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Letters prove Queen 'played no part' in dismissal, say Palace

Politics

Newly released letters between Australia’s then-governor-general and the Queen’s secretary prove the monarch played no part in the decision to sack Gough Whitlam as prime minister, Buckingham Palace says.

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The National Archives on Tuesday released more than a thousand pages of previously secret correspondence between former governor-general Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace.

The letters include exchanges in the lead-up to the dismissal of then Australian prime minister Whitlam’s government on November 11, 1975.

They show the governor-general did not tell the palace before he sacked Whitlam, although he did discuss the issue in depth with the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, in the lead-up.

A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday that the Queen had consistently demonstrated support for Australia and the independence of the Australian people, and the letters reflected that support.

“While the Royal Household believes in the longstanding convention that all conversations between Prime Ministers, Governor Generals and The Queen are private, the release of the letters by the National Archives Australia confirms that neither Her Majesty nor the Royal Household had any part to play in Kerr’s decision to dismiss Whitlam,” the palace spokesperson said in a statement.

In Britain, The Times featured news of the letters’ release prominently on its website, and said they confirmed there was no conspiracy involving the Queen to sack Whitlam.

“The public release of a trove of the Queen’s private letters, hotly resisted by Buckingham Palace, has put to an end long-held suspicions that the Palace contrived to sensationally sack Australia’s Labor prime minister in 1975,” the newspaper said.

However The Guardian’s UK edition said the letters showed the extent to which the palace was “drawn into” Kerr’s plans to remove the Labor leader.

Kerr’s decision not to inform the Queen ahead of time that he was sacking Mr Whitlam was deemed strategic.

“He did so to protect the Queen,” the newspaper said.

The BBC’s Australia correspondent Shaimaa Khalil wondered whether the letters would revive republican sentiment.

“While there is no bombshell revelation, it’s a remarkable insight into an almost daily and detailed correspondence between Sir John, the Queen and her secretary during a time of high tension in Australian politics,” she wrote.

-AAP

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