“An imperfect Giant went by. We’re better for it.”

CTar’s comment.

Puffy’s suggestion.

I will add links as they become available. However, the thread starter consists of Noel Pearson’s eulogy, which will resonate down the years.

Thank you, Noel.

And vale to the old man.

(Image Credit: Daniel Munoz; Fairfax)

Paul Keating said the reward for public life is public progress.

For one born estranged from the nation’s citizenship, into a humble family of a marginal people striving in the teeth of poverty and discrimination, today it is assuredly no longer the case.

This because of the equalities of opportunities afforded by the Whitlam program.

Raised next to the wood heap of the nation’s democracy, bequeathed no allegiance to any political party, I speak to this old man’s legacy with no partisan brief.

Rather, my signal honour today on behalf of more people than I could ever know, is to express our immense gratitude for the public service of this old man.

I once took him on a tour to my village and we spoke about the history of the mission and my youth under the Government of his nemesis, Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

My home was an Aboriginal reserve under a succession of Queensland laws commencing in 1897.

These laws were notoriously discriminatory and the bureaucratic apparatus controlling the reserves maintained vigil over the smallest details concerning its charges.

Superintendents held vast powers and a cold and capricious bureaucracy presided over this system for too long in the 20th century.

In June 1975, the Whitlam Government enacted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Queensland Discrimatory Laws Act.

The law put to purpose the power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the 1967 referendum, finally outlawing the discrimination my father and his father lived under since my grandfather was removed to the mission as a boy and to which I was subject the first 10 years of my life.

Powers regulating residency on reserves without a permit, the power of reserve managers to enter private premises without the consent of the householder, legal representation and appeal from court decisions, the power of reserve managers to arbitrarily direct people to work, and the terms and conditions of employment, were now required to treat Aboriginal Queenslanders on the same footing as other Australians.

We were at last free from those discriminations that humiliated and degraded our people.

The companion to this enactment, which would form the architecture of indigenous human rights akin to the Civil Rights Act 1965 in the United States, was the Racial Discrimination Act.

It was in Queensland under Bjelke-Petersen that its importance became clear.

In 1976 a Wik man from Aurukun on the western Cape York Peninsula, John Koowarta, sought to purchase the Archer Bend pastoral lease from its white owner.

The Queensland Government refused the sale. The High Court’s decision in Koowarta versus Bjelke-Petersen upheld the Racial Discrimination Act as a valid exercise of the external affairs powers of the Commonwealth.

However, in an act of spite, the Queensland Government converted the lease into the Acher Bend National Park.

Old man Koowarta died a broken man, the winner of a landmark High Court precedent but the victim of an appalling discrimination.

The Racial Discrimination Act was again crucial in 1982 when a group of Murray Islanders led by Eddie Mabo claimed title under the common law to their traditional homelands in the Torres Strait.

In 1985 Bjelke-Petersen sought to kill the Murray Islanders’ case by enacting a retrospective extinguishment of any such title.

There was no political or media uproar against Bjelke-Petersen’s law. There was no public condemnation of the state’s manuover. There was no redress anywhere in the democratic forums or procedures of the state or the nation.

If there were no Racial Discrimination Act that would have been the end of it. Land rights would have been dead, there would never have been a Mabo case in 1992, there would have been no Native Title Act under Prime Minister Keating in 1993.

Without this old man the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day.

There would never have been Mabo and its importance to the history of Australia would have been lost without the Whitlam program.

Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil.

Only those who have never experienced prejudice can discount the importance of the Racial Discrimination Act.

This old man was one of those rare people who never suffered discrimination but understood the importance of protection from its malice.

On this day we will recall the repossession of the Gurindji of Wave Hill, when the Prime Minister said, “Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof in Australian law that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands this piece of earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever.”

It was this old man’s initiative with the Woodward Royal Commission that led to Prime Minister Fraser’s enactment of the Aboriginal Land Rights Northern Territory Act, legislation that would see more than half of the territory restored to its traditional owners.

Of course recalling the Whitlam Government’s legacy has been, for the past four decades since the dismissal, a fraught and partisan business.

Assessments of those three highly charged years and their aftermath divide between the nostalgia and fierce pride of the faithful, and the equally vociferous opinion that the Whitlam years represented the nadir of national government in Australia. Let me venture a perspective.

The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management.

In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government.

The country would change forever. The modern cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a technicolour butterfly from its long dormant chrysalis.

And 38 years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding “and what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?”

