08 February 2020

Avoiding the smoke

The Climate Rally was enveloped in smoke, probably unnoticed by the pollies within, given their arrivals by car to underground parks and into air-conditioned comfort. Thus is the way of decision makers. But those outside noticed. I eventually escaped to the High Court, hoping to catch the full bench considering a case of particular interest to me: Jenny Hocking's bid to release the letters between Kerr and the Queen, which have been classified as Private and not released to the public. Given this relates to perhaps the major event in Australian constitutional history, I'm interested and I expect they should be released. So I went in. Jenny Hocking was there (I think that was her) and a spattering of visitors and the full bench of 7 judges. I only heard an hour-or-so of presentation. They retired at 4.15 and were to reconvene the following day at 10am. Now it's two days later and I am awaiting further news. I guess a decision will take time. But the air was cleaner inside.

I had a few moments so caught the Face to Face exhibition in another nicely comfy space, the National Portrait Gallery, knowing that I would miss it otherwise. It was interesting, but to some degree disappointing. Lots of performers (admittedly admired ones) who perhaps make eye connections well, and if not, are of common interest. A few writers and artists. Not sure I saw one politician or judge or scientist or whatever. There was at least one sportswoman. It was just a cursory visit but I'm wondering if it says anything about a celebrity-infused culture. Dunno. I'd need more time and thought and I'm unlikely to revisit before it closes in just a week or so. But one other thing I read while there struck me like a hammer: "Only seventeen of Australia's thirty prime ministers to date are represented in the National Portrait Gallery's collection, with their portraits acquired mostly according to unexpected opportunity". Yes, it's a new collection and Parliament House is unlikely to hand over their portraits (they essentially purloined the National Library's Magna Carta for their spaces) but this is worrying none-the-less. A national portrait gallery without portraits of all PMs? Is nothing sacred? Nonetheless, best of luck to the NPG in gathering this part of its collection.

Jenny Hocking's bid to release the Palace letters was condiered by the High Court of Australia. Face to Face was an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

  • High Court to hear bid to release the Queen’s secret Whitlam dismissal letters / Jenny Hocking (29 Jan 2020)
  • High Court to determine whether 'Palace letters' written during the Whitlam dismissal should be released / Elizabeth Byrne (upd. 4 Feb 2020)
  • Hocking v. Director-General of the National Archives of Australia [HCA] Case S262/2019
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