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Letters between a drunken Kerr and a British toff

For most Australians the release of the Palace Letters had about as much relevance to their daily lives as would a day’s polo at Werribee Park on a sweaty Sunday afternoon.

For those of us who have a sense of history, are republicans, or just happened to live through this most telling time in our history, it encompasses, now that the Palace Letters have been released, but smidgen of closure.

Before I say anymore I should disclose that firstly I am a republican and secondly I am likely to say to you that despite whatever argument you put to me on this matter, a fact that you can never escape is this: It is that an unelected Governor General who on 11 November 1975 dismissed a Prime Minister elected by the people.

This act by an inept, often inebriated Governor General rendered their vote useless.

This being said, let’s examine the Palace Letters and see if they add anything to what became known as The Dismissal.

Additional to the history of what transpired at the time we now have the gripping trove of correspondence between the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris and Sir John Kerr.

We learn that The Queen wasn’t forewarned of the dismissal. Sir Martin, using the very best of upper crust British grammar said:

“If I may say so with the greatest respect, I believe that in not informing the Queen what you intended to do before doing it, you acted not only with perfect constitutional propriety but also with admirable consideration for Her Majesty’s position.”

Like fair dinkum, mate.

“Better for Her Majesty not to know.”

Strewth, your not trying to tell me she knew nothing. That’s just highly implausible. I would imagine that she had a daily briefing from her secretary.

But things will never change until we have an Australian as our head of state.

With no good reason the media has been rather dismissive of the release of the Letters suggesting they disclose nothing new or nothing of importance. But to the contrary.

They disclose that in an era long gone the British still had a lot of power, or at least influence over us. They still do because the same thing could happen again unless the good citizens of our nation insist on one of our own as our head of state rather than the monarch of another country who resides in another hemisphere.

Now that 40 or so years have slowly meandered their way through history and my anger of the time has dissipated to a shiver of resentment, I find it truly bizarre that with Australia having matured to that of a world middle power, that the egos of two politicians, Whitlam and Fraser, could have fought over the spoils of Australian politics without there being a constitutional means of resolution.

The Letters do show that Kerr went over and above duty to inform the palace of his every move. (Anything that would cover his arse because he wanted to keep his job.) He was extremely transparent. So friendly was he with the Queen’s secretary that the letters often digress into things like making unofficial trips to Paris and Norfolk.

They had formed an extremely matey relationship.

“If you do, as you will, what the constitution dictates, you cannot possible [sic] do the monarchy any avoidable harm. The chances are you will do it good.”

Charteris – in my view – played Kerr on a string, or maybe Kerr wanted to be. The aforementioned quote, to me, proves, in a modern context, inference. Charteris even comforts Kerr from time to time.

These revelations, I must say, made my blood boil. That the secretary of the Monarch of another country in 1975 is chit-chatting with her representative in Australia while she has little concern about what is happening … seems extraordinary.

The Letters do make it clear that Kerr on a day-to-day basis made his intentions clear to Her Majesty’s private secretary and that she wasn’t told of the intended betrayal of a democratically elected Prime Minister seems astonishing.

The Secretary did confide to Kerr that the Governor General was playing his vice regal hand with “skill and wisdom.” He also expressed the view that the Queen had no wish to intervene. Does that mean that she did know what was going on?

He also counselled:

A that the crisis had to be “worked out in Australia.”

B that Fraser had a vested interest in bringing on an election he would probably win.

C that he advocated caution.

D that he believed the reserve powers – did exist.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was dismissed from office on the 11th day of November 1975.

For me all the Palace Letters do is to fill in a missing part of Australian history but perhaps more importantly they reinforce what to me is an overwhelming case for why we should become a republic.

As for Gough Whitlam, well I will leave you with these words:

The Whitlam Government”s achievements

In his book “Crash through or Crash”, Laurie Oakes said that:

“In his brief three years the Prime Minister produced profound and lasting changes – reforms which could not have been so broadly conceived and so firmly implemented by a lesser man. The Whitlam Government without doubt was the most creative and innovatory in the nations history. Under Whitlam, Australia’s foreign policy came of age. His Government made education its top priority and poured money into schools and colleges throughout the country. It created Medibank, set up community health centres, gave a new deal to pensioners, took an active role in urban improvement and development, provided funds directly to local government, and gave a healthy boost to sexual equality and aboriginal advancement. It promoted greater Australian ownership and control of resources, legislated against restrictive trade practices, introduced the most civilised and sensible divorce laws in the world, gave encouragement to the arts, and in its final budget implemented some fundamental reforms, which made the income tax system considerably more equitable. Whitlam himself dominated both his party and the Parliament, and he commanded respect when he traveled overseas in a way no previous Australian Prime Minister had done.”

