26 September 2023

High Court dismisses Dismissal letters

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Written correspondence between the Australian Governor-General and Her majesty the Queen relating to the dismissal of the Australian Government in 1975, have been judged by the High Court to be Commonwealth records under the Archives Act 1983.

The Court was asked by historian Jenny Hocking to consider the status of the ‘Palace Papers’ following lower Court decisions that they were private.

Conveying its verdict, the High Court instructed the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, David Fricker to reconsider Professor Jenny Hocking’s request for access to the correspondence.

Mr Fricker accepted the High Court’s judgement saying he would now get to work examining the historically significant records for release under the provisions of the Act.

“The National Archives is a pro-disclosure organisation,” Mr Fricker said.

“We operate on the basis that a Commonwealth record should be made publicly available unless there is a specific and compelling need to withhold it.”

He said examination of the records would be made in consultation with relevant Government Agencies in order to ready them for public release.

Mr Fricker said the National Archives had already begun the access examination process as required by the Act.

“To ensure the records are released in accordance with the Archives Act 1983 they are required to go through a declassification process which may take up to 90 business days,” he said.

He said the process assessed which Commonwealth records are made public once they reach the legislated open period, 20 years after their creation.

“The National Archives takes the responsible release of records seriously,” Mr Fricker said.

“We set out to release all Commonwealth records that are in the open access period. However, exemptions under Section 33 of the Act may apply,” he said.

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