Apart from Medibank and the Trade Practices Act, cutting tariff protections and no-fault divorce in the Family Law Act, the Australia Council, the Federal Court, the Order of Australia, federal legal aid, the Racial Discrimination Act, needs-based schools funding, the recognition of China, the abolition of conscription, the law reform commission, student financial assistance, the Heritage Commission, non-discriminatory immigration rules, community health clinics, Aboriginal land rights, paid maternity leave for public servants, lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years and fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the territories.

Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?

And the Prime Minister with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth, in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers.

There is no need for nostalgia and yearning for what might have been.

The achievements of this old man are present in the institutions we today take for granted and played no small part in the progress of modern Australia.

There is no need to regret three years was too short. Was any more time needed? The breadth and depth of the reforms secured in that short and tumultuous period were unprecedented, and will likely never again be repeated.

The devil-may-care attitude to management as opposed to reform is unlikely to be seen again by governments whose priorities are to retain power rather than reform.

The Whitlam program as laid out in the 1972 election platform consisted three objectives: to promote equality, to involve the people of Australia in the decision-making processes of our land, and to liberate the talents and uplift the horizons of the Australian people.

This program is as fresh as it was when first conceived. It scarcely could be better articulated today.

Who would not say the vitality of our democracy is a proper mission of government and should not be renewed and invigorated.

Who can say that liberating the talents and uplifting the horizons of Australians is not a worthy charter for national leadership?

It remains to mention the idea of promoting equality. My chances in this nation were a result of the Whitlam program. My grandparents and parents could never have imagined the doors that opened to me which were closed to them.

I share this consciousness with millions of my fellow Australians whose experiences speak in some way or another to the great power of distributed opportunity.

I don’t know why someone with this old man’s upper middle class background could carry such a burning conviction that the barriers of class and race of the Australia of his upbringing and maturation should be torn down and replaced with the unapologetic principle of equality.

I can scarcely point to any white Australian political leader of his vintage and of generations following of whom it could be said without a shadow of doubt, he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body.

This was more than urbane liberalism disguising human equivocation and private failings; it was a modernity that was so before its time as to be utterly anachronistic.

For people like me who had no chance if left to the means of our families we could not be more indebted to this old man’s foresight and moral vision for universal opportunity.

Only those born bereft truly know the power of opportunity. Only those accustomed to its consolations can deprecate a public life dedicated to its furtherance and renewal. This old man never wanted opportunity himself but he possessed the keenest conviction in its importance.

For it behoves the good society through its government to ensure everyone has chance and opportunity.

This is where the policy convictions of Prime Minister Whitlam were so germane to the uplift of many millions of Australians.

We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people.

When he breathed he truly was Australia’s greatest white elder and friend without peer of the original Australians.

(Image Credit: Art Gallery New South Wales)

I shall never see his like again.

(Image Credit: New South Wales Government)

262 thoughts on ““An imperfect Giant went by. We’re better for it.”

  1. So where was Margie Abbott yesterday? There has been no mention of her absence by the MSM, but it was noticed on social media.

    Tamie Fraser and Janette Howard turned up. Annita van Iersel, as she is now known, not only came with but sat beside her former husband. None of these women absolutely had to turn up, but they did, to show their respect for a great man and to support his family, the decent, graceful thing to do. And yet Margie just could not be bothered.

    The spouse of a prime minister has duties to perform, even if they may be distasteful to her/him. We pay a fortune to allow Margie to live full time at Kirribilli House so she can keep up the pretence of managing a (very small) childcare centre part-time. The least she could do in return is get out of bed and attend a memorial service.

  2. I now have a ticket to see Julia in Wollongong next Monday , and am hoping to get my book signed. I’m in love

  3. Didn’t follow it too closely, Ctar1, but I thought Al had some mafia connections. MSM of course, and we have now learned not to put too much credence in them . Was he set up, ah la Thomson? My own (very limited) knowledge of him and one staffer was that both were OK as people, but no info on their dealings.

    Gough, Murphy, Cairns and Connor all got dragged into that Danny Sankey attempt at a private prosecution on a “…conspiracy to deceive the Governor-General”. Fishing expedition is about the most charitable spin you could put on it. Bob Ellicott stretched it out for a while by stalling on whether Commonwealth would cover the costs. Came to nought as far as I can recall, but might have shortened old Rex Connor’s life.

  4. Fiona

    He would be seething knowing he will never get a send off like that.
    Then again in his tiny mind he probably thinks that he is loved by all and will be made a saint.

