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Gough Whitlam

By Steven Bailey - 21 October 2014 47

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Edward Gough Whitlam was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975, and a genius of humanity. I think that perhaps the only person worthy of delivering Gough’s eulogy would be Gough himself, such was his colossal self-belief… and thank god for that self-belief.

His words will be remembered for their soaring eloquence, their fierce fight, and earthly consequence.

Many would consider that Gough was ahead of his time, but the fact is that he walked in perfect step and unison with the aspirations of a people, where perhaps so many other politicians were kept a step behind only because of a lack of imagination and bravery. Gough bravely imagined an Australia, and Australia bravely imagined with him.

His hard-fought reforms included the advance of Aboriginal land rights, the advance of universal health care, the advance of diplomatic relations with China, the advance of universal access to university, the advance of the end of conscription and withdrawal of forces from Vietnam; the advance of Australia fair.

Whitlam fought to remove injustices and discrimination against Australian women.  He fought for fair pay and conditions for women and undoubtedly improved the basis of equality upon which women could participate in society. Gough’s commitment to the women of our nation was perhaps not only guided by his sense of social justice but also by his heart. This commitment to Australian women was perhaps best embodied by his relationship with his wife Margaret Elaine Whitlam – a great political union and Australian love story. I think Malcolm Turnbull’s sentiments put it perfectly that if indeed Gough is in heaven, he is certainly there with Margret.

After the dismissal of his government in 1975 Whitlam was the Leader of the Opposition for two years, and he remained in parliament until 1978 – a rare act of public service from a former Prime Minister. He was not a man who allowed himself to be consumed by hatred, as many politicians can be, for he was the personification of optimism and hope.

Many people muse that Australia should only become a Republic with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, but as it was Gough’s dream for Australia to stand on her own two feet in the world, perhaps, once again, it is time.

I too have ridiculous self-belief, but I do know this: I am not worthy of writing about this great man. So perhaps I’ll speak to you, Gough. Gough, I hope my generation understands what you have done for our country. I don’t know whether you made the times or the times made you, probably both, but it certainly was time, and it still is time.

What’s Your opinion?


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47 Responses to
Gough Whitlam
dungfungus 10:18 am 23 Oct 14

miz said :

I quietly thank Gough almost every day. Medicare is the biggie, but I am also so grateful I was able to get divorced without fuss (no fault) and without my children having to go into orphanages; and for the fact that I actually receive the same pay as the man who does the same job as me, just to mention couple. There are so many things we assume to be ‘normal’ these days which did not exist then.

Medicare needs an overhaul. It is ironic that the only people who get totally free health care via Medicare are the ones that contribute nothing to it. These are the people that are screaming because the rest of Australia wants them to contribute a tiny co-payment every time they use bulk billing services. The rest of us have to pay a co-payment of about $40 each time we see a GP plus the levy on our income. This is not sustainable.

miz 7:01 am 23 Oct 14

I quietly thank Gough almost every day. Medicare is the biggie, but I am also so grateful I was able to get divorced without fuss (no fault) and without my children having to go into orphanages; and for the fact that I actually receive the same pay as the man who does the same job as me, just to mention couple. There are so many things we assume to be ‘normal’ these days which did not exist then.

drfelonious 10:55 pm 22 Oct 14

The man had a vision for an independent Australia – a country that wasn’t afraid of its own shadow and was prepared to speak its own mind.

This should be something that is commonplace in politics but it is as rare as hens teeth.

The tragedy of Whitlam is that all of his successors have admired him but none of them have dared to show the same kind of honest straight advocacy of public policy. Keating maybe briefly dared to speak his mind during his second term but he got the same reward from the electorate as Whitlam.

Fantastic political cartoon today had Bill Shorten rendered invisible trying to fill Gough’s shoes. I’m not sure Bill even has any policies that he didn’t get from a focus group or that he agreed to as part of some you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours backroom union deal.

I’m not a huge fan of Michael Pascoe, but for me he nailed it yesterday when he said that we don’t mourn for the 98 year old Gough, but we mourn what he represented – an Australia that looked hopefully to the future, was open to change and confident about expressing independent views on the world stage. The leaders on both sides are pygmies compared to Gough on this score.

Yes his economics was not great, but the afraid of their own shadow conservatives who hark on this point forget their history and perspective and forget that seven years of Liberal rule from 75 to 83 didn’t fix anything. Every OECD country (left, right and in-between) was hammered by the oil crises in the 70s, and the conservative politicians of the 60s were at least as economically illiterate as Gough.

