The Dismissal: Do we have the right to know? 153



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Can you believe it’s been 40 years since the governor-general John Kerr sacked the Whitlam government? As the official anniversary nears on the 11th of November, it seems there’s a lot more for us to know about that shocking, tumultuous time.

And no one is keen to learn more about what actually went on that our Prime Minister. The Australian reports that Malcolm Turnbull will ask the Governor-General and the Queen to release correspondence between Mr Kerr and the Palace in the weeks leading up to The Dismissal.

At present, these letters and records are supposed to remain sealed until 2027 under an agreement signed between Buckingham Palace and Government House in 1978.

Mr Turnbull will apparently argue that the correspondence from 1975 was falsely labelled as “personal” and “private” and should be released from the National Archives for the sake of public interest.

According to the report, Mr Turnbull believes it is “inappropriate” for the Palace to exercise a veto over the release of the letters, and that they should be listed as “official documents” and therefore released under the existing 30-year disclosure rule applying to such records.

This is expected to put the Queen in a difficult position. She does not like to go against formal advice from the Prime Minister, however he is asking her to overturn a decision made at the time.

John Kerr’s letters are in the National Archives in Canberra but remain secret under the label “personal”. Mr Kerr has previously explained that the letters cover his talks with prime minister Gough Whitlam and opposition leader Malcolm Fraser during the crisis, along with his personal observations and analysis.

Do you think the letters should be released? Are they a matter of public interest? And why were they so secret in the first place? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Old news. It happened and it’s gone. Move on…

    4 REPLY
    • you can stick your head in the sand mate all you like but this is about Australian History, I can imagine Liberal voters want it buried because of Frasers involvement

      1 REPLY
      • Hi Libbi, on the other hand, we were running out of money and it really was a catastrophic time for our country
        There was not a lot Fraser could do, we had borrowed money that could not be repaid and so it would be interesting to see the correspondence

  2. It’s history, let’s leave it that way.

    13 REPLY
    • They’re going to be released eventually. I for one would like to know while I’m still alive. It was history that we lived through, why wouldn’t we be interested?

    • Sorry Lee but every Australian who lost wages striking over this deserves to know the truth and this will be a part of this countries historical record.

    • How much invovlement the Palace had Lee and how much Frazer manipulated that old drunk Kerr and who else was involved in the down fall of a PM. We lived this history we deserve to know the truth

    • David covered it Lee, I can remember going out on strike very clearly, Whitlam was my first vote and at the time I felt personally insulted..I want to know everything about this, it will come out , but hopefully before we are all dead.

    • Sonia Berlese are you for real ?, it is how mankind learn from past mistakes by studying it’s history and Australia is a new country all historical records should be accurate

  3. CIA involvement? How much was Kerr paid? 4 Million is what I have been told. Why didn’t he have joint meeting of both houses, this should have been done before sacking. We will never know. Corrupt Governer General.

    1 REPLY
  4. I was working in Canberra at the time. An interesting time. It’s time the role the US had in this was revealed. Gough had threatened to close US bases on Australian soil they wanted him gone at all costs. Corruption and political interference.

    11 REPLY
    • Yes I expect Stuart. The US needed the listening bases in Australia. It was a major part of their global network. In view of the uncovered dirty tricks the CIA was involved in through out the world, many which have come to light, nothing about their involvement in this would surprise me. It is just a same that these letters probably won’t reveal any of that.

    • Yes Dennis, Gough objected to Australia having US bases on its soil that were so secret even the Australian Government couldn’t know what was happening in them. Back then the Labor Party had a bit of a pink tinge, no fully fledged communists but a few with strong Socialist views. The US government was propping up brutal regimes around the world rather than allow communist governments, even democratically elected ones to hold power. A left leaning government in one of their most strategic locations wasn’t welcome, particularly once they started asking questions.

    • That’s all well and good, but I want to know what is happening now,
      dirty deals behind closed door(TPP for one),
      why the governments have sold out our country to the UN,
      why most of our councils in Australia are run by the UN Agenda 21(2030 agenda),
      why our treasonous governments have allowed and have been selling to China and other foreign investors prime farmland, stations, water rights, 99 yr leases on the port of Darwin, Melb port next? the list goes on and on and on and on,
      why they are doing all this before consulting, we the people, the sovereigns of this country etc. etc. etc.
      That is far more important than what slimy Whitlam did, can’t change it now, but we can change what our recent slimy vile governments have and are doing in the here and now.

