House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Statements by Members

Whitlam Government

1:45 pm

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to congratulate Professor Jenny Hocking on her four-year campaign to make the 'palace letters' public and to help tell the true story of the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam government.

The High Court's recent decision confirmed that the National Archives of Australia was wrong to refuse public access to the letters between the then Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, and the Queen. The Australian people have the right to know the full history of the greatest political and constitutional crisis in our nation's history, and for a decade Professor Hocking has fought to see that correspondence. We are thankful that she took her case all the way to the High Court and has finally been vindicated.

The High Court rejected the Commonwealth's claim that the letters did not need to be made available for public access because they were private or personal. These are important historical Australian documents that belong to the Australian public and they tell a great story about our history. It didn't make any sense that these important historical communications were deemed personal communications. Professor Hocking was right when she described the whole situation as a relic of colonialism and a lingering imperial power that comes from an incomplete severance of colonial ties.

Just why did the National Archives, backed by the Morrison government, waste a million dollars of taxpayers' money in fighting the application for access to these documents? Labor strongly supports the right to know, and I congratulate Professor Hocking. I call the National Archives to release the letters— (Time expired)