‘Palace letters’ reveal the palace’s fingerprints on the dismissal of the Whitlam government

Independent Australia

Chris Wallace, University of Canberra

The “palace letters” show the Australian Constitution’s susceptibility to self-interested behaviour by individual vice-regal representatives. They also reveal the vulnerability of Australian governments to secret destabilisation by proxy by the Crown.

They reveal a governor-general, fearing his own dismissal, succumbing to moral hazard, and the British monarch’s private secretary encouraging him in the idea that a double dissolution was legitimate in the event a government could not get its budget bills passed.

The letters confirm the worst fears of those who viewed Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s sacking of the Whitlam government as a constitutional coup. They reveal Kerr shortened by at most a mere three months the resolution of the crisis created by the conservative Malcolm Fraser-led opposition’s refusal to pass the government’s budget bills, compared to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s own timetable shared with Kerr.

The correspondence shows Kerr was privy to Whitlam’s plan to hold a double-dissolution election in February 1976 if all other avenues, including a half-Senate election, failed to secure passage of the budget beforehand. Whitlam candidly told Kerr he would be replaced as governor-general if he obstructed that plan. This introduced the element of moral hazard that saw Kerr take a reckless and self-interested route in ending the crisis rather than the steadier one privately put to him by Whitlam – one that Kerr could have, had he chosen, quite properly facilitated.

Crucially, the palace provided a specific nudge to Kerr in the direction of dismissing the government as a solution. It did so by highlighting one expert’s view that Kerr could secure an election while saving his own position as governor-general.

The palace provided a specific nudge to Kerr on dismissing the government. AAP/EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A September 24 1975 letter from the queen’s private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris, to Kerr pointed him to Canadian constitutional law expert Eugene Forsey’s opinion that:

[…] if supply is refused this always makes it constitutionally proper to grant a dissolution.

In such correspondence, the queen’s private secretary is understood as speaking for the queen herself. As such, this could be interpreted as the monarch providing not just comfort but actual encouragement to the governor-general in his sacking of the government.

By adding his point about Forsey as a handwritten postscript to the letter, Charteris created a degree of ambiguity on this score, giving rise to a potential argument that it was Charteris’s personal view and not that of the queen.


Read more: ‘Palace letters’ show the queen did not advise, or encourage, Kerr to sack Whitlam government


But this should be read in the context of the overall correspondence in the year leading up to The Dismissal. In these letters, Kerr repeatedly canvasses the opposition’s potential blocking of supply, the likely resulting constitutional crisis and his difficulties in that context. There is, notably, no counterveiling call from the palace to let the legitimately elected prime minister see his plan through, even though Kerr had conveyed Whitlam’s plan to the palace.

 

In a crucial letter to Charteris on September 30, Kerr outlined Whitlam’s privately proposed electoral path to a resolution.

In the event the opposition continued to block the budget bills, Whitlam wanted to hold a half-Senate election. After that the government would again put the budget bills to the Senate. Should the opposition continue to block them, Whitlam planned a double-dissolution election. Kerr relayed to Charteris Whitlam’s view that it “could not take place until February 1976”.

Why didn’t Kerr co-operate with Whitlam to implement this relatively speedy path to resolution of the crisis? The answer likely lies in Whitlam’s candour in telling Kerr he would ask the queen to replace Kerr should he not accede to the plan.

Since the letters through Charteris also confirm the queen’s intention, unreservedly, to accept Whitlam’s advice to sack Kerr should she be asked to do so, Kerr knew this threat to be real and increasingly immediate.

The question is, since the queen made clear through Charteris she would uphold Australia’s constitutional convention that the monarch follow the prime minister’s advice, why would her representative, Kerr, not simply do the same with regard to Whitlam’s plans for the crisis’s resolution?


Read more: The big reveal: Jenny Hocking on what the ‘palace letters’ may tell us, finally, about The Dismissal


This is the note missing from the palace side of the correspondence – an absence against which Charteris’s handwritten postscript pointing Kerr to the Forsey opinion that “dissolution” was a legitimate option when governments fail to get their money bills passed is stark.

Forsey was later a strong public supporter of Kerr’s sacking of the Whitlam government. No wonder the palace fought to stop these letters being released.

Chris Wallace, Associate Professor, 50/50 By 2030 Foundation, Faculty of Business Government & Law, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

An Australian republic ‘could benefit Aborigines’

A leading Australian academic and Aboriginal activist has supported a renewed campaign for Australia to become a republic if it recognises the sovereignty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens and gives them more political representation.

Professor Jakelin Troy, the director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney, said she “absolutely” supported the notion of Australia becoming a republic but that any new system of governance should correctly recognise that Aboriginal Australians initially owned the country.

“A republic should include more representation in the parliament and a set of rights equivalent to treaty rights enshrined in law so that Aboriginal people don’t have to continue fighting,” Troy said.

