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March 8, 2021

Jenny Hocking and Gough

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Professor Jenny Hocking. Photo supplied.

Tomorrow night in Byron Bay an evening of conversation will take place between celebrated journalist Kerry O’Brien and author and academic Jenny Hocking on her revealing new book The Palace Letters: The Queen, the governor-general, and the plot to dismiss Gough Whitlam.

The book is touted as a ground-breaking account in which Hocking discloses the obstruction, intrigue and duplicity she faced during her 10-year campaign to expose the truth behind the dismissal.

Jenny Hocking is emeritus professor at Monash University, Distinguished Whitlam Fellow at the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University, and Gough Whitlam’s award-winning biographer. Her appeal against the decision of the Federal Court in the Palace letters case was upheld by the High Court on 29 May 2020.

A progressive prime minister

Gough Whitlam was a progressive prime minister whose reign proved tumultuous and divisive after 23 years of conservative government in Australia. When a hostile Senate refused to vote on his 1975 budget, the political deadlock that ensued culminated in his unexpected and deeply controversial dismissal by the governor-general, Sir John Kerr.

Kerr was in close touch with the Palace during this period, but, under the cover of being designated as personal, that correspondence was locked away for decades in the National Archives, and embargoed by the Queen — potentially forever. This ruse denied the Australian people access to critical information about one of the most divisive episodes in the nation’s political history.

In the face of this, Professor Jenny Hocking embarked on what would become a ten-year campaign and a four-year legal battle to force the Archives to release the letters. In 2015, she mounted a crowd-funded legal challenge, securing a stellar pro bono team that took her case all the way to the High Court of Australia. In May 2020, despite being opposed by the Archives, Buckingham Palace, and the full resources of the federal government, she won her historic case.

A ground-breaking account an indomitable fight

The Palace Letters is the ground-breaking account of her indomitable fight. Drawing on material from the Palace letters, Kerr’s archives, and her submissions to the courts, Hocking traces the collusion and deception behind the dismissal, and charts the secret role of High Court judges, the leader of the opposition, Malcolm Fraser, and the Queen’s private secretary in fostering and supporting Kerr’s actions.

Hocking also reveals the obstruction, intrigue, and duplicity she faced during her campaign, raising disturbing questions about the role of the National Archives in fighting access to these historic letters and in enforcing, against Australia’s national interests, royal secrecy over its own documents.

The even will be held tomorrow night, Tuesday December 8 at 6pm in the Byron Theatre.


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