John Menadue. Prince Charles and John Kerr – an odd pair.

Prince Charles has been mobbed by regal enthusiasts in his recent visit to Australia.

Opinion polls tell us a different story. The latest poll conducted by Essential  Research tells us that if Prince Charles became King Charles, 51% would prefer a republic. Only 27% would support King Charles being our head of state.

There seems wide acceptance that the accession of King Charles to the British throne will give a real boost to republicanism in Australia.

Prince Charles has some form in intervening in Australian public affairs. Professor Jenny Hocking, in her recent book ‘The Dismissal Dossier’ reveals some worrying features of his earlier relationship with John Kerr in the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975. Both John Kerr and Prince Charles were obviously worried about their future job prospects.

In her book, Jenny Hocking says

“Kerr had spoken to Prince Charles personally on more than one occasion, as early as August 1975 canvassing the dismissal of Whitlam. … (In his own papers). Kerr recounts Prince Charles’ solicitous response to the Governor General’s concern for his own possible recall by Whitlam, should Whitlam hear that Kerr was even contemplating this: ‘but surely Sir John, the Queen should not have to accept advice that you should be recalled at the very time should this happen when you were considering having to dismiss the government.’ 

What a meddler!

Jenny Hocking writes further ‘In the heat of early spring 1975 in the New Guinea highlands, the Governor General, Sir John Kerr sidled up to Prince Charles and suggested a quiet chat. Their topic? The possible dismissal of the Prime Minister whose guest at the Papua New Guinea Independence Day celebrations they both were. Kerr’s prime concern in confiding this exceptional matter of state to the Prince was, as ever, his own job security. … In Kerr’s own mind he and Prince Charles went way back – to at least the previous year when Kerr had been blessed with a startlingly frank discussion about the Prince’s endless wait to ascend to the throne. His royal ennui, a sort of privileged loose end that the Governor General had been only too willing to help tie up. … John Kerr also discussed with Prince Charles the suggestion that he might one day come to Australia as Governor General.’ 

Gough Whitlam knew nothing about this secret discussion concerning his own dismissal but John Kerr did suggest to him that he thought it would be a good idea if the Commonwealth Government purchased a large rural holding with appropriate homestead, servants, upkeep and furnishings, to encourage the Prince of Wales to make more regular and longer trips to Australia. The poor fellow did not have enough to do to keep himself occupied. Gough Whitlam rejected the suggestion.

Prince Charles seemed only too pleased to let John Kerr ingratiate himself. The reason was clear; John Kerr was looking for friendship and support wherever he could. Prince Charles allowed himself to be drawn into the collaboration to bring down an Australian Government.

This odd pair was both worried about their own future employment prospects.

Prince Charles was in this country at our expense for several days, but no journalist bothered to ask him about his role in the dismissal forty years ago.

We still doff our cap to our betters in London.

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