Letters from Her Majesty The Queen to her representative in Australia during the lead up to the dismissal of a former Prime Minister are set to be released following a court ruling. A Historian in Australia, Professor Jenny Hocking, has been fighting for the release of the letters for over a decade.
The legal battle with the National Archives Australia has cost millions of dollars and on the decision made by the court Professor Hocking said, “decades of residual British control over Australian archive material, kept from us in the name of The Queen through the exercise of an alleged Royal veto.”
The letters preceded the Governor-General John Kerr’s dismissal of Labour Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 who was replaced by opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser. The decision was one of the most controversial in Australian political history. After his sacking in 1975, Mr Whitlam said, “Well may we say ‘God Save The Queen’ – because nothing will save the Governor-General.”
On Friday, an Australian court ruled that the letters were Commonwealth records and not personal ones and has compelled the NAA to reconsider Professor Hocking’s request for access. The NAA have also been ordered to pay the Historian’s legal costs including Federal Court hearings and an appeal that was lost last February.
Director-General of the NAA, David Fricker, said in a statement, “We accept the High Court’s judgement and will now get to work examining these historically significant records for release under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983. The National Archives is a pro-disclosure organisation. We operate on the basis that a Commonwealth record should be made publicly available, unless there is a specific and compelling need to withhold it. We work extremely hard to do this for the Australian people.”
It is thought that 211 of the so called ‘palace letters’ will be made available to the Australian people imminently.
Photo Credit: UK Home Office