His record:

  1. ended Conscription,
  2. withdrew Australian troops from Vietnam,
  3. implemented Equal Pay for Women,
  4. launched an Inquiry into Education and the Funding of Government and Non-government Schools on a Needs Basis,
  5. established a separate ministry responsible for Aboriginal Affairs,
  6. established the single Department of Defence,
  7. withdrew support for apartheid–South Africa,
  8. granted independence to Papua New Guinea,
  9. abolished Tertiary Education Fees,
  10. established the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme (TEAS),
  11. increased pensions,
  12. established Medibank,
  13. established controls on Foreign Ownership of Australian resources,
  14. passed the Family Law Act establishing No-Fault Divorce,
  15. passed a series of laws banning Racial and Sexual Discrimination,
  16. extended Maternity Leave and Benefits for Single Mothers,
  17. introduced One-Vote-One-Value to democratize the electoral system,
  18. implemented wide-ranging reforms of the ALP’s organization,
  19. initiated Australia’s first Federal Legislation on Human Rights, the Environment and Heritage,
  20. established the Legal Aid Office,
  21. established the National Film and Television School,
  22. launched construction of National Gallery of Australia,
  23. established the Australian Development Assistance Agency,
  24. reopened the Australian Embassy in Peking after 24 years,
  25. established the Prices Justification Tribunal,
  26. revalued the Australian Dollar,
  27. cut tariffs across the board,
  28. established the Trade Practices Commission,
  29. established the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service,
  30. established the Law Reform Commission,
  31. established the Australian Film Commission,
  32. established the Australia Council,
  33. established the Australian Heritage Commission,
  34. established the Consumer Affairs Commission,
  35. established the Technical and Further Education Commission,
  36. implemented a national employment and training program,
  37. created Telecom and Australia Post to replace the Postmaster-General’s Department,
  38. devised the Order of Australia Honors System to replace the British Honors system,
  39. abolished appeals to the Privy Council,
  40. changed the National Anthem to ‘Advance Australia Fair’,
  41. instituted Aboriginal Land Rights, and
  42. sewered most of Sydney.

My thought for the day

A commitment to social justice demands the transformation of social structures as well as our hearts and minds.

(For my view on Australia becoming a republic, read this.)

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36 comments

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  1. Jaki Rogers

    John Lord,
    Re Gough

    Thank you so much for the article. Is it possible to highlight HIS RECORD, emphasising Labour Government dismissed erroniously by LNP, to Facebook for the generation who will not know anything about the wonderful benefits they have had.

    If we adults try to tell them all we get is, different when you were younger – old history. They dont listen. but Facebook – they believe!!!!!!

  2. wam

    Congratulations on your work today, lord. I can read about Gough any day of the week.

    I agree, that kerr is an Australian who used the constitution as it was intended.
    I agree that a governor general and his governors are appointed by the government of the day.
    This section of the constitution must stay until a future government puts a fully detailed proposal for change to a republic showing the details before we vote for such an important change.
    The fear for this long time republican (I wrote to the queen as a republican in 1991 and received an letter from an equerry informing me that her majesty enjoyed reading the letter.)) is we give polition permission to establish our republic without the right to see what is proposed.

  3. Max Gross

    I will never forget nor forgive the devious bastards who conspired to overthrow an elected Labor government

  4. Bronte ALLAN

    Well put, as usual, Mr Lord! I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. Gough’s record of achievements in his term as our leader will NEVER be repeated, even though, in a much smaller way Julia Gillard did so much for us as well. His record, though, is astonishing!

  5. June Currie

    Always good to see your name pop up, John.Although I am 82 I had no idea Gogh
    Had achieved so much.Thank you for listing them all.

  6. Egalitarian

    He was too intelligent and too radical for the conservative types John.Though, I think he would fare even worse if he had to participate in modern politics.

  7. Michael Taylor

    If the dismissal didn’t piss me off enough, what Fraser did shortly after pissed me off even further: he recommended to The Queen that Kerr’s knighthood be upgraded (wrong word, I know, but the proper one eludes me). Naturally, The Queen obliged.

