Editorial: let’s fix what needs fixing

By Chris Johnson

July 17, 2020

(AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Much has been discussed this week about the release of the Palace Letters and what they reveal about the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

Yet, as intriguing as they are, have we really learned anything that we didn’t already know? Isn’t it fair to say that even the new information that has come to light was something that – deep down at least – we knew anyway?

Australians have long realised that Buckingham Palace was not only kept informed of the political crisis occurring in Australia in 1975, but it played a hand in it.

We know too that the governor-general of the time, Sir John Kerr, felt a greater obligation to the Queen than he did to Australia. That his correspondence with the Queen’s then private secretary Sir Martin Charteris confirms this is really no surprise to us here in Australia. Is it?

It has also been glaringly obvious for more than four decades that the governor-general was concerned for the security of his own job.

The flowery sycophantic language between the two men in the 212 letters is amusing, but it shouldn’t be surprising either. Yes, there is great detail in these letters, and they are hugely important. But they are not shocking to us.

The Palace tried hard to keep these documents away from public eyes – particularly the eyes of the Australian public. The reason for that is clearly evident. Their revealing, however, only confirms what we know or what we have figured out by ourselves. Well done Professor Jenny Hocking for succeeding in the legal challenge that made sure the papers were finally released this week.

The most obvious thing we can take from these letters is, again, something we already know and have known for a long time. That is that the monarchy should have no place in Australian politics.

Yet still today, 45 years after the dismissal, our system still allows for an appointed official elected by nobody to remove a government put in place by the people of this country.

It matters not what any of us think of Gough Whitlam, or what political persuasion we may feel most aligned to. Admiration or otherwise for the Queen doesn’t come into play either.

The fact is that we have a flaw in our democracy. It is long overdue for repair.



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