Vale, Comrade!

(Image Credit: Whitlam Institute)

whitlam it’s time

Gough Whitlam became Leader of the Opposition in February 1967. From that moment – at the age of 11 – I became truly, madly, deeply passionate about politics. In 1969 I argued with all my schoolmates, almost all from conservative families, about how important it was that the ALP should win the approaching federal election.

It was close, but not close enough.

By 1972, the vibe had changed.

On 2nd December, my mum and I were staying with my aunt in Roseville, Sydney – another very blue-rinse Liberal household. My aunt and her husband (an obstetrician) threw an election party that evening. The place was crawling with conservatives, the TV was on full blast, much liquor was consumed and, as the evening progressed, the faces of hosts and guests became longer and longer . . .

. . . while mamma and moi had to look as serious as possible, though we wanted to dance, to scream, to hug everyone and say, At last!

What he achieved in just under three years in two terms as Prime Minister was outstanding. From Senator John Faulkner’s tribute on the occasion of Gough Whitlam’s 92nd birthday:

Gough Whitlam has been a towering figure in the Australian Labor Party for longer than I can remember. When I first joined the ALP Gough was Leader of the Opposition. My first federal election campaign was 1972: I felt as if I spent every weekend of that year knocking on doors. I freely admit, it was quite abnormal behaviour for a teenager! But that campaign, which became part of Australia’s political history by sweeping away 23 years of conservative government and making ‘It’s Time’ part of our language, was one we all knew mattered. The excitement and enthusiasm of that election will never be forgotten by any of the countless party members and volunteers who knew that the surging tide of Labor support was not only about a change of government, but about changing the country – for the better.

And ladies and gentlemen, we were right.

The list of the Whitlam Government’s legislative reforms is familiar to all of us:

– improving the position of women and our indigenous population;
– introducing Medibank, the precursor to Medicare;
– needs-based funding for schools and free university education;
– introducing the Trade Practices Act;
– ending conscription;
– diplomatic and trade relations with the People’s Republic of China.

In Opposition, in Government, and in decades since, Gough has remained indefatigable, irrepressible, and unflagging.

For more than six decades in politics, Gough Whitlam has aimed at targets higher than personal success or vindication. His energy and enthusiasm combined with the continuing powerful relevance of his goals have made him a hero to many Australians – including to me – and an iconic figure in Australia’s
political landscape . . .

On 11th November 1975 I was at home, studying for an exam (Succession, I think) the next day. I put the radio on to hear the news, and could not believe my ears. At first I thought it was a joke.

(Image Credit: National Archives of Australia)

Then I realised that something huge had just happened, so I raced down to (old) Parliament House in my VW. So yes, I was there – even if it was after that speech:

Bill Shorten has put it well:

Gough Whitlam offered us a vision of what Australia might be — a modern, multicultural nation, where opportunity belongs to everyone.

Free university education and universal healthcare. The Racial Discrimination, Aboriginal Land Rights and the Family Law Act. Protection of the Great Barrier Reef from oil drilling.

Gough ended conscription, the death penalty and he made Advance Australia Fair our national anthem. He put our suburbs at the centre of national debate.

Gough Whitlam spent his entire political life reaching for higher ground – he redefined our country and changed the life of a generation, and generations beyond.

He inspired us all in some way and he will continue to inspire us.

There will be more tears shed for Gough Whitlam today than perhaps any other leader in Australian history.

Our thoughts are with his family – a family that has given so much to our nation. Especially Margaret, a great Australian in her own right.

419 thoughts on “Vale, Comrade!

  1. The most ironic and bizarre consequence of these crazies running amok with a gun in Canadia, is that they make Abbott look sane!……and as for fighting ebola, why not send Chrissy Pyne over there to fight it on the front line..there isn’t a virus created that would stick to that slimy creatures skin!

  2. Now here are two faces that cold launch a thousand ships…

    Little Lachie has been criticising the government’s new anti-Press laws of late.

    Don’t be fooled. He doesn’t really run the Daily Telegraph, who (I would expect) will be still on the “EXCLUSIVE” gravy train of leaked insider information for some time. Dad looks after the Tele.

    And as for the other boofhead. Words fail me.

  3. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Now it’s Prissy Pyne doing the (minor) backflip.
    One of Abbott’s sisters isn’t happy with him.
    How terror policy can backfire.
    The tangled web of the NBN.
    Adrian Piccoli ruffles a few religious feathers,
    Even Lachlan Murdoch has a lash at the terror laws applying to journos.
    Abbott had approved Robb’s part ownership of three Sydney restaurants, one of which featured in a big tourism promo.
    Is this how Hockey is going to ensure we get our just tax receipts from multinationals? What a shocker!
    Mark Kenny with a message from Gough.

  4. Section 2 . . .

    Jonathan Holmes talks about public interest and leaks.
    Speaking of leaks . . .
    The government has refused a Royal Commission into the CBA but has agreed to set up a national register of “bad apple” financial advisors.
    Certain schools have gone backwards – just as Gonski predicted.
    Ben Eltham – Undermining the RET is a costly mistake.
    Michelle Grattan. Barnaby Joyce as a future Deputy PM. Think about it!
    Why super funds aren’t sold on infrastructure.
    The three worst things the Liberals did yesterday.
    Nick Xenophon has bought some Qantas shares so he can go to the AGM to grill Joyce and his crew.
    From yesterday’s child abuse RC hearing. It’s never any good.