  5. I’ve been thinking about the “this old man” stuff in Noel Pearson’s speech and I reckon I’ve finally twigged. Note that he never said “Gough”. He did said Whitlam a few times though, when referring to the government or the program. Apologies if I’m pointing out the bleeding obvious to everyone else.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_avoidance_practices

    Avoidance of naming the dead

    Traditionally, this meant avoiding referring to the dead person by name directly after their death as a mark of respect – and also because it is considered too painful for the grieving family. Today the practice continues in many communities, but has also come to encompass avoiding the publication or dissemination of photography or film footage of the deceased person as well. (The 2008 film ‘Australia’, like many Australian television programs, includes a title card warning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to ‘use caution viewing this film, as it may contain images or voices of dead persons,’ presumably out of respect for the cultural beliefs of said viewers.)

    The avoidance period may last anywhere from 12 months to several years. The person can still be referred to in a roundabout way, such as, “that old lady”, or by their generic skin name, but not by first name.

  6. Yes Noel Pearson’s speech is still spooky a day after I heard it. Eerie to hear him use aboriginal custom and not name the dead but refer to “that old man”. The plight of Queensland aborigines was desperate – I remember in 1972 white people could not go to Weipa, actually anywhere north of Cairns, without a permit. Nor could white people travel through northern part of South Australia without a permit.

    But I thought Cate Blanchard’s speech spoke most eloquently to me as she described the social and cultural changes implemented by the Whitlam government which have governed all of my adult life. In my first graduate job I saw the Medibank computer being installed. Under the Hawke government I worked on Medicare. I am very proud of the social worth of the work I did in Canberra.

  7. Mordor Press has given up on the Libs in Napthine land. Main front page article in the deadwood GG was shouting something about “corruption” involving the Libs in Napthine land. Didn’t bother to stop and read what it was all about.

  8. But then again…we (the WHOLE of Australia) all know he rode in on the Murdoch and MSM. bullshit !…A totally undeserving little shit!

  9. Watching the footage of JG’s arrival at Gough’s Memorial Service, I think there was a nasty attempt (from the PM’s office) to seat her beside the traitorous Rudd – or am I being cynical? Tammy Fraser was immediately on her feet to the rescue and I wonder if the ‘talk’ between the abbott and Hawke soon after may have been about a certain grubby tactic.

  10. They showed at least two close-ups of Rudd the Rat. He didn’t look happy. 😎 and πŸ˜†

  11. Rudd had a very cool reception, then he had to endure the standing ovation for JG. No wonder he looked grumpy.

    Speaking of Rudd – Therese Rein was notably absent yesterday. She seems to be living in London now. It looks like all those rumours before the election about a spilt-up with Ms Rein moving to London might have been true,

    And there’s this gossip. from Crikey’s Tips and Rumours, about the booing and about Peta.

    β€œWe who were standing outside Sydney Town Hall booing the current Prime Minister were those who had not been able to get an invitation or ticket or permit from his Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. We were the rejects, the outcasts. We had no obligation to conform. The image I took away was Peta Credlin standing on the front steps of Sydney Town Hall, moments from the start of the State Memorial Service, shouting into her phone, commanding the waves of Sydney traffic to part so that the Prime Minister could make it to the event on time.”


  12. I’m becoming highly amused at all the blather about the “rudeness” of those ungracious people outside the Sydney Town Hall yesterday who had the temerity to actually boo Mr Howard and Mr Abbott. My, some folk are becoming prissy and bowdlerish!
    One of the things that has always amused me about Australians is the tendency to NOT be prissy about things. Polite yes, but if bullsh!t needs to be called, rely on an Australian to do it justice πŸ˜‰

    I am reminded that the more restrained people in Victorian times were, the greater the likelihood that some nasty hanky-panky was going on somewhere, and that a lot of innocent middle- and upper- class ladies of otherwise impeccable reputation were dying of syphilis obtained from their husbands – who presented an incredible proper and prissy front.
    Much like the clean porcelain of the current LNP, which decreasingly covers the stench of their other behaviours.

    Would anyone notice that I am occasionally quite angry about the current government’s behaviour?

  13. Cats!

    Miss Molly, the small, black, adorable moggie, has returned home after a very big operation to remove cysts and two nights recovering at the vet’s. They love her, she was the model of moggie perfection while she is there. The very expensive op was a serious one and she has a huge scar down her tummy, with a zillion stitches. She is supposed to be in a fragile condition. She doesn’t think so.

    I am ordered to keep her inside for two weeks. So what happens? We get home and within 10 minutes this cat, who has always refused to even try to use the cat flap, no matter what, has let herself outside. I KNOW one of the other cats – Nicki, small grey brat – helped her because I could hear Nicki going in – and out -and in – and out. Miss Molly was retrieved within minutes and the cat flap is now blocked. All cats are sulking, one because she isn’t allowed out, two because they can’t let themselves in and out. Copious amounts of Felix imported French rabbit in jelly have been handed out as bribes.

