic until the end."
Dies stand in direktem Gegensatz zu der herzlichen Art und Weise, wie Sir John behauptet, er habe Herrn Whitlam zum Zeitpunkt seiner Entlassung behandelt.
Als ich Herrn Whitlam entließ, sagte ich zu ihm: „Die Umfragen laufen gut zu Ihren Gunsten. Ich habe meine Entscheidung bis zum letztmöglichen Moment aufrechterhalten “, schrieb er am 17. November.
'' Sie haben in der Zwischenzeit gut gekämpft. Ich denke, Sie könnten die Wahl gewinnen. Viel Glück.' Ich habe ihm meine Hand angeboten und er hat sie genommen. & # 39;
Der Brief vom 24. November erklärte auch die persönlichen Auswirkungen für Sir John, als in seinen sozialen Kreisen Kampflinien über seine Entscheidung gezogen wurden.
"Einige Leute behaupten, darunter ein sehr alter Freund von mir, der jetzt natürlich die Beziehungen zu mir abgebrochen hat, soweit es mich für immer betrifft", schrieb er.
Sir John sagte, er beziehe sich auf Senator James McClelland, der glaubte, "ich war von Anfang an in Verschwörung mit Herrn Fraser".
Sir John schrieb am 24. November, dass er in den zwei Wochen seit seiner Entlassung von Herrn Whitlam, der Krieg gegen ihn führte, eine "schwierige Zeit" gehabt habe
Sir John erklärte in seinem Brief vom 24. November, er und seine Frau seien in Yarralumla zusammengekauert, weil die Polizei sich Sorgen um Demonstranten mache
Er behauptete, dies sei "falsch", weil Senator McCellend selbst an fehlgeschlagenen Kompromissversuchen von Sir John beteiligt war.
"Ich wusste jedoch, dass es eine gewisse Entrüstung geben würde, und musste meine Frau im Voraus davor warnen", gab er zu.
Sechs Monate nach der Entlassung schrieb Sir John, dass Herr Whitlam immer noch eine Abstrichkampagne gegen ihn vorantreibe und er oft öffentlich angesprochen werde.
Ich habe seit dem 11. November nicht mehr mit Herrn Whitlam gesprochen. Er hat öffentlich und privat eine ziemlich böse Kampagne gegen mich geführt “, schrieb er.
„Das mag aus seiner Sicht verständlich sein, aber ich konnte nicht antworten.
"Die Kampagne, obwohl ich Ihnen dies nicht erwähnt habe, beinhaltet ein ernstes Verschmieren durch Klatsch und Anspielungen, und ein Großteil dieses Klatsches, der nur von ihm und seinen Mitmenschen stammen konnte, spiegelt sich in der Tat wider." Quickie 'Bücher, die bisher von arbeitsorientierten Journalisten geschrieben wurden.'
Sir John schrieb, dass er weniger ein Ziel von Missbrauch war als auf dem Höhepunkt der Folgen der Entlassung, aber dennoch auf "kleine und ungepflegte" Proteste stieß.
„Meine Taktik ist es, regelmäßig zu erscheinen, mein Programm durchzuführen, die Demonstrationen zu ertragen, die bisher eher klein und ungepflegt waren, wie im Fernsehen zu sehen ist, und zu warten. Die nächsten sechs Monate werden es zeigen “, schrieb er.
Sir John erklärte in seinem Brief vom 24. November, er und seine Frau seien in Yarralumla gebunkert worden, weil die Polizei sich Sorgen um Demonstranten mache.
"Die Sicherheitsleute sind nicht darauf bedacht, dass ich Yarralumla verlasse, das sie schützen können, und wollen sicher nicht, dass wir im Admiralitätshaus wohnen, was aus Sicherheitsgründen schwieriger ist", schrieb er.
"Ich glaube nicht, dass Gewalt so sehr gefürchtet wird wie Demonstrationen oder Empörungen, die für das Vize-Regal-Büro oder die Monarchie nicht gut wären."
Whitlam: Unterstütze mich oder entlasse mich
In seinem letzten Brief an den Buckingham Palace vor der Entlassung schrieb Sir John am 6. November, dass Herr Whitlam klarstellte, dass er nicht leise gehen würde.
Sir John beschrieb, wie sich Herr Fraser am 3. November mit ihm traf und sagte ihm, er würde sich freuen, noch im Juni 1976 gewählt zu werden.