  8. JudithW

    I will never forget how I felt about my first vote being swept away by the queen’s representative!

  9. pierre wilkinson

    and ever since successive liberal governments and indeed some labor ones have undertaken to mitigate if not remove every reform he implemented

  10. Jack Cade

    Pierre

    Yes. Hawke and Keating bore little resemblance to the previous ALP government. Selling off the CBA was scandalous. And look how it turned out – as bent a bank as there is!
    Anyway – Kerr dismissed them, but the Australian people sank them. Drove a stake through the heart of progress We had the chance to be a light on the hill but rejected it to become a people that sells off everything it has and fights other countries’ wars. Precious few of our resources are Australian- owned. Even BHP is really Billiton.

  11. Kathryn

    The undemocratic fascists in the LNP – truly, the worst, most depraved, wasteful, inept and dangerous government in living memory – go on and on defunding our ABC, parachuting right-wing sycophants onto the Board of OUR ABC to manipulate what we hear and see, defunding Medicare, selling off and privatising EVERYTHING taxpayers owned (to foreign-owned multinational corporate predators), feeding the rich, pandering to their non-Australian propaganda minister (Murdoch) by allowing him and other billionaires in the Top 1% to get away without contributing one cent tax to our nation as well as escalating criminal acts of deceptive rorting, fraudulent misappropriation of taxpayer funds, never-ending broken promises, wilful lies and acts of unspeakable self-serving promotion …….. so, is it at all surprising that the letters have revealed (to those intelligent members of our nation) what we ALREADY KNEW about the LNP – that they wilfully planned, plotted and schemed to discredit and remove the BEST, most productive, high achieving PM (Gough Whitlam) in our history!

    The fact that NO ONE has been jailed for treason by removing a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRIME MINISTER for their OWN political gain through such a despicable, fascist and CRIMINAL act of terrorism and manipulation (initiated by an inept drunk who will forever be remembered as the aptly named Cur’s Kerr) – is appalling!

    The fact that this act was also cheered on (and possibly facilitated) by the American CIA is a long-held view! The nanosecond Gough Whitlam showed he had integrity and the courage and backbone to tell the yanks to go to hell; when Gough REFUSED to continue our unpopular participation in the illegal and pointless Vietnam War imposed upon us by yet another LNP obsequious sycophant to American warmongering, ie “all the way with LBJ” Harold Holt; the very day when Whitlam pulled our troops out of the Vietnam War was the day Fraser, Kerr and the CIA plotted to bring the foresightful, compassionate and DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Whitlam government down with trumped up charges that, until now, have NEVER been released! They brought Whitlam to his knees because he stood up for Australia FIRST and BEFORE America! What was worse, is that – once again – the most stupid, gormless, Murdoch-manipulated fools in the nation actually voted for the treasonous Malcolm Fraser and REWARDED him for truly appalling, fascist behaviour!

    Decades later, in 2014, Malcolm Fraser made amends with Gough Whitlam and they joined forces in their combined outrage against the mumbling, stumbling, inarticulate Phoney Abbott – the most internationally reviled, embarrassing, misogynistic, regressive fool to have EVER crawled into politics in our nation’s history!

    SHAME ON EVERYONE WHO VOTE FOR THE LNP !!!

    THE LNP ARE, HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AND WILL ALWAYS BE:

    TRAITORS TO OUR NATION!
    TRAITORS TO UNIONS
    TRAITORS TO PENSIONERS AND VULNERABLE MEMBERS OF OUR COMMUNITY!
    TRAITORS TO WORKING- & MIDDLE CLASS AUSTRALIANS!
    MISOGYNISTIC TRAITORS TO WOMEN
    CLIMATE-CHANGE-DENYING, COAL LOVING TRAITORS TO OUR ENVIRONMENT
    ELITIST TRAITORS TO OUR EGALITARIAN WAY OF LIFE!
    TRAITORS TO OUR ABC AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH
    FASCIST TRAITORS TO OUR DEMOCRACY !!!

  12. New England Cocky

    An excellent article JL, thank you.

    But what about the role of the CIA, still smarting about the Australian withdrawal from their imperialistic war in Vietnam, the then strong anti-communist, even anti-socialist sentiment in the White House of the USA (United States of Apartheid) supporting the NE military industrial complex profits derived from slaughtering countless Vietnamese and tens of thousands of their own military?

