Republicans Claim Queen Foreign Power

Republicans Claim Queen Foreign Power

I had been invited to attend and was therefore present at the formal release of the correspondence between the then Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, and Sir Martin Charteris, private secretary to the Queen, at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra. The release of what is termed ‘the Kerr papers’ clearly showed that the Queen was not involved in the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

We have always advised that Sir John simply used the powers of the Constitution (section 64) to withdraw the letter of appointment he had earlier given to Gough Whitlam to be a minister. There was no conspiracy or underhandedness whatsoever. It was the action of a Governor-General seeking to resolve the political and economic crisis facing the nation.


However, the fact that Sir John was seeking advice not only from senior judges in Australia but also from the Queen’s private secretary on the reserve powers he had as Governor-General has led republicans to absurdly claim that the Palace was involved in the dismissal and that Kerr had sought the advice of a foreign power – meaning none other than the Queen!

To quote: “The Palace Letters prove that, in a craven attempt to sack-or-be-sacked, Kerr conspired with the head of a foreign power to dismiss the pioneering, democratically elected Labor government led by Gough Whitlam. Until Australians ensure that our head of state is one of us, it could happen again.” (The Monthly Today 14/7/20)

Peter Fitzsimons has said he is ‘gobsmacked’ and that the release “brings to life the horror of what happened” i.e. the dismissal of Gough Whitlam.

The Australian Monarchist League takes great exception to the reference that the Queen is in any way a ‘foreign power’.

Furthermore, In the letters, Sir John makes clear that he had not consulted with the Queen: “I decided to take this 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.”

However, the mere fact that the Queen’s representative in Australia, the Governor-General, had consulted with the Queen’s private secretary simply to confirm the powers he had under the Australian Constitution is ridiculously claimed to be interference by a foreign power. They are clutching at straws to try and build up the case for their straw republic.

Let it be clear, Australia is not a republic. We are a constitutional monarchy and the people of Australia have chosen to have as our monarch, the monarch of the United Kingdom which, at present, is the Queen. She and her representative, the Governor-General are there to look after our constitutional interests. There is therefore noting untoward in a Governor-General consulting with the Queen’s private secretary or anybody else to check on the reserve powers he has under the Australian constitution. Lord Charteris had been with Her Majesty throughout her reign and before. He was firstly an assistant private secretary and then, from 1972, her private secretary. If anyone knew the detail of the reserve powers of the Crown, it would be he. He advised Sir John “The fact that you have powers is recognised, but it is also clear that you will only use them in the last resort and then only for constitutional and not for political reasons.”

Buckingham Palace issued a statement following the release of the Papers yesterday, 14 July 2020: "While the Royal Household believes in the longstanding convention that all conversations between prime ministers, Governor-Generals and the Queen are private, the release of the letters ... confirms that neither Her Majesty nor the Royal Household had any part to play in Kerr's decision to dismiss Whitlam."

Philip Benwell
National Chair
Australian Monarchist League


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