Herr Whitlam war zu der Zeit entschlossen, nur einen halben Senat mit einer vollständigen Wahl zu haben, die darauf wartete, dass seine dreijährige Amtszeit vorbei war.
Sir John erwähnte das Gespräch von Herrn Fraser mit Herrn Whitlam etwa eine halbe Stunde später bei einem Empfang im Melbourne Cup.
In seinem letzten Brief an den Buckingham Palace vor der Entlassung schrieb Sir John am 6. November, dass Herr Whitlam klarstellte, dass er nicht leise gehen würde
Sir John at this point, just five days before the dismissal, had not yet decided what to do, but was afraid the situation was salvageable
Mr Whitlam said he was aware of Mr Fraser's demands and had no intention of calling an election for the House.
The PM in fact would not call one until he felt like it 'and certainly woukld not do it at the behest of Mr Fraser or the Senate'.
'He later said that the only way in which an election for the House could occur would be if I dismissed him.'
Sir John at this point, just five days before the dismissal, had not yet decided what to do, but was afraid the situation was salvageable.
'The crisis is now a very serious one and if both parties and their leaders remain adamant, an important decision one way or the other may have to be made by me this month,' he wrote.
Sir Martin had in the previous letter on October 27 noted that Whitlam was 'tremendously formidable' at political in-fighting.
Whitlam refuses to accept defeat, calls Queen
Sir Martin wrote that within hours of being dismissed, Mr Whitlam called him 'as a private citizen' and asked for the Queen to reinstate him as PM.
Mr Whitlam claimed that since Labor senators, who were unaware of the dismissal, had managed to finally pass supply bills that day (while the Coalition didn't feel the need to oppose them as Mr Fraser had been appointed) he should be recalled.
'Mr Whitlam telephoned to me at 4.15am (our time) on 11th November,' he wrote.
'Mr Whitlam prefaced his remarks by saying that he was speaking as a 'private citizen'… and said that now supply had been passed he should be re-commissioned as prime minister so that he could choose his own time to call an election.
'He spoke calmly and did not ask me to make any approach to the Queen, or indeed to do anything other than the suggestion that I should speak to you to find out what was going on.'
This gambit obviously did not work.
Six months later in May 1976, Sir John wrote that Mr Whitlam was seeking an audience with the Queen.
Sir John told Sir Martin it 'hardly seemed proper' for him to offer an opinion on such a meeting, but went on to complain about Mr Whitlam's smear campaign against him.
Mr Whitlam got his audience a month later and by then had grudgingly accepted that Sir John acted within his constitutional remit.
'Mr Whitlam was in excellent form and the conversation at dinner range agreeably from Sir Harold Wilson's resignation honours list to the characters of politicians in thie country and in yours!' Sir Martin wrote.
'I had about half-an-hour's private talk with Mr Whitlam after dinner and he remained sweet and reasonable, spoke warmly of the Queen, and at least conceded that it could be argued that you had acted in accordance with the constitution!
'I said that whatever we were asked we would say nothing of what passed between the Queen and him next day, at which he threw up his hands and said the very idea of anyone saying anything about that was totally unacceptable.
'The actual audience with the Queen seems to have gone very well, and Her Majesty told me that she had spoken firmly about the use of violence.
'We must hope that some of this is reflected in the answers Mr Whitlam may give at this press conference today.'
Dismissal discussed as early as July 1975
Sir Martin in various letters praised Sir John's handling of the constitutional crisis, and gave him advice on how to proceed.
Sir John wrote to Buckingham Palace on July 3 raising the possibility of dismissing Whitlam after it was floated in an attached cutting from the Canberra Times.
'I have no intention of course of acting in the way suggested. There is ample room for the democratic processes still to unfold,' he wrote.
'So far the Canberra Times is the only paper, to my knowledge, to raise this point. The editorial may be of general interest as background.'
Later on September 12 Sir John wrote to seek advice on the reserve powers available to him as Governor-General.
