Hocking, Jenny: The palace letters case: ‘a matter of our national history’

Jenny Hocking

The palace letters case: “a matter of our national history”‘, Pearls and Irritations, 29 November 2016

Update 16 October 2017 referring to further discoveries in UK archives. Revised edition of Professor Hocking’s book.

Whitlam biographer and constitutional activist notes that her recent Federal Court case against the National Archives may lead to the release of letters between the Queen and Sir John Kerr at the time of the Dismissal in 1975. Whether the letters are released will now be determined by an Australian court under Australian law. ‘This is a dramatic development, a reassertion of Australian sovereignty over these critical documents in our history, despite long-standing claims of Royal control.’

The implications of this case are considerable and go beyond the immediate issue of access to secret material relating to the dismissal of the Whitlam government, important though that clearly is. The Palace letters case raises fundamental and broader issues of Royal secrecy in a parliamentary democracy, in particular of the practice of members of the Royal family in the United Kingdom to engage in secret communications with government about political matters to which the public is denied access.

There was also debate in Parliament (commencing page 124 of the pdf of the proof Hansard) on a motion from Mr Julian Hill.

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