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. 2gravel – My theory on that is that the ‘impact’ of a terror attack is largely lost. It’s only when at attack comes completely out of the blue that it can have a galvanising effect for a sitting government. When people are shocked and can’t believe such a thing could happen, they turn to their leaders to help explain and respond.

    But we have a situation now where Abbott has talked terror for so long it sounds as if he’s actually willing it to happen. He can’t escape the implication that he’d be in some way responsible for a terror attack – especially his most recent lunatic act of naming potential sites. What sort of madman does that? So if it does happen, he’ll have a hard sell ahead of him, convincing a sceptical public that he’s done everything he could to avoid it and that he’s the man to deal with it.

    The only thing I could see coming out of that is more disaffection regarding our press – they’ll be talking him up like mad, totally at cross-angles to public sentiment. It’ll just cause more confusion and anger.

  2. Re the Greens and Gough – yeah, I’ve been watching that one unfold. Those Greens are pretty shameless, aren’t they? Their main aim – always – is to foster ill sentiment against the current ALP, because that’s where all the juicy votes are. Misrepresenting a man whose body is still warm, and appropriating his legacy to argue his support for something he never expressed support for while alive, is par for the course for them – disgusting, but no more disgusting than a lot of things they do. Long on rhetoric, short on brains and morals, that the Greens all over.

    What it boils down to is this: when a major policy restructure is required, it takes an ALP government to do it, and in that respect Gough’s spiritual mates are Hawke/Keating and Gillard (with a bit of Rudd). The ALP actually do stuff, when given the chance. The Greens are all about wishes and dreams; they can’t even rouse themselves to make a practical difference when presented with clear opportunities to do so. They’ve been given a few recently, and they preferred to play politics.

  3. A conspiracy theory.

    No-one knows why someone opened fire in Canada’s parliament the other day. The man is dead – isn’t that convenient. There have been some other ‘terrorist attacks’ recently. Those who carried them out, the only ones who could tell us why they did what they did are also conveniently dead.

    This week’s shooter is said to have recently converted to Islam and had wanted to travel to Syria. How do we know that is true? There is evidence that he had a troubled past and he had a criminal record, but there is no evidence he was a jihadi. For all we know he was just a nutter with a gun. The possibility of him being a separatist can’t be discounted, no matter how unlikely that seems.

    But – it suits the Canadian government to talk up terrorism, just as it suits Abbott to do the same thing. The truth be hanged. It suited Abbott to ramp up his terrorism fetish after that unfortunate shooting in Melbourne a month ago. That shooter, too, is conveniently dead and cannot tell us what his intentions really were.

    I can see a lot more of this sort of thing happening. Every time some unstable individual decides for reasons known only to himself/herself to attack a police officer or a politician or an ordinary person in the street we will be told it was an act of terrorism, even if it was not, and every time, the perpetrator will be gunned down so they can’t tell us what their real problem was. We will be told again and again that our government has been working hard to ‘protect’ us, has had these people under surveillance, we will hear about conversions to Islam and planned trips to the Middle East, we will have no way of knowing if any of these allegations are true but we will be expected to believe every weasel word.

  4. Terrorism very much a complicated idea. Spasmodic and just out of the blue.

    I was sitting in an office in February 1991 when the Provisional IRA lobbed 3 mortars at Downing St from a Hi-Ace type van with a big cut-out in the roof.

    Two fizzled on the FCO lawn. The other landed in the back garden of Ten Downing St.

    My room (in 70 Whitehall) faced it and had been fitted with ‘chain curtains’ (not of the decorative type).

    I ended up with ringing ears, some glass fragments picked out, and needing a taxi to get home.

    It did something to me – Never walk in the dark. Without the visual you’ll fall.

    I should have sued.

  5. Fair bit of news in this ZDNet email. Will post relevant paras:

    “NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow is still optimistic that the company will wrap up negotiations with Telstra over access to its copper lines for fibre to the node before the end of 2014. . . .

    “The renegotiations of the AU$11 billion deal with Telstra to allow NBN Co to instead access Telstra’s copper lines and hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network as part of NBN Co’s new multi-technology mix model that moves away from fibre to the premises was originally expected to be finished by the middle of 2014. Telstra CEO David Thodey recently reportedly said that the negotiations could extend beyond this year, but Morrow said it is likely to be finished before then. [I reckon I will believe Thodey–Ed]

    “. . . .The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and government approval would, however, extend into 2015. [Reckon closer to 2016 by the time it is all done, going by the original negotiations–Ed.]

    “. . . .ZDNet understands that a deal between Optus and NBN Co to hand over Optus’ HFC network has been all but completed, but NBN Co and the government will wait for the Telstra deal to be finalised before signing off on it. Morrow confirmed that the two deals would be finalised at the same time.

    “”The Optus one is a little more straightforward, but the two are going to want them done at the same time, where if it was just Optus, I expect it would be done sooner.”

    “NBN Co is also creating a separate HFC division in the company to allow it to consider how to integrate the existing assets into the NBN rollout, Morrow said.

    “”It is an intricate task, and has many different processes from fibre to the node,” Morrow said. [So NBN Co wastes time and money on not one but TWO outdated technologies, yee gods and little fishes–Ed]

    “. . . .In NBN Co’s first-quarter results released today, the company said that the number of premises able to order a service on the NBN grew by 16 percent to 640,000, with 267,000 active services on the network and a 32 percent growth in revenue to AU$29 million.

    “Morrow added that NBN Co has an obligation from the government to ensure that 90 percent of premises in the fixed-line footprint have access to a minimum of 50Mbps down, and that no premises will get less than 25Mbps download speeds. [BS, over real existing copper speeds wil s*u*c*k* and suck mightily–Ed.]

    “”We’re working through all of those issues and trying to understand just how many homes will fall below that 50Mbps and below the 25Mbps, and what alternative solutions we’re going to be able to provide to them,” he said.” [FFS, just roll out fucking FTTH, it is looking like the quick and cheap as well as faster option now–Ed.]

    Comments worth reading, as always.

    Re the new agreement:
    1. Who pays to maintain the crap copper?

    2. Will Telstra still be structurally separated? Maybe not or negotiations would take longer. Token effort at it I bet.

    3. Will subscribers unlucky enough to be on FTTN garbage still have to pay line rental to Telstra every month?

    What a dogs breakfast of a comms system. What a betrayal of Australia and Australians!

    For completeness sake (and the superb comments) same story on ITNews:,nbn-co-expects-telstra-deal-to-be-signed-by-christmas.aspx

    For stories I don’t post here for whatever reason:
    (Maybe my page could be added to the Blogroll here?)

  6. Happy United Nations Day, everyone.

    There was a lot of consternation about this on 2GB today. Enraged callers phoning in to demand the UN flag be taken down from Admiralty House in Sydney (Governor-General’s residence), Illuminati Nuts and all the rest.

    Apparently it was flying ABOVE the Australian flag. It was Bogans On Parade as the crankies rang, one-by-one.

    2GB did not know it was UN Day. Fortunately I couldn’t wait for the denouement, so didn’t hear the sound of air esacping from the bloviating gasbags that comprise the “2GB Team” of shock jocks, when they found out the truth.

  7. I should have sued.

    My younger brother lost an eye due to a workplace accident. He never sued – he was only 17 – and never received compensation.

  8. gigi

    My younger brother lost an eye due to a workplace accident.

    He should have had lunch on them.

    My only problem is to turn the lights on first.

Comments are closed.