Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I’ve received CIA biographic reports on both the former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and the man who controversially ousted him in 1975, John Kerr. But there’s one guy involved in “The Dismissal” that the CIA won’t release files on: Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, the man who replaced Whitlam.
US president Jimmy Carter shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser at the White House on 22 June 1977 (Photo by Brian Alpert/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
As I explained yesterday, the ousting of the democratically elected liberal PM Gough Whitlam was a total shock to Australia in November of 1975. And ever since, people have had conspiracy theories about what really happened to cause Kerr, a lone man who was a member of Whitlam’s own party, to throw out the government. Were British or American intelligence agencies involved because Whitlam opposed the NSA spying site at Alice Springs? All we have is rumours and hearsay from sources like a former Soviet spy. But my own efforts to get documents out of the CIA that would set the record straight have been met with some resistance.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Central Intelligence Agency back in June asking for biographic reports on Malcolm Fraser produced by the CIA from 1974 to 1976. After Kerr dismissed Whitlam he installed the conservative Fraser as the head of a caretaker government. When elections were eventually held Fraser was properly elected Prime Minister and served in that position until 1983. But the CIA won’t release any of the old biographic reports on Fraser — despite doing so for Whitlam, Kerr and a number of other figures not related to Australian politics, like dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Curiously, I also filed a FOIA request with the FBI for any files it might have on Fraser and was told that they don’t have anything. As a foreign politician rather than a domestic one, it’s slightly more plausible that the FBI wouldn’t have anything, but somewhat unlikely given the fact that Fraser travelled to the United States. In fact, Fraser was involved in a minor personal scandal in the US when he was found stumbling outside of a Memphis hotel without his pants in 1986.
According to an Associated Press report at the time, Fraser “appeared in the lobby of the Admiral Benbow Inn wearing only a shirt, tie and a towel wrapped around his waist”. Fraser said he’d been drugged and robbed.
There’s currently a crowdfunding effort in Australia led by Jenny Hocking (author of The Dismissal Dossier) to raise money for a legal challenge that might get documents on Kerr released. Specifically, they’re looking for the letters exchanged between Kerr and the Queen, who it’s now believed at least knew about the dismissal before it happened.
I’ve appealed the response to my FOIA requests on documents about Malcolm Fraser at both the CIA and the FBI. But it’s certainly interesting that both agencies so far won’t release any documents on Fraser, even in redacted form.