Many of us were fascinated to read the recently released, vice-regal correspondence leading up to the dismissal of the Whitlam government in November 1975 . However, as a born and bred Tasmanian I was intrigued by two letters written the following year, but prompted by the same political drama. The first was written by a Tasmanian with a point to make..
In the aftermath of the controversial Dismissal, Papua New Guinea’s first Governor General, Sir John Guise (1914-1991) cancelled (or at least postponed) a planned visit to Australia.
THE ENSUING LETTERS….!
A private citizen from Hobart, Mr Chris Diprose, took it upon himself to protest. In a letter even Sir John Kerr himself considered ill-advised, Diprose fired off the following letter in support of Kerr;
A public apology! Oh good heavens, I think you really crossed the line there Chris.
HOW DARE YOU!
The response was swift, and justifiably harsh. Governor General Sir John Guise did not hold back. A clearer transcript of the text follows the image below;
Now it seems unlikely that the Governor General had any idea of whether he was in fact ‘much older‘ than Mr Diprose, but perhaps he simply decided that only someone young and foolish would write in such a manner.
The return letter was a metaphorical slap in the face for Mr Diprose.
If Chris Diprose had looked into the Governor General’s past he would have realized that he had chosen to upset a very strong character, with a passion for his country. From Sir John’s obituary in The Canberra Times on February 8 1991;
As a youngster growing up in Milne Bay he was a passionate cricketer and also played a significant role in helping to slow the initial advance of the Japanese in World War II.
When the Japanese landed at Milne Bay in August 1942 the young John Guise paddled more than 20km through rough seas in an open dinghy to tell coastal villagers to put out their lights and fires.
The Japanese landed several kilometres off course and the mistake slowed their initial thrust across PNG.
The letters are both extraordinary, one for the utter temerity of the sender, and one for the forceful response of the receiver. No place for the perceived diplomacy of high office here.
Mind you, my Tasmanian blood does stir a little at Mr Diprose’s bold leap into the fray! It appears the Hobart Explorer (see his address on Sir John’s letter) was a motor inn in West Hobart, but I have been unable to discover much about the man at all. Perhaps he really was very young in 1976
Tasmanian resident Mark Krauze has given me an interesting snippet of information. Apparently Chris Diprose had previously lived in Queensland. He was friendly with the Gibb family, and was Godfather to singer/musician Barry Gibb’s son.
UPDATE – The wonderful thing about posting a story on the web is that people provide additional information. Please read the first comment, left by Mr R. Mulcahy. It seems Mr Diprose took his ‘punishment’ in good humour. He was completely unrepentant and actually framed Sir John’s letter and hung it in his office.
For more on the life and career of Sir John Guise CLICK HERE.