Australia remains a constitutional monarchy and has been subjected to British rule since it was colonised upon the arrival of Britain’s First Fleet in Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788.

The fleet’s arrival date is widely celebrated in the country with an annual public holiday called Australia Day, but many Aboriginal people mourn the occasion as “Invasion Day”.

Read The Complete Article

‘We want a republic’: Australia’s states and territory leaders are united

State and territory leaders unanimously back Australia becoming a republic, meaning there is total support across the top two tiers of government for an Australian head of state.

However, division remains over when the switch should be made, even as the push grows for the process to start in 2020.

As part of a campaign by the Australian Republican Movement, seven of the eight leaders signed a declaration supporting the end of the constitutional monarchy.

The declaration posed the simple proposition that “Australia should have an Australian head of state”.

Read the complete article

Bill Shorten says the republic debate can’t wait for the Queen

Labor leader Bill Shorten has urged the Prime Minister to break the shackles of monarchists in his government and lead the push for Australia to become a republic.

The call comes after all of the state and territory leaders expressed support for a republic amid a push for a plebiscite for an Australian head of state by 2020.   
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to work together with him on an Australian republic.

Mr Shorten is expected to use his Australia Day address in Melbourne on Tuesday to call for Malcolm Turnbull to drop his insistence that constitutional change is only possible after the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

Seven of the eight state and territory leaders have signed a declaration by the Australian Republic Movement calling for an Australian head of state. WA premier Colin Barnett did not sign the declaration but confirmed he, too, supported a republic.

Read the complete Article

Long live King Charles? An Australian republic is in Turnbull’s hands for now

The first time a British royal came to visit Australia he was shot. Prince Alfred survived the assassination attempt in 1868 and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was named in his honour.

It was an inauspicious beginning to royal tours of Australia but a century and a half later the nation is still constitutionally wedded to the British monarchy. Prince Charles – the future King of Australia – finished, on Sunday, his 15th visit to the country. While there have been no assassination attempts, nor has there been the outpouring of adoration that marked the Queen’s inaugural visit in 1954.

Why is Australia still attached to the monarchy?

read the article by Benjamen T. Jones at The Conversation

Published as: Long live King Charles? An Australian republic is in Turnbull’s hands for now

A Message from the Chair of the ARM – Peter FitzSimons

From Peter FitzSimons – Chair Australian Republican Movement

As you may know as a progressive Australian, I have taken over as Chair of the Australian Republican Movement.

I recently did a speech on the Republic to the National Press Club, which sets out our position:

http://goo.gl/YBk4oF

If you don’t have time to watch it, here is a transcript of that speech:

http://goo.gl/Vfs5vq

While we have received a lot of good will since, we need more than that. We need membership.

Could you please encourage your strong network to join us on this link:

https://goo.gl/jVwReA

We are very, very grateful.

We want a new Australia, not reduced to finding our Heads of State from one family of aristocrats, living in a Palace in London.

We want an Australia where any one of us can be Head of State.

As to what kind, we will democratically decide.

My own model, however, can fit in a tweet.

Current system: PM chooses GG, asks Q.

New system: PM chooses GG asks Parliament.

And that is IT.

Nothing else need change, not even the name “Governor-General,” and we can remain also “The Commonwealth of Australia.”

Others prefer the Direct Election Model, and that too is very possible.

If that is the one we Australians democratically decide on, I will support it.

Please feel free to pass this email on, with my email address, to your network. We are doing this transparently, and have no need to hide anything.

We are very grateful for your support,

I am, you are, we are Australian, and we are on the move!

JOIN us!

Tks,

Peter
Sydney Morning Herald

Tweet: @Peter_Fitz

Australia PM scraps knighthood honours, shows republican colours

Australia’s pro-republic Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday scrapped knights and dames from the nation’s honours system, less than a year after a furore sparked by the award of a knighthood to Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch monarchist, reintroduced the antiquated honours in 2014, provoking criticism that he was out of touch with public sentiment. Abbott was ousted by Turnbull in a party coup in September.

The politically disastrous decision to give Prince Philip the nation’s highest honour, Knight of the Order of Australia, on Australia Day, has been cited as the beginning of the end for Abbott.

Read the Reuters Article Here

Royal succession laws changed as republic debate hits parliament again

THE republic debate returned to parliament today when Labor snuck in a plea for an Australian president while backing legislation giving women rights to royal succession.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used discussion of anachronistic laws dictating who can become monarch to call for constitutional change — and to niggle Liberals on their own succession moves.

Australia is one of 16 “reals” in the Commonwealth whose governments have to agree to changing the succession laws so an older sister can take the British throne ahead of a younger brother.

At present only men can become monarch and women can only be crowned when there are no brothers available, as happened to Queen Elizabeth.

And they can’t marry Roman Catholics.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor backed the move to scrap laws going back 243 years.

(About time!)

Read the full Article at News.com.au

 

Is it April Fool’s Day?

 Social media reacts to Prince Philip’s knighthood

Is it Australia Day – or April Fool’s Day?

