Palace Letters implode republican conspiracy theories

Originally published in The Examiner 29 July 2020 (Available here)

"Be careful for what you wish".

The Australian Republican Movement must be choking on that wise proverb.

For 45 years peddling a conspiracy theory about the British establishment or the Monarchy being sinisterly involved in what was actually the self-immolation of the disastrous Whitlam Government.

And all that was needed, they believed, were the "secret" letters between the Governor-General Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace to "prove" the conspiracy.

After many a roadblock, the letters were finally ordered to be released courtesy of a recent split High Court decision.

The anticipation would have been palpable. The patience, the perseverance had finally delivered the "proof".

But alas, it was not to be. It was like an elaborately wrapped present found to be without any contents.

The release of the correspondence proved two things.

Firstly, the Whitlam dismissal was made by an Australian, the Governor-General, in Australia using Australia's Constitution to give the Australian people a say on the future of their Australian Parliament.

Secondly, and this is hugely humiliating and embarrassing for the Republicans - the only people who sought the intervention of Buckingham Palace were Labor and Republicans.

They, who had protested for 45 years asserting ''foreign" interference in our politics, were the only ones who had actually sought such foreign interference by asking Her Majesty to countermand the Australian Governor-General.

So what happened in 1975?

Two massive bulls of Australian politics had locked horns and brought the country to a standstill.

Mr Whitlam's Labor government was plagued by scandals and resignations.

Labor's Mr Whitlam was a physically imposing figure possessed of unshakeable self-belief. Ditto for the Liberals' Mr Fraser.

Labor had the numbers in the House of Representatives and the Liberals in the Senate. It is a well-established protocol/convention that a government cannot continue in office without a budget.

In those circumstances, it should seek a mandate from the people.

The other protocol is that whilst the Senate has the power to block the budget it should only do so in the most reprehensible of circumstances.

The Liberals believed those circumstances existed with the Khemlani Loans Affair seeking overseas money to bankroll the government's needs so it could bypass the democratically elected Parliament.

A stalemate had occurred.

To use an AFL analogy, when the ball is locked in between two opposing players the umpire blows the whistle, bounces the ball and play resumes.

Our democracy was similarly locked in between Labor and Liberal.

The umpire blew the whistle to allow the real umpire - the Australian people - to deliver their verdict.

The timing here is important. The dismissal was left to the last minute.

The 11th of November dismissal allowed the Australian people to vote on December 13.

A week later we would have been into Christmas and the New Year, meaning the paralysis would have continued for weeks. An unacceptable situation.

The Australian people delivered their verdict in a landslide of mammoth proportions.

Instead of reflecting on their glaring inadequacies, Labor sought to vilify the umpire and divide Australians with ugly violent rallies.

This behaviour repulsed Australians who may have otherwise instinctively thought Labor had been given a raw deal by Fraser's Liberals.

In all this, spare a thought for Sir John Kerr, our Governor-General.

Personally appointed by Mr Whitlam. They shared the same chambers as barristers.

To come to the conclusion Whitlam had to be dismissed must've occasioned substantial mental anguish.

What it showed was independence, wisdom and a concern to allow the true masters of Australia, the Australian people, to make the call.

What is clear in all this is that our Constitutional Monarchy (umpire) worked exceptionally well.

The Republicans' conspiracy theories have been well and truly debunked.

Sure, debate the merits of the Whitlam-Fraser clash.

But in the circumstances of neither giving in, the umpire had to blow the whistle to allow us the Australian people to decide our nation's future.

What was broke was not our Constitution. It was the actions of two desperate politicians. Imagine if the Governor-General were an elected president.

The "umpire" would be wearing one team's colours. The problem wasn't the constitution or the umpire. It was the political players.

The fulfilment of the republican wish to have the Palace Letters released has proven beyond doubt that our Constitutional Monarchy served us extremely well in 1975 and continues to do so today, 45 years later.

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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