Forty-five years ago, on 11 November 1975, prime minister Gough Whitlam drove to Yarralumla, sat down, attempted to call an election, and was dismissed by the governor general, Sir John Kerr.
Later that day Whitlam stood on the steps of Parliament House, told the nation to “maintain your rage”, and uttered the now-iconic line: “Well may we say, ‘God save the Queen,’ because nothing will save the governor general.”
For the four and a half decades since, a set of 211 letters have sat unread in the National Archives, jealously eyed by historians and political biographers. The correspondence between Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II, some believe, could shed light on the extent of royal involvement and royal knowledge of those heady days of the dismissal.
Prof Jenny Hocking, a historian who has argued there is evidence that the Queen knew of Kerr’s intent to sack Whitlam, had applied to access the letters but was told they would be kept under lock and key until at least 2027, and potentially indefinitely.
That was until Hocking won her case in the high court in May this year. The full letters will be released at 11am today – online and publicly available.
We’ll be reading them for the first time today, just as you are, combing through their 1,200 pages. Dependent, of course, on the website not crashing from demand.
My colleagues Katharine Murphy and Christopher Knaus will be poring through them too, with Chris, thankfully in the National Archives building itself, the letters before him on a USB rather than online.
We’ll bring you all the highlights, the details, and the biggest revelations. The letters will be released at 11am AEST. Stay tuned.