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Cutler Advised Kerr To Warn Whitlam

A new allegation has surfaced that the then Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, discussed his intention to dismiss the Whitlam Government with the then Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler.

Sir Roden CutlerSir Roden’s nephew, David Tyrer, in a letter to Whitlam last November, claims that Kerr discussed his intentions with Cutler. Tyrer asserts that Cutler cautioned Kerr to advise Whitlam of his intentions.

The allegation is contained in an article by Alan Ramsey in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Headed “Why that old Whitlam fire just won’t die”, Ramsey discusses the forthcoming release of the 1975 Cabinet Papers. A briefing for journalists was held by the National Archives last week but under the 30-year rule the cabinet papers are embargoed until midnight on January 1, 2006.

Ramsey claims: ‘Whitlam distributed last week an extraordinary letter written, he said, by a nephew of Sir Roden Cutler, governor of NSW at the time of John Kerr’s dismissal of Whitlam’s government 30 years ago. The letter, dated November 8 this year, is signed “David Tyrer, BA”. No official embargo applies, of course. The letter begins: “Dear Mr Whitlam, with a sense of history and duty, I am writing to you with new information” about Kerr’s actions in sacking Labor in 1975, and it “concerns information given to me by my uncle, Sir Roden Cutler”. Three pages detail his nephew’s claims of Cutler’s knowledge of Kerr’s intentions, and of Cutler’s “forceful” advice that Kerr “must” first advise Whitlam of what he planned to do. Cutler went to his grave saying nothing. Now we get yet more fuel for an old fire from a dead man. Fortuitous, indeed.’

Sir Roden Cutler died on February 21, 2002, aged 85. He was the longest serving Governor of NSW, holding the position from 1966 to 1981. He was a recipient of the Victoria Cross, awarded to him for conspicuous and sustained gallantry during the World War II campaign in Syria in 1941. He lost a leg during the war.

In today’s article, Ramsey also details the conflict between Whitlam and historian Ian Hancock over interpretations of the Loans Affair. Whitlam alleges that Hancock has pushed the “Treasury line” at briefings in previous years. According to the National Archives, Hancock has “retired” and did not attend this year’s briefing. Whitlam and Fraser were both invited but Fraser did not attend.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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