    • Marie you are so far off base about Whitlam, we are are going to try to find you, but your rescue is not looking good. You may have to spend forty days and forty nights in the wilderness!

  5. The one thing everyone forgets Australia wanted Labour out at that time and was the reason they were executed at the election. Was the dismissal right or wring I don’t know but the Australian public got what they wanted at that time. This such old news why keep bringing it up, quite frankly if you go digging too far it would be detrimental to the Labour party

    17 REPLY
    • Rubbish I never wanted Whitlam ousted and either did anyone I worked with, we had a National stoppage over it..speak for are not speaking for me, it won’t be to the detriment of the ALP, Frazer lied about it until the day he died but the records they do have has proved Frazer to be a liar

    • I didn’t say Whitlam I said the party, I am not talking for you I am talking for the majority of Australians AT THAT TIME! You conveniently forget the mess Australia was. Am talking about the c whole of the country not just Canberra! If Australia agreed why did they throw the government out.

    • The group that most wanted Labor out was the US Government. Rather than be detrimental to the Labor party I think this would reflect very badly on the Liberal Party. Was the election rigged, I would hate to think so, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The dirty dealings afoot at the time need to be revealed. I don’t think Australians really understood just what had happened or how it had happened. I don’t believe the general feeling was that people wanted Labor gone.

    • You are wrong they had no right sacking Whitlam, what do you think those strikes were about..we did not agree and I think it is you with a bad memory wanting to cover Liberal deception..we want to know the truth

    • I am sure you want it wrapped up in mothballs Annette, if you vote Liberal, but I voted for Whitlam and he was a great man, and I went on strike to over this. We all know Liberals are liars, but if the Palace is more involved than we know, you people screaming for a Republic. This could be the trigger

    • Nobody I know wanted the Labor Party out ! Under the Gough Whitlam government many much needed reforms occurred, that still exist today. It was a great government and Fraser had a lot to answer for, for his involvement. I won’t even mention Kerr, the drunken idiot !

    • I remember the time well and heard many people complaining about the labor government. I would say don’t blame me you voted for them. Always got the same answer. I didn’t vote for them. Beats me how they got elected.

    • what a dumb thing to say John Rowley because the majority of Australian’s voted for them, why do you think we had strikes after Whitlam was ousted, you Liberals lie so much that you think it is normal and everyone does it

    • I remember all of the unrest before the dismissal. Again I am saying I don’t know if this was wrong or right BUT we had an election and Labour party were voted out by a very large vote against them and what they had done. That had nothing to do with dismissal!!!!
      Get over it as old history now…..

    • Rosalind Battles I am not attacking you and believe you don’t have right to presume who I voted for in any election. I vote for Australia not for any particular party

    • John and Annette you are making the assumption the vote wasn’t rigged. In view of the probable involvement of the CIA in the dismissal, I wouldn’t be surprised if a bit of tampering went on. Those are are the details we will never know. Dirty tricks by the Liberals who left a lot of servicemen and women, public servants and government contractors with no income. I remember the bank agreeing not to take the mortgage payment from our account so we would have money to feed our children. Filthy tactics by a contemptible party.

    • Barbara Easthope you have a selective memory the government at the time was unable to function and the reason people unable to get money. Your conspiracy re tampering of votes is laughable. I realise perhaps you need a holiday

    • Annette Elliott – don’t be so rude to insinuate ‘perhaps you need a holiday’ just because someone doesn’t agree with your opinion. The point you are missing is that people think there may be more than we were told at the time and if you don’t think the U.S.A. interfere in other country’s politics, then you need a history lesson.

    • The reason the government was unable to function was the Liberal party blocked supply. Not Labor’s doing at all. I don’t have a selective memory at all. Dirty politics by the Libs.

    • You obviously did not read Barbara Easthope comments she vilified everyone who works for the Electoral Office and all the people at the voting stations because is obviously paranoid. This is taking things a bit too far. If you had read my comments I stated that I did not know if the dismissal was right or wrong and the country went to the polls and voted Labour out AT THAT TIME which had nothing to do with the dismissal. As I said I am not for any party but look at things from every angle whuch I am obviously not allowed to do. A

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