    One good thing – Miss Molly happily ate her pain relief medicine hidden in her dinner. She spat her anti-biotic pill back at me. I’m going to try hiding that in her next snack. The bill for imported French cat food is going to go up astronomically over the next two weeks.

  14. At the time I noted the kerfuffle at Julia Gillard’s arrival at her seat. Tamie in the best hostess traditions jumped up to engage Julia in conversation whilst the seating was reorganised. Then, when we saw Hawke telling Abbott something, I was sure that the mean vindictive, petty bullying monster had seated Gillard next to her nemesis. I don’t think Hawke is too steady on his pegs these days – look at the way Blanche supported him up the stairs – and how Blanche’s son supervised his cooking on Kitchen Cabinet – so for him to confront Abbott without Blanche to steady him – he was pretty fired up.

    Who was that ghoulish lady 2 rows back enjoying the altercation – brunette wearing glasses and pearls, just in front of Chloe Shorten and Julia Gillard.

  15. I bet the protocol officers from all the G20 countries are demanded a preview of the arrangements to ensure their leader and their country’s interests aren’t damaged by such mean, petty, vindictive rudeness

  16. I seem to remember a crowd outside Parliament House booing and waving ‘Ditch the Witch ‘ and ‘Bob Brown’s Bitch’ signs. There were no protests from the Liberals about bad behaviour back then.

    Prissy Chrissy Pyne was leading the whinging about booing yesterday. What a hypocrite. Remember this?

    It was raining heavily in Canberra on Wednesday so, after question time, Julia Gillard walked the corridors back to her office rather than cut across a courtyard as she usually does.

    As she strolled past opposition MPs’ offices, Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey, like two schoolyard ne’er-do-wells, trailed about 10 paces behind, heckling. Hockey was bellowing the Engelbert Humperdinck lyrics: “Please release me, let me go, ’cause I don’t love you any more …” Pyne, doing his best to affect a menacing gravitas, was taunting repeatedly: “You’re drowning Julia, not waving, you’re drowning.”

    By any measure, it was disrespectful behaviour towards a prime minister but Gillard, whose government has plumbed record depths in unpopularity, is getting used to such treatment and ignored her tormenters


  17. I find it very hard to understand such hate and spite so when I see it being enacted by people who’ve somehow managed to mask it when seeking the votes of unsuspecting people out in voterland, I tend to question whether it is my own bias or cynicism that is playing out. So, it is pleasing to know that it is not an overactive imagination.

  18. billie11
    The defence chiefs and their wives were sitting behind Abbott, The woman you refer too is probably a wife of one of them. When you look at video shots it becomes clear.

  19. Boo the bastard!…he deserves no respect at all…traitors ..the MSM. and all of those miserable LNP. hyenas!

  20. Curioz

    Many of us here know exactly how you feel. I have to refrain from posting a lot and all I want to do is swear, and not in a pretty way, about this government.

  21. Woolridge eh, remember the MRI scanner scam ?

    MRI radiologists linked to Wooldridge election fund-raisers: Labor

    In the May Budget that year, the Government brought magnetic resonance imaging scans, or MRIs, under the Medicare rebate scheme for the first time.

    Coincidentally, there was a rush of orders for the MRIs in the few months before Budget night.


  22. Leone,
    From the 9 News article you linked:

    There were loud boos from the crowds outside Sydney Town Hall for Prime Minister Tony Abbott as he arrived with wife Maggie.

    Not only has Mrs Abbott apparently changed her name, but she must be invisible. The video in that article, showing Howard, Abbott and FPMJG arriving, showed NO SIGN of Maggie or Margie Abbott.

  23. Interesting … That 9news article reports that Mr Abbott turned up with his wife Margie. I did not see Mrs Abbott, nor did she sit next to Mr Abbott, which she would have done by protocol if she had been there!
    *suppressed grin*

    Just goes to show the effect that social media can have on the fictions of the MSM *snorts*

  24. ajcanberra
    There was no Margie yesterday. I’ve been raving on about her not being there. History being re-written already?

  25. Wooldridge was a bad boy last year

    A Federal Court has found the directors behind failed nursing home empire Prime Trust, including former federal health minister Michael Wooldridge, breached their corporate duties by overseeing a $33 million fee to the trust’s founder.


    Includes a photo of the man. Seems he’s been enjoying the good life.

  26. In the videos we see Abbott climbing the steps with some woman – not Margie. She was probably an aide escorting him inside. There were female persons doing that duty for the VIPs.

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