What role did Queen Elizabeth II play in Gough Whitlam’s dismissal as PM?

What role did Queen Elizabeth II play in Gough Whitlam’s dismissal as PM?

Today the National Archive, following an historic ruling earlier this year by the Australian High Court, released the so-called ‘Palace Papers’, letters between then Governor-General Sir John Kerr, and Buckingham Palace.

For years, republicans have speculated that the Queen played a part, or even ordered, the dismissal of Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.



But today, with the release of the papers, we can see, once and for all, that Her Majesty did not order the Prime Minister’s dismissal.

In fact, Sir John points out very clearly in his letter to Buckingham Palace, advising the Palace of Mr Whitlam’s dismissal, that he had kept the Queen in the dark regarding his decision to sack the PM.

Sir John opens his letter to Queen Elizabeth’s Private Secretary outlining the action he had taken against PM Whitlam.

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.

And later in the letter he spells out his reason for not informing Her Majesty in advance.

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.

Australian Monarchist League National Chairman, Philip Benwell said the letters, “show that Government House – Canberra was keeping Buckingham Palace informed of the evolving crisis. Sir John Kerr informed the Palace and Her Majesty of his actions, with supporting legal documentation, immediately after dismissing the Whitlam Government, as he is required to do.”

“The Queen has a right and a duty to be informed on such major constitutional and political matters as Australia’s Head of State by her Ministers, Prime Ministers and Vice-Regal representatives. The power to appoint or dismiss a federal government in Australia constitutionally and legally lays with the Governor-General, as Kerr rightly highlights in his correspondence with the Palace.”