Archives withholds ‘sensitive’ letter


The National Archives of Australia has confirmed it withheld one piece of correspondence from its release of the so-called “Palace Letters” exchanged between the Queen and former Governor-General Sir John Kerr around the time of the November 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Government.

A spokesperson for the NAA, Alf Abett, told The Bug the single letter not included in the public release had been written by Sir John to the Queen in the immediate aftermath of the dismissal on 11 November 1975.

“Sir John penned the letter personally and unlike the hundreds of other letters typed by staff at Yarralumla and mailed to Buckingham Palace, this one was in his own handwriting,” Mr Abett said.

“In the letter Sir John tells Her Majesty that he is writing it just after breakfast, which explains why his handwriting is, shall we say, somewhat difficult to decipher.

“The NAA is well aware of its legal obligation to release the Palace Letters but for this specific letter we decided against making it public.

“Its contents are somewhat sensitive and personal. It clearly reveals that Sir John was very much of the opinion that his role in the structure of Australia’s governance was superior to that of the prime minister he had just sacked, Gough Whitlam.

“He makes this clear by seeking Her Majesty’s approval to restyle his vice-regal title to include the term ‘King of Australia’.

“The letter also shows there was clearly some animosity being shown by Sir John towards Mr Whitlam and his government and that he had a clear preference for dealing with Malcolm Fraser whom he had just commissioned as acting prime minister.

“Sir John refers a few times in the letter to the Whitlam government as ‘that bunch of radical red-flag-waving Commos’ and to the fact that Mr Fraser had agreed to Sir John’s request to hand out how-to-vote cards for the Liberal Party’s candidate for a local ACT seat at the coming December 1975 federal election.

“But the very sensitive parts of the letter that sealed our decision to keep it under lock and key relate to Sir John’s very personal references to Her Majesty.

“In one particularly saucy section Sir John refers to the ‘highly erotic’ feelings he gave himself whenever he corresponded with Her Majesty.

“He goes on to say that he looked forward to the day when they could meet and he could ‘lick more than Your Majesty’s image’ on the stamp used to post the letter.

“We just felt that releasing this sort of reference wouldn’t be helpful to Her Majesty.

“By the way, everything I’ve told you about the letter is off the record, right?” Mr Abett said.