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The Queen did NOT order the Governor-General to fire Gough Whitlam


The Queen was not told that Gough Whitlam would be fired as Australian Prime Minister to protect her from a constitutional crisis.

Governor General Sir John Kerr dismissed the Labor Prime Minister on November 11, 1975 after a protracted struggle to adopt the budget between him and Malcolm Fraser.

Ahead of his decision, Sir John exchanged dozens of letters with Buckingham Palace to inform Queen Elizabeth of his considerations.

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.

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

I should say that I have decided to take the step that I have taken without informing the palace in advance because the constitution is my responsibility and I thought it would be better for Her Majesty was not knowing in advance, although it is, of course, my duty to tell her immediately, ”Sir John wrote

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

I should say that I have decided to take the step that I have taken without informing the palace in advance because the constitution is my responsibility and I thought it would be better for Her Majesty was not knowing it in advance, although it is, of course, my duty to tell her immediately, ”he wrote.

This letter is one of 212 letters published by the National Archives between Sir John and the Palace, which eventually shed light on the Queen's role in the discharge.

There has long been speculation that Her Majesty was trying to influence Sir John's decision, thereby undermining Australia's independence.

Sir Martin replied later that day with his own letter, praising Sir John's decision not to inform the Queen, and agreed with his reasoning.

"I believe that by not informing the Queen of what you were up to, you acted not only with total constitutional appropriateness, but also with admirable consideration for Her Majesty's position," he wrote.

Sir Martin also joked that if he won the following elections, Mr. Whitlam "should be extremely grateful to you."

Gough Whitlam was released on November 11, 1975 as Australian Prime Minister. He is pictured above and speaks to reporters after he is released

Gough Whitlam was released on November 11, 1975 as Australian Prime Minister. He is pictured above and speaks to reporters after he is released

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.

"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 to Sir Martin.

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."

In previous letters, Sir Martin praised Sir John's handling of the constitutional crisis and noted that the Queen was reading his programs "with interest".

"Again, I think you are playing the viceroy's hand with skill and wisdom with great respect," he wrote on November 4.

"Your interest in the situation was shown, as was your impartiality."

Why was 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 Liberal Prime Ministers.

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 ;.

Fight for the release of the letters

The palace's allies have fought for decades to keep the documents – including the correspondence of their then private secretary Martin Charteris – secret. The Australian National Archives refused to make them available to the public.

The letters were considered personal communications by both the National Archives of Australia and the Federal Court, which meant that they could not be published until 2027 at the earliest, and only with the Queen's permission.

But the High Court bank decided earlier this year that the letters were owned by the Commonwealth and part of the public record and therefore must be published.

Kerr dismissed Labor Prime Minister Whitlam three years after his election in 1972 – which led to a deep constitutional crisis that still affects Australian politics.

One of Whitlam's primary goals when he took office was to loosen colonial relations between Australia and Britain.

He replaced God Save the Queen with the Australian national anthem and named certain connections to British "colonial relics".

Whitlam ended the British honor system and implemented Australia's own version and removed God Save the Queen from the official announcement to dissolve the parliament.

Whitlam – who died in 2014 – is still celebrated as a champion of the Australian left.

He had spoken out against Australia's participation in the Vietnam War and tried to enforce Australia's sovereignty.

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).

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).

He ended compulsory military service, founded the Aboriginal Affairs Department, tried to normalize relations with China, set up a free public health service, and freed the university.

But his critics accused him of destabilizing the economy, and Kerr released him on November 11, 1975 without warning after political struggles weakening the Whitlam government.

In October this year, the country's Liberal Party refused to pass government laws in the Senate until an election was scheduled – which means the government would soon run out of money to provide things like pensions and pay officials.

Whitlam refused to hold an election and Kerr quickly dismissed him as prime minister.

Kerr then appointed liberal opposition leader Malcolm Fraser interim prime minister – without a vote of confidence in parliament – and won a landslide election victory later that year.

Why is it controversial if the queen intervened?

Secret letters between Queen Elizabeth and the Governor General of Australia in the weeks leading up to the dismissal of left-wing Prime Minister Gough Whitlam are due to be released tomorrow, after a long struggle before the Supreme Court.

Some speculate that the letters may reveal that the Queen influenced Governor General John Kerr's decision to fire Whitlam in 1975.

If this turned out to be true, it would show that modern Australia is not completely independent of British rule, experts say.

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 records kept by our National Archives.

"However, this case and these letters show that this assumption is wrong."

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."

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.

Their potential content is indicated in already public documents, including a note with the words "Charteris" advice to me on discharge ".

Hocking said to The Conversation: "This is just an extraordinary situation: the Governor General reports to the Queen about his private talks, plans, government matters and meetings with the Australian Prime Minister, and this is kept secret from the Prime Minister himself.

"This is the crucial context of secrecy and deception in which the palace's letters must be taken into account: that Whitlam knew nothing of these discussions because Kerr had opted for a constitutionally absurd policy of" silence "towards the Prime Minister, who trusted the House of Representatives at all times. & # 39;

The Australian National Archives has been managing correspondence since 1978.

Since they were classified as "personal" Australians, they were denied access to them until 50 years after Kerr was no longer governor general – and only then 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.

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