Letter from Sir John Kerr
LETTER FROM SIR JOHN KERR DATED 11 NOVEMBER 1975
This is the letter informing the Palace that Sir John had terminated the commission of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister. In his words “I should say that I decided to take the step I took without informing the Palace in advance because under the Constitution the responsibility is mine and I was of the opinion that it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance, though it is, of course, my duty to tell her immediately.”
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
11 November 1975
My Dear Private Secretary
I asked David Smith to ring to let you know in the Palace that I have taken a decisive step and terminated the commission of the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam and commissioned Mr Fraser as a caretaker Prime Minister upon certain conditions which will appear from the attached documents.
Our position in this country is rather different from yours and so that you will understand at least the way I look at things I am attaching the following documents,
(1) A letter which I today handed to the Prime Minister with its attachment. He had come out to recommend a Half Senate election at a time when he did not have any guarantee of supply.
On the contrary, the Senate had three times refrained from granting supply, the money was running out and the Prime Minister was seeking to organise some kind of credit from the banks for public servants and others.
(2) Before taking the final step, although I had already made up my mind, I consulted Sir Garfield Barwick as to my authority and duties in the present situation. On a confidential basis, because it is not to be disclosed without his permission except ultimately for historical purposes, I send you a copy of the letter which he wrote to me after our discussions.
(3) I attach also a letter which Mr Fraser wrote to me at my request and upon the basis of which I commissioned him as Prime Minister. When this was done supply was immediately passed by the Senate and today, on the advice of the Prime Minister, I have dissolved both Houses of Parliament. It is now for the electors to decide.
When Mr Whitlam came to see me before he had said anything about his proposal for a Half Senate election I told him that I had decided to terminate his commission.
He said, "I shall have to get in touch with the Palace immediately". To this I replied that this would be useless as he was at that time no longer Prime Minister.
I had already signed the document terminating his commission.
I realise of course, that if he wins the election and he may well do so, he will have advice to tender to Her Majesty. I accept all the consequences.
I should say that I decided to take the step I took without informing the Palace in advance because under the Constitution the responsibility is mine and I was of the opinion that it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance, though it is, of course, my duty to tell her immediately.
I would like to add that after the Senate passed supply the House expressed its confidence in the Member for Werriwa, Mr Whitlam and the Speaker attended upon me to make the point that I should send for Mr Whitlam and commission him to form a Government. However, by the time I saw him I had already dissolved both Houses, a step which I took immediately after assenting to the Appropriation Bills. I did this in the continued exercise of my discretion under the reserve powers of the Crown which were open to me to exercise in the light of all the circumstances up to the last moment.
I was advised by the Solicitor-General and the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department that such a course of continued exercise of the reserve powers was open to me in all the circumstances. Of course, the House has been regularly expressing its confidence in Mr Whitlam. This has been part of what ultimately constituted the deadlock which I have attempted to resolve as set out in the attached documents.
Please assure Her Majesty of my loyalty and humble duty.
SIGNED: John R Kerr
Lieutenant Colonel the Right Honourable Sir Martin Charteris, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., O.B.E.,
Private Secretary to The Queen,
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