Buckingham Palace Secrets around 1975 Whitlam Dismissal

Max Kostowski, in Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 2020 “National Archives still declassifying Palace Letters as historian slams delay”

The National Archives of Australia has not ruled out taking more than three months to declassify the potentially explosive ‘Palace Letters’, remaining tight-lipped on a release date almost three weeks after the High Court ordered the documents to be made public.

Gough Whitlam, pictured in 1972, established the predecessor to the National Archives. Historian Jenny Hocking has long been seeking papers relating to his dismissal from office.Gough Whitlam, pictured in 1972, established the predecessor to the National Archives. Historian Jenny Hocking has long been seeking papers relating to his dismissal from office.CREDIT:GEORGE LIPMAN

The National Archives of Australia has not ruled out taking more than three months to declassify the potentially explosive ‘Palace Letters’, remaining tight-lipped on a release date almost three weeks after the High Court ordered the documents to be made public.

NAA director-general David Fricker said a declassification team was working “as quickly as we can” through the 211 letters between former governor-general Sir John Kerr and the Queen that will shed light on what Buckingham Palace knew about the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government. But Mr Fricker stressed he would not be guided by legislated time limits in determining when the correspondence will be released.

“I’m not trying to stretch this out for as long as possible under the law,” Mr Fricker said. “My only interest is to complete this process as quickly as possible.”

Asked repeatedly whether the decision could take more than 90 days to complete, the NAA boss did not answer directly, instead saying: “I’m not spending time reading the legislation, I’m spending time reading the Palace Letters”.

“I’m not working to a legislative deadline.”

The remarks have concerned historian Jenny Hocking who fears the NAA may be inappropriately delaying the document release after her decade-long fight to see the Palace Letters.

Professor Hocking, who wrote to the NAA this week urging it to say by Wednesday when the correspondence will be released, said it was “disturbing” to have heard little from the agency since the High Court determined the Palace Letters were Commonwealth records.

“We’re coming up to the third week since the High Court stunningly rejected the Archives’ position on the letters,” the Monash University emeritus professor said. “The case has been going on for four years. It’s not exactly an unknown quantity for them.”

Professor Hocking has argued that as per the Archives Act, the Palace Letters should be released within 30 days of the High Court decision. Mr Fricker has earlier said the law suggests a 90-day window, but did not repeat that claim when interviewed by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“The legal disputes are behind us now,” Mr Fricker said. “The High Court has made its decision and we’re focussed on declassifying the documents as quickly as possible.

Play Video
High Court grants access to letters detailing Whitlam’s dismissal
2020 Defence Strategic Update

High Court grants access to letters detailing Whitlam’s dismissal

Letters between the Queen and Governor General Sir John Kerr from before Gough Whitlam’s 1975 dismal can be made public, the High Court has ruled. Asked whether parts of the letters could be redacted, the director said “I want to do this properly. I don’t want to start now to pre-empt or speculate on that decision. All that could potentially do is invite more delays.” Professor Hocking also urged for the release of a review conducted last year into time delays and secrecy at the NAA.

RELATED ARTICLE

Gough Whitlam on election night, 1975. This imaged was released by the National Archives of Australia.

The Tune Review, an independent examination of the agency that received submissions revealing historians were sometimes waiting more than a decade for crucial documents, was handed to Attorney-General Christian Porter in January.

“The review was delivered just as the COVID-19 pandemic directly affected Australia and as a consequence, consideration of the review has been impacted,” a spokesman for Mr Porter said.

“The Attorney-General is awaiting advice from his department on the review and will consider that advice once received.

******************8

Leave a comment

Filed under accountability, Australian culture, australian media, life stories, politIcal discourse, unusual people, world events & processes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.