  5. Section 3 . . .

    Lawyers agree Freya Newman’s actions were a low level offence.
    Napthine to be investigated over allegations of taxpayer funded political advertising.
    Spurr drops his bid to get The New Matilda to disclose the source of the emails.
    The hidden story of soldiers who returned from WW1 with venereal disease.
    Scott Morrison – a power grab? Who? Me?
    Big plans for expansion and development at Adelaide Airport.
    Alan Moir and our multi-faceted border protection.
    David Pope has really become one of our best cartoonists. This is a good example of why.
    Ron Tandberg. Gough’s gone, Tony’s here.
    Rod Clement – The cane toad is coming to NSW.
    David Rowe is back and channels Marylin Monroe.
    Rowe on Gough’s death.

  6. “…cold launch a thousand ships…”….spelling, BB..spelling…there should be a “t’ in there somewhere!

  7. ” Barnaby Joyce as a future Deputy PM. Think about it!”……Damn you BK!!…that’s torn it for the day!

  8. BK

    I haven’t read Mark Kenny yet, but it seems to me that no one seems to understand the leadership that Julia/Rudd showed with their very progressive stuff they brought in. The NBN, NDIS, GONSKI, and many other things that would have brought us right into the 21st century.

  9. “…that would have brought us right into the 21st century.”…are you kiddin’1?…not while we see Credlin and Abbott suckin’ on the one ‘soda’ with two straws!…..and w / Chrisy Pyne, fingering HIS straw, mouth all twisting in anticipation for the dregs-backwash!

  10. One day maybe J Gillard will get some praise.

    Barnaby would be my choice between him and Morrison. Though I don’t know how he is going to handle the recent animal cruelty in the news. My guess is, he’ll do nothing.

  11. Gigi’…from what I’ve seen in random moments of farm life, there is little sympathy for rough treatment of livestock…..even less for native animals.

  12. Gee Michelle Grattan is slow on the uptake. She has only just worked out that Bananaby’s move to the lower house was all about him becoming Nats leader when Truss retires. Some of us knew all about it over a year ago. Tony Windsor was onto it and warned us in May 2013.

    So what took Ms Grattan so long?

    Here’s a prediction – should Abbott win another term (God forbid!) he will promote his best mate David Gillespie, Nats rookie member for Lyne, to the ministry. Gillespie will be groomed for leadership of the Nationals. Gillespie will become a shadow minister if the Coalition lose the next election. Barnaby should watch his back, especially if Truss decides to stay for one more term.

  13. 2gravel @ 7.01
    Yes, they’re still at it aren’t they? The Meeja that is. If you can’t be negative about something Rudd & Gillard did, then ignore it, it never happened.

  14. jaycee@jaycee ‏@trulyjaycee now

    Consut’d ;Bible, Socrat’s, anc’ histry, contemp’ hist’,reasn,shakes’pr ,logic,ANYTHING!.noth’n left but bottomless pit of despair..’n Abbott

  15. Greens still trying to claim Gough. As one tweeter said, wtte, if Gough was a Green, he would have said so. He was and always will be Labor.

  16. Melbourne Races tonight at Moonee Valley. Race 5, horse 8: Cult of ISIS. It’s a five year old gelding. if I was an owner, think I’d change the name – quickly.

  17. I know what the Greens are up to – it’s marketing. According to the polls young voters are hugely supporting Labor and the Greens vote is pretty stagnant. So by pushing the ‘Gough was one of us’ lie they are hoping to win over younger voters.

    it’s blatant, it’s obvious and it is a deliberate strategy, kicked off with that thing the other day with the Greens logo attached to a photo of Gough and a line about uni fees. Opportunism, that’s what it was. Whoever manages the Greens advertising knew this would attract a lot of attention, it was a bit risky, because a lot of that attention has involved condemnation, but any attention gets the name and the message out there.

    Scum, that’s what the Greens are, conservative scum with an agenda.

  18. As predicted, The Idiot is using the Canadian shootings to ramp up his terror talk. Australians are obviously not terrified enough, so he is now busy working out potential targets. He sounds as if he really, really wants an attack. Sickening behaviour. I wish someone would tell him to STFU.

    Australian War Memorial’s Last Post a potential terror target: Tony Abbott

  19. Leonetwo
    Secretly, he does want an attack as you acutely point out. Once, it would have been a political plus. Not now.

  20. Any attack would not be on Abbott – he’s probably far too well protected. (Our tax dollars at work.) So he can feel confident he’s safe.

    I am wondering after reading some news reports, if the Canadian attack was not a ‘terrorist’ attack but more personal

  21. 2gravel,

    I think war weariness, compared with the days under Howard when we invaded. Abbott lacks the gravitas needed to bring a nation with him.

Comments are closed.