MERC600 1:06 pm 22 Oct 14

He was quick with a retort.

Gough was setting off the alarm at a airport. When asked if he had on him anything that could be triggering the machine, he wittily replied ‘possibly my aura’….

R.I.P.

dungfungus 10:43 am 22 Oct 14

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

“He was not a man who allowed himself to be consumed by hatred, as many politicians can be,…..”

Well, you may say that but someone calling someone else “a cur” isn’t really endearing, is it.

Under the circumstances, I think it was very endearing.

That is a pathetic response.

Under the circumstances, I think it was a good response.

How about “situation ethics”.

HenryBG 10:37 am 22 Oct 14

dungfungus said :

The Governor General’s lodge at Yarralumla would be assigned to Jim Cairns and turned into a giant hippie commune and re-named “The Great Commune”.

That sounds like a much better use for it than the current use, which seems to benefit nobody from the taxpaying community.

Steven Bailey 10:02 am 22 Oct 14

dungfungus said :

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

“He was not a man who allowed himself to be consumed by hatred, as many politicians can be,…..”

Well, you may say that but someone calling someone else “a cur” isn’t really endearing, is it.

Under the circumstances, I think it was very endearing.

That is a pathetic response.

Under the circumstances, I think it was a good response.

dungfungus 9:07 am 22 Oct 14

Steven Bailey said :

dungfungus said :

“He was not a man who allowed himself to be consumed by hatred, as many politicians can be,…..”

Well, you may say that but someone calling someone else “a cur” isn’t really endearing, is it.

Under the circumstances, I think it was very endearing.

That is a pathetic response.

dungfungus 9:06 am 22 Oct 14

Crazed_Loner said :

Just imagine, if you can, what Australia might be like today if Billy McMahon had won the 1972 election. That is the difference that Gough Whitlam made.

How about you tell us.

dungfungus 9:04 am 22 Oct 14

astrojax said :

it’s [his] time.

a great innovator and nation builder – imagine where we’d be today if he was at least allowed to serve two full supported terms… vale gough, you gave us hope [which is all we’ve got at the moment]

If he had served two full supported terms, everyone would have a “free” (taxpayer funded) university degree in social sciences with majors in advanced bee keeping and underwater basket weaving.
All these people would be employed in the public service on the “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us” principle.
Everyone would be addressed as comrade and words like mate and dude would be banned.
Only Gough would be allowed to ride in a Mercedes – everyone else would drive VWs.
The new national anthem “Advance Australia Fair” would be re-named “Tribute to the Glorious Revolution” and new lyrics would be compiled by Bob Ellis.
The Governor General’s lodge at Yarralumla would be assigned to Jim Cairns and turned into a giant hippie commune and re-named “The Great Commune”.
Australia would be perpetually financially bankrupt but we would feel good about it.
Everyone is conveniently forgetting that Gough was sacked and the next election confirmed decisively that it was necessary for him to go.
At least Gough did something which is more than Malcolm Fraser did even when he had a massive majority in both houses.
Fraser now pretends that he and Gough were great mates.

Crazed_Loner 11:14 pm 21 Oct 14

Just imagine, if you can, what Australia might be like today if Billy McMahon had won the 1972 election. That is the difference that Gough Whitlam made.

Steven Bailey 10:38 pm 21 Oct 14

dungfungus said :

“He was not a man who allowed himself to be consumed by hatred, as many politicians can be,…..”

Well, you may say that but someone calling someone else “a cur” isn’t really endearing, is it.

Under the circumstances, I think it was very endearing.

dungfungus 8:52 pm 21 Oct 14

“He was not a man who allowed himself to be consumed by hatred, as many politicians can be,…..”

Well, you may say that but someone calling someone else “a cur” isn’t really endearing, is it.

astrojax 6:08 pm 21 Oct 14

it’s [his] time.

a great innovator and nation builder – imagine where we’d be today if he was at least allowed to serve two full supported terms… vale gough, you gave us hope [which is all we’ve got at the moment]

John Moulis 5:14 pm 21 Oct 14

Many people have mentioned the reforms of the Whitlam era but the one that sticks in my mind is the introduction of colour TV. I remember the night as a schoolkid watching the clip of Aunty Jack changing from black and white to colour then Countdown starting. It was symbolic really, the old grey Australia where we were always told to sit down and shut up to a full colour world where our generation was in charge and calling the shots. It was our time and the sky was the limit. And we will always remember.

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