Letter From The Palace
LETTER FROM SIR MARTIN CHARTERIS TO SIR JOHN KERR DATED 17 NOVEMBER 1975
This is the reply to Sir John’s letter informing the Queen via Sir Martin of the Dismissal of Gough Whitlam and his government. Sir Martin commends Sir John on not letting the Queen know prior to his action. “If I may say so with the greatest respect, I believe that in NOT informing The Queen what you intended to do before doing it, you acted not only with perfect constitutional propriety but also with admirable consideration for Her Majesty’s position.”
PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
17th November, 1975.
Personal and Confidential
My Dear Governor-General
Thank you very much for your letter of 11th November which I, of course, showed to The Queen as soon as possible after it arrived.
Her Majesty read your statement with close attention as she has also the opinion of Sir Garfield Barwick, as given in his letter to you of 10th November.
You may be sure that the confidentiality of Sir Garfield's letter and, indeed, everything you have written to me about the crisis for The Queen's information, will be strictly observed.
It seems to me, as a very interested observer, though one not very well versed in the Australian Constitution, that your action, buttressed as it is by the opinion of the Chief Justice, cannot easily be challenged from a constitutional point of view however much the politicians will, of course, rage.
I have no doubt that Mr. Whitlam will try to make the constitutional issue the heart and soul of his campaign but as an extremely shrewd politician who does not live very far away from this house said to me on 11th November "It is never possible to fight an election on one issue."
David Smith will have reported to you that Mr. Whitlam telephoned to me at 4.15 a.m. (our time) on 11th November.
I had been out and had not heard the news which David passed to Bill Heseltine sometime before. Mr. Whitlam prefaced his remarks by saying that he was speaking as a "private citizen"; he rehearsed what had happened, the withdrawal of his Commission, the passing of Supply and the votes of no confidence in Mr. Fraser and of confidence in the Member for Werriwa, which had been passed by the House of Representatives, and said that now Supply had been passed he should be re-commissioned as Prime Minister so that he could choose his own time to call an election.
He spoke calmly and did not ask me to make any approach to The Queen, or indeed to do anything other than the suggestion that I should speak to you to find out what was going on. I said I knew you would be reporting what had happened, to The Queen, not realising at that time that you had already done so. I understand that a letter from him is on the way and I shall, of course, consult you through David Smith before replying to it.
I have, as I expect you know , consulted David on how best to reply to Mr. Schole's [the former Speaker] letter. I enclose a copy of my reply to him. I have sent the letter itself to David with instructions not to deliver it without your approval. If, therefore , there is anything in my reply which you think inappropriate, please do not hesitate to say so.
As you can imagine the crisis in Australia has been in everybody’s mind and on everybody's lips here during the last day or two. There have been some who have questioned what you have done but I have as yet found no one who has been able to tell me what you ought to have done instead to resolve the crisis: and this is something which I think your critics have an obligation to do.
If I may say so with the greatest respect, I believe that in NOT informing The Queen what you intended to do before doing it, you acted not only with perfect constitutional propriety but also with admirable consideration for Her Majesty’s position.
If I may permit myself a last reflection it is that should the Member for Werriwa be returned to power he ought to be extremely grateful to you!
The Queen sends you her best wishes in this difficult time.
SIGNED: Martin Charteris
His Excellency the Governor-General of Australia.
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