Letters that Australia’s head of state Elizabeth Windsor wrote to the Governor-General John Kerr and which are kept in the Australian National Archives are personal letters. That is the extraordinary decision of Australia’s Federal Court.
Gough Whitlam speaks to reporters after sacking
Justice John Griffiths said that the letters “relate to one of the most controversial and tumultuous events in the modern history” of Australia. Publication might be expected to reveal what Windsor knew about the Governor-General’s plan to sack prime minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 to resolve deadlock in parliament.
Historian Jenny Hockings had applied to the court to have the letters released. She said that Australians had a right to know their own history whatever Windsor might want. She has not decided whether to appeal the ruling. If the letters had not been classified as “personal” they would have been released thirty years after they were written.
Britain’s feudal head of state is also the head of state of Australia. The Governor-General is Windsor’s representative in Australia.
But conveniently letters from one public official to another are “personal” letters according to the court.
The 1975 dismissal of the government was the first such occurrence on the authority of the British monarch and put Australia’s democracy under great pressure.
The decision of the court demonstrates yet again that democracy and monarchy are incompatible.