  13. Grumpy Geezer

    Gough also lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. The Tories were happy to pluck 18, 19 and 20 year olds off the street, stick a gun in their hands and send them to Vietnam to get their guts shot out but refused to give them any say in it.

    The Tories are the same bastards now as they were then.

  14. Robin Alexander

    Thank you John for outlining everything Gough did for us all!yes remember times well like you I am nearly 83 watched politics somewhat then age has allowed closer scrutiny last few years but truly does nothing in keeping Blood pressure down LNP. nearly impossible fear what our future holds in their hands?never been worse government in Australia!the hateful Murdoch will do anything possible to keep Labor gaining government! What tragedy Shorten lost by thread! He intended throwing his empire out Australia with his promised independent enquiry into media ownership in Australia & vowed to carry out findings of enquiry! Thank you Kathryn agree everything you say?may somehow our dreams of vast change comes true sooner than we think!

  15. Robin Alexander

    Thank you John for outlining everything Gough did for us all!yes remember times well like you I am nearly 83 watched politics somewhat then age has allowed loser scrutiny lastfewyears but trulydoes nothing inkeeping Blood pressure down LNP. nearly impossible fearwhat our future holdsin their hands?never been worse government in Australia!the hateful Murdoch will do anything possible to keep Labor gaining government! What tragedy Shorten lost by thread! He intended throwing his empire out Australia with his promised independent enquiry into media ownership in Australia & vowed to carry out findings of enquiry! Thank you Kathryn agree everything you say?may somehow our dreams of vast change comes true sooner than we think!

  16. Jack Cade

    You’d have to wonder how Gough made such a dreadful choice, even for a position he held in contempt and could not have possibly foreseen what Kerr would do.
    My abiding memory of Kerr was of him officiating (I think) at a Melbourne Cup. He was as pissed as those people that get their photos in the paper. It struck me then that he was a fitting man to parade around representing a sclerotic monarchy.
    Bob Hawke, I think, labelled Kerr ‘The Liberace of the Law’. With his shock of white hair and his top hat, he always put me in mind of one of the three stooges.

  17. king1394

    I wonder if anyone in the UK is looking seriously at the role of Sir Martin Charteris in this. He implies that the Queen was being kept in the dark and fed on mushrooms throughout this period. If that was so, these revelations are a crisis for the monarchy, which has always insisted that the Queen has maintained a strong interest and awareness of matters in her realm.

  18. Jack Cade

    King1394

    The UK wouldn’t give a shit. They abandoned Australia when they joined the EU, and Australia had already signed on as Pancho to the Cisco Kid. ‘All the way with LBJ, I remember it well.
    There is no way Betty Battenberg didn’t know about the Coup. Plausible deniability, it’s called.

  19. paul walter

    Some of you need to get real.

    The dismissal was about City of London and Wall st. pressure to prevent Australia from getting hold of its own resources.

    Betty’s financial advisers, starting with personal friend Lord Evelyn Rothschild, are from the City of London and would make her wealth seem a spit in the bucket by comparison.

    The CIA were involved for a similar reason not unlike the one that them involved in Allende’s Chile, eg the mineral wealth of that country.

    Had the Queen NOT wished Kerr to proceed, the drunkard Kerr would have been TOLD by Charteris.

    For Christ’s sake some of you, join the dots…nuances.

  20. paul walter

    Remember your Sir Humphrey, put aside your Murdoch.

  21. New England Cocky

    @paul walter: Sadly, deep analysis is not a skill taught in either Australian schools or universities. People tend to look at the event and the instant causal action (as trained in the MSM and the legal fraternity) rather than considering the event as a planned action to bring about a long term goal.

    Agreed about the City of London.

  22. Jack Cade

    Whitlam’s failing was that he was an honourable man, and expected others to be. There were some renegades in his team, certainly – Jim Cairns for one (I hugely respected Cairns and one of my modest bucket list items – never realised – was to go to the riverside market in Melbourne where I understood he had a stall for many years). My visits to Melbourne were too few. An old workmate of mine, now sadly deceased ( I miss him sorely – we shared prejudices) from post-polio syndrome, had the same unfulfilled ambition. And Clyde Cameron, Rex Connor, Tom Uren, Bill Hayden…true Aussies all, decent men who knew that politics should be about the betterment of the people rather than the lining of your own pockets.
    Hayden was a major letdown – often called the best PM we never had, he wallowed in the G-G role like a pig in swill.

