High Court to determine whether ‘Palace letters’ on Gough Whitlam’s dismissal should be released





Updated

August 16, 2019 12:25:58

The High Court has agreed to consider whether sealed letters between the Queen and former Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the height of Australia’s greatest constitutional crisis should be released to the public.

Key points:

  • Jenny Hocking’s request to access the letters was rejected because they are considered private correspondence
  • The letters are held under embargo by the National Archives of Australia until 2027
  • Ms Hocking said the letters would shed light on what the Queen knew before Mr Whitlam was dismissed

Historian and Gough Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking has been seeking the release of the letters, held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA), since September, 2016.

She claims the Palace letters, as they are known, could shed light on what the Queen knew in the lead-up to the unprecedented dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975.

The High Court today granted her leave to appeal against a majority decision of the Federal Court, which found the letters are personal, and not Commonwealth Records.

The letters are held under embargo until at least 2027, as they are classified as private correspondence.

However, lawyers for Professor Hocking argued they should instead be classified as Commonwealth records.

Regardless of the High Court’s eventual ruling, any release of the letters will require the consent of both the Governor-General and the monarch of the day.

Outside court professor Hocking said she was “absolutely delighted” and it was “entirely fitting” that the highest court in the country had agreed to hear her case.

“At stake is our knowledge of history, and our knowledge of what was actually taking place between the Governor General and the Queen at the time of the dismissal,” she said.

“[It’s] really important material, really important letters that are held by our own archives but we can’t see them.

“The Queen can look at them but we can’t.”

Topics:

courts-and-trials,

law-crime-and-justice,

government-and-politics,

constitution

First posted

August 16, 2019 12:05:06



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