Letter from Sir John Kerr

Letter from Sir John Kerr


In this letter, Sir John makes reference to his “somewhat verbose correspondence”. He mentions that “Mr Whitlam is, so far, making his major thrust in the area of the constitutional crisis with allegations of coup d' état putsches etc. Mr Fraser however is concentrating heavily on economic issues and the state of the nation.”



Government House
Canberra. 2600.

28 November 1975.

My dear Private Secretary

This will be a relatively short note attaching a few clippings, I am conscious that we are probably overburdening you with our bits and pieces from the Australian Press but they do not have to be read with great care. Atmosphere is what they mainly provide.

In recent times the Press, on the constitutional crisis, has been increasingly good as more and more people come to understand what was involved and to expound it.

Of course there are many scientists, artists, academics, writers and others completely unversed in constitutional law who have responded emotionally and from their special political point of view, as chemical engineers or painters or psychologists and so on have condemned what I did. Naturally, I do not complain about this. Politics is politics and people are entitled to line up for whatever emotional reason appeals to them.

I also enclose some material showing the position as reflected in the latest opinion polls. One comes from the bulletin Wednesday, 26 November, the other from the Melbourne Herald of last night. For what they are worth these show a sizeable swing to Mr Fraser. He and his Ministers seem confident that they are going to win this election but one simply has to wait for the further developments in the campaign.

Mr Whitlam is, so far, making his major thrust in the area of the constitutional crisis with allegations of coup d' état putsches etc. Mr Fraser however is concentrating heavily on economic issues and the state of the nation.

My mail is showing a growing tendency to ask not to resign, come what may. Of course, the writers have no idea what the basic constitutional position is. Mr Scholes, the Speaker, recently said that it would not be the intention of Mr Whitlam "to dismiss me". I enclose a short cutting dealing with this. Mr Whitlam, as I have said, would, according to his published statement, expect me to resign.

There is, I think, no point in enlarging or what I have already said on this subject. I suppose there is a possibility that if Mr Whitlam wins I should just allow him to advise The Queen to dismiss me, if he dares, and accept the dismissal rather than resign. Some people think that I should announce now that I shall not resign thus forcing Mr Whitlam, under pressure from the Press, to say how he proposes to cope with that situation, before the election is over. There could be some ground for taking such a step having regard to the discussion which has already taken place and having regard to an editorial in the Australian of 27 November. This editorial, though anti-Whitlam, takes it for granted that his victory would inevitably mean that I have to resign.

The real point about all of this is, I suppose, whether a statement now to the effect that I have no intention of resigning whatever happens in the election could be regarded as too political. On the one hand, it may he said that it puts Mr Whitlam under too much pressure, on the other, it could be said that I am entitled to say, in effect by indicating that I have no intention of resigning in the event of a Whitlam victory, that I stand firmly on the correctness of my decision. This would be implied in a stated intention not to resign. Some would believe that failure to make this clear is a sign of weakness.

As to all of these matters, as I have indicated before, the dominant consideration has to be in the long term interests of the Monarchy and of my office. If I am to indicate publicly an intention of not resigning it would have to be done next week. It would leave open the question of a possible resignation after a recommendation of dismissal.

May I thank you again for the degree of interest which you have shown in my somewhat verbose correspondence and ask you to assure Her Majesty of my continued loyalty and humble duty.

Yours sincerely





Lieutenant Colonel the Right Honourable Sir Martin Charteris, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., O.B.E.,
Private Secretary to The Queen,
Buckingham Palace,


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