That was a question being posed on social media after an early morning statement from Prime Minister Tony Abbott revealed the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, (or as he officially known: His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, Baron Greenwich, Royal Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Extra Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Member of the Order of Merit, Grand Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Knight of the Order of Australia, Additional Member of the Order of New Zealand, Extra Companion of the Queen’s Service Order, Royal Chief of the Order of Logohu, Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Canadian Forces Decoration, Lord of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, Privy Councillor of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, Personal Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty, Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom.) had been awarded a knight of the Order of Australia, the country’s highest honour.

Australia Day Honours. By a Brit – for a Brit: Tony Abbott, what on earth were you thinking? Not only do we have the indignity of a foreigner as our Head of State, the Highest Honour Australia has has been awarded to her husband — who is also a Brit.

Abolish the Constitutional Monarchy, Abolish the Knights & Dames – take  back the titles from those who received them after 14 February 1975 when Gough Whitlam established an Australian Honours system to replace British Honours for Australians. 

(And while we’re at it can we stop electing Brits as PM.)

Read the full article in the Canberra Times

As Scotland votes in independence referendum, it’s time to ask: should Australia become a republic?

An article at News .com .au asks the above question and has a pollShould Australia Become a republic?

SCOTS go to the polls today to vote on one simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Opinion polls suggest the referendum’s outcome will be tight.

If the “yes” case succeeds, it will be the first time Scotland has claimed its independence in more than 300 years.

Whatever the outcome, the push for Scottish independence has prompted many to wonder whether Australia ?will ever claim its own independence by becoming a republic.

Voters rejected a proposal for Australia to become a republic in a 1999 referendum, largely because the question tied the issue to a prescribed model for the election of a president.

So with Scottish voters being offered a plain and simple question, we’ve decided it’s time for readers to be offered a similarly straightforward question about our own country’s future.

Click Here to read the article and join the poll

Knights and dames a boost for republican movement

The Australian Republican Movement has welcomed Tony Abbott’s reintroduction of knighthoods and damehoods, declaring it has re-invigorated the republic cause and prompted a boost in members.

The bizarre outcome was among the unintended consequences of Tuesday afternoon’s surprise announcement, which sparked a tide of ridicule in Parliament, newspapers, radio and social media.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked if the country was in a time warp, noting that not even John Howard had revived the British titles in his almost 12 years as prime minister.

Read More

Governor-General Quentin Bryce backs Australia becoming a republic

Governor-General Quentin Bryce has publicly backed both Australia becoming a republic and gay marriage in a landmark speech in Sydney.

Ms Bryce, delivering the final Boyer Lecture of the year on Friday night, said she hoped Australia might become a nation where “people are free to love and marry whom they choose”.

“And where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state,” she said.

Read the full article at the ABC

The Republic of Australia

Uluru. Northern Territory founded 1911. photo pixabay.com

Uluru. Northern Territory founded 1911. photo pixabay.com

On January 1st, 1901, without war or revolution, the self-governing colonies of Great Britain became the federated states within the Commonwealth of Australia.

From the day when Captain Arthur Phillip finally landed at Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788, with the First Fleet, it was inevitable that His Majesty King George III’s  penal colony of New South Wales would one day become a nation.

It is just as inevitable that one day the nation of Australia will become a Republic, with an Australian replacing the British Monarch as Head of State.

Australians are all too aware aware that over past decades, there has been much discussion and debate about Australian Republicanism. But it is not a new discussion. Many will be surprised that this discussion dates back to the mid 1800’s, and is as old as the move to nationhood itself. And it is as contentious today as it was then.

In recent times there has been one major vexatious issue: 

Should an Australian Head of State be elected by the people of Australia or should the Head of State be appointed by the Prime Minister, the Federal Government or a “Council”, without the people having a direct say?

Both models have their supporters who have a strong and unshakable belief that their solution is the correct one.

This site will present an alternative model which will bring both groups of supporters closer together and ultimately to Australia becoming a republic.

The case put forward and called The State Election Model (SEM), would a be method unique to Australia. 8 candidates will be selected from the states and territories by the people and their elected Representatives will make the final decision on who shall be the Head of State

The SEM has been put into several sections and each section has a dedicated page where you can read and then comment:

1. Preamble – An Introduction to the State Election Model (SEM)
2. Nomination of a Candidate
3. Election of a State or Territory Representative
4. Selection of an Australian Head of State
5. Consideration – Such as dismissal, length of term, and other issues
6. Petition of  Support

With a belief that by working together, Australians can create a model acceptable to the majority of Australians in the majority of States. Feel free to add comments that will contribute to the discussion at the bottom of each respective page.

Now is the time where all Australians can have a say in the way in how Australia  moves to a Republic.

All Australians should take ownership of this important responsibility now!

To step away from this decision now, will allow future generations to create a Republic of their choosing, one in which which the Australians of today will possibly have no say.

 ~

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