  23. Phil

    “The dismissal was about City of London and Wall st. pressure to prevent Australia from getting hold of its own resources.”

    Exactly and the CIA involvement was about their bases in Australia.

    The Whitlam dismissal follows a long pattern of the Establishment getting rid of who they don’t think are conducive to getting the ruling class well cashed up. Whitlam, Wilson, Dunstan, Corbyn, Allende, to name but a few. The installation of their man in Iran, before the religious wackos fucked it all up for them. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Venezuela is a coup in waiting, an on going work for want of a better word., I mean depending on who you read,’ at least six attempted hits were made on Castro.

    But the big coup is just about to begin. the Whitlam dismissal was a mere bagatelle in the scheme of things. The US is spiralling into the Abyss. The capitalist crisis is gathering a pace, the unemployed are getting thrown out of their homes and queuing up for miles to get a hand out of food and the cash handouts are coming to an end. The plebs are none to happy about it, they’ll soon be looking for someone to blame it all on. The shit is about to hit the fan, so sit back grab the popcorn and watch the US self implode.

  24. Jack Cade

    Phil

    41bn of the US handout reportedly went to the Catholic Church, aka kiddie Fiddlers Central.

  25. Michael Taylor

    Hi there, Jack. What’s new? 😀✊✊✊✊✊

  26. Jack Cade

    Michael

    Top of the table, so nothings new. Robbie Gray finally came alive.
    My 6 year old grandson said to his mother ‘Why did you call me Miles?’
    ‘Why? What would you like to be called?’
    ‘Robbie Gray!’

  27. Michael Taylor

    Cute, Jack. Simply cute.

    BTW, do not breathe this to a soul … Not. A. Soul. But … with 47 seconds to go I turned it off. Remembered I had some important work to do in the garden. ☹️

  28. Jack Cade

    Michael

    Oh ye of little faith.
    Mind you, I didn’t think ANYONE could kick a goal like that after the siren…

  29. Roswell

    You chicken. I watched it until the end. I don’t give up on the Power.

  30. Jack Cade

    Roswell

    What is their emblem? Is it a lightning bolt or similar?

  31. Phil

    ‘ 41bn of the US handout reportedly went to the Catholic Church, aka kiddie Fiddlers Central.’

    They’ve shielded assets to the tune of 2 billion dollars to avoid payment to the victims of the kiddie fiddlers.

  32. Roswell

    Jack, it’s the same as Port Adelaide.

    By the way, we left America when I was young when my father was transferred back to Canberra. We weren’t there long when he was transferred to Adelaide in the mid 70s. I was a Port fan from day one.

  33. Lambchop Simnel

    Most of MSM would not dare to elaborate on what they really know, so it is not just the USA definitively down the gurgler but this place also.

  34. michael f slocum

    The troops started to come home in 1971 when John Gorton was PM I believe. Gough abolished conscription immediately on being elected. My most vivd memory of the time was that The Coalition could not STAND being in opposition and, much like Tony Abbott 40 years later. spent their entire time opposing everything Labor did regardless of its overwhelming benefit to the Australian people, just for the sake of it. They were total dogs in the manger the entire time Gough was PM.

  35. gregory copley

    I was 25 when Gough was elected and after 23 years of the low life criminals ending in that sicko McMahon it was a great relief to have a talented Labor government in office. You felt proud to be an Australian.

    After witnessing the abuse and rotten lies manufactured by Fraser and that son of the criminal Keith Murdoch it really made one vomit to observe it on a daily basis.

    The letters just released 45 years late do disclose her son hated and disrespected Gough and was a mouth piece of the rotten old white lady hiding in the castle as her English and us criminals made our economy scream just as they did to Allende in Chile.

    I’m from Jimboomba and in 1994 I got elected on to the Corporate Body of the Beaudesert Shire Council which was governed by the
    Rural Rulers for over a hundred years, and its Mayor was the cousin of Malcolm Fraser, who I really did not like or had any respect for as like Malcolm he was only interested in his benefits.

    The local press loved my disclosures about how rotten things were in council on a weekly basis. After three years of my investigations as to how bad Council was being manipulated by this rural gang, at the next election in March 1997 the People voted out the Mayor his Deputy and the Chairman of the corrupt Planning Committee.

    The local press suggested I could feel pleased with the result and for once they were perfectly correct.

    I must admit a lot of my dislike for the Mayor was governed by my hate for Malcolm Fraser for what he and the drunk did to Gough.

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