Whitlam dismissal timeline
December 2, 1972: Gough Whitlam's government is elected
May 18, 1974: Whitlam wins a double dissolution election called after the Opposition threatened to block supply. He only has a five-seat margin in the House and independents control the Senate balance of power
July 11: Sir John Kerr is sworn in as Governor-General after being promised a 10-year term. He was Whitlam's fifth choice after the others turned down the job
August 7: Whitlam holds the only ever joint sitting of Parliament to pass six reform bills the Opposition had blocked in the Senate
February 1975: Liberal Party NSW Premier Tom Lewis breaks with tradition and refuses to replace a retiring Labor senator with another, appointing an independent instead
March 21: Malcolm Fraser becomes Opposition Leader
June 6: Whitlam is forced to sack Treasurer Jim Cairns over the Loans Affair where the government tried to get a $4 billion loan from the Middle East via a Pakistani financier
June 28: Labor is belted at the Bass by-election in Tasmania, losing the seat for the first time in 60 years
July: Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen also refuses to appoint a Labor senator, further hurting Whitlam's ability to govern
October 16: Opposition blocks supply bills in the Senate
November 3: Fraser demands a general election in exchange for passing supply bills, which Whitlam rejects
November 9: Kerr seeks advice from High Court Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick, who the next day endorses the decision to dismiss the government.
November 11: Kerr dismisses Whitlam and appoints Fraser as interim prime minister until an election
December 13: The Coalition wins the election in a landslide and Fraser remains prime minister until 1983
At this point he had not decided to use them, but had in the back of his mind the possibility of dismissing the Whitlam Government.
'My role will need some careful thought, though, of course, the classic constitutional convention will presumably govern the matter,' he acknowledged.
Sir Martin replied: 'If supply is refused, it also makes it constitutionally proper to grant a dissolution.'
Sir Martin in various letters praised Sir John's handling of the constitutional crisis, and gave him advice on how to proceed.
He said it was often argued that when reserve powers are not used for many years, they no longer exist – but he didn't agree with that view.
'But to use them is a heavy responsibility and it is only at the very end when there is demonstrably no other course that they should be used,' he wrote on November 4.
Sir Martin agreed with Sir John's view that the crisis had not reached that point yet – but Mr Fraser had a different view.
'Mr Fraser wants to believe it is already a 'constitutional' crisis because he wants you to bring about an election which he thinks he can win.
'If the tide of public opinion continues to flood against him he may well modify his view, and look for a way of retreat.
'Again, with great respect, I think you are playing the vice-regal hand with skill and wisdom.
'Your interest in the situation has been demonstrated, and so has your impartiality.'
Sir Martin also noted: 'The Queen has read (his previous letter) with much interest and also with much concern for the pressures to which you are being subjected by the crisis.'
Another letter from Sir Martin on November 25 was also full of praise for Sir John's handling of the situation, and noted the historical significance of the correspondence.
'I have received two letters from you … both of these are individually of great historic interest and, when taken together, I think they provide a clear, full, and, if I may use the phrase with respect, most convincing account of the psychological and actual pressures to which you were subject when you took action on November 11, and of the reason why no other course was open to you,' he wrote.
'I have still not found anyone here with knowledge prepared to say what else you could have done.'
Battle to release the letters
Palace allies have battled for decades to keep the documents – which also include correspondence from her then-private secretary, Martin Charteris – secret, with the National Archives of Australia refusing to release them to the public.
The letters had been deemed personal communication by both the National Archives of Australia and the Federal Court which meant the earliest they could be released was 2027, and only then with the Queen's permission.
But the High Court bench earlier this year ruled the letters were property of the Commonwealth and part of the public record, and so must be released.
Kerr sacked Labor Party prime minister Whitlam three years after his election in 1972 – causing a deep constitutional crisis that still scars Australian politics.
One of Whitlam's key goals when he came to office was to loosen the colonial ties between Australia and Britain.
He replaced God Save the Queen with the Australian national anthem and dubbed certain ties to Britain 'colonial relics'.
Whitlam ended the British honours system and implemented Australia's own version, and removed God Save the Queen from the official announcement dissolving parliament.
Whitlam – who died in 2014 – is still hailed as a champion of Australia's left.
A broken seal is seen on a box containing letters between former Australian Governor-General Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace during the Kerr Palace Letters release event in Canberra
He had opposed Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, and sought to assert Australia's sovereignty.
He ended conscription, established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, tried to normalise relations with China, set up a free public health service, and made university free.
But his detractors accused him of destabilising the economy, and Kerr fired him without warning on 11 November 1975 after political fighting that weakened Whitlam's government.
In October that year the country's Liberal Party refused to pass the government's bills in the senate until an election was called – meaning the government would soon run out of money to provide things like pensions and pay public servants.
Whitlam refused to call an election and Kerr swiftly dismissed him as Prime Minister.
Kerr then appointed opposition Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser as interim Prime Minister – without a confidence vote being held in parliament – and he went on to win a landslide election victory later that year.
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