“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. Put two and two together…Margie lives by herself, Abbott lives with his mates…both devout Micks so cannot divorce..will not divorce..must make the best of it….Abbott is such a perv’, he’s gotta be mixed up with someone else on the Qt. …we suspect you know who…the MSM. know all about it, but are too “bum-slammed shut” to talk about it..but you can tell there’s something bad just by the fact that there are no excuses coming out from the Murdoch pit of putrescence….It’s gotta be all over bar the Papal Annulment !

  2. My Auntie went through this procedure..or at least tried to…she was separated from her husband for years and tried to seek annulment, with no luck..then she read where Princess Caroline of Monaco got an annulment, so believing SHE was as an equal to the princess, she promptly shot off a letter to the Pope seeking the same treatment….but of course…

  3. Billie,

    Now, I wonder (trooly rooly) who was responsible for that little bit of stiletto-turning . . .

  4. Janice,

    I imagine that since the time of Gough’s death, and the inescapable knowledge that a state memorial service would have to occur, the air of the PM’s office would have been blue with imprecations (not to mention dust from the walls).

    I also suspect that a particularly unpleasant imprecation would have been attached to FPMJG.

  5. Well who micro manages the PMs office? I am sure the protocol lackeys seating plan was overridden, or maybe the whole vipers nest just plays nasty – in their DNA from kindergarten.

  6. Billie,

    I naow, I naow . . .

    I have some acquaintance with the school she attended: its values are exemplary, as are its staff.

    In her (and their) DNA from birth, I’d say.

  7. Of course he will, Leone.

    The cameras will be rolling, Our Glorious Leader will confront the pretender, and

    ah … ah … ah … series of uncontrollable nods … ah …….

    then, with any luck, Mr Putin will utter something like “Faugh,” and walk away, carefully wiping his hands.

  8. What a stupid, big-mouthed oaf we have as PM. With a teeny, weeny bit of luck Putin might shove a sock in his gob before he walks off wiping his hands.

  9. According to Wikipedia Vladmir Putin speaks enough English to use a few phrases in a condolence speech to the Queen in 2003. Hopefully when he gets ‘shirtfronted’ by Abbott at G20 with the cameras rolling he will respond with a pithy 3 word slogan in English as he shakes Abbott’s hand before ostentasiously using handwipes.

    I am sure KGB trained operatives can outdo Liebral nastiness

  10. Looking forward to haughty and disdainful looks. I think Vlad won’t engage in much conversation with The Idiot. Or the Loyal Girl who will be sent in to do his dirty job.

  11. My Russian is up there with my Greek but Google Translate suggests “Получить чучела!”

  12. I’d like to seed Putin shove his fist into Abbott’s mouth. I bet he’s already itching to do just that.

  13. ” I (and, I suspect, Jaycee) would rather they’d say Euge!”…….oh yeah!….sure..euge..that’s right…

  14. I like it

    A Queensland farmer has carved a giant message to G20 leaders in one of his paddocks, telling them to prioritise climate change action.

    Rob McCreath ploughed “Go solar” on his land after Brisbane airport rejected a billboard calling for climate change to be added to the G20 agenda.

    He hopes world leaders will see his message and pressure the Australian government to do more about emissions and renewable energy.


  15. For the next round of website improvements,

    can we add recommendations like The Guardian uses
    if its not too hard to implement
    and other people think it adds to the quality of the conversation

  16. Putin will be thinking “decisions decisions, should I use my 6th dan black belt karate skills , 6th dan black belt judo skills or as a good Russian use my Russian martial arts Sambo or Systema on him ?”

  17. Kaffeeklatscher,

    Where does the good old left to the jaw, or the somewhat dirtier knee / foot to the groin, fit in there?

  18. my old Italian teacher related the tale of when she went to England as a young person…in Italian, the “general” rule is to pronounce every letter..so she was surprised when she was giggled at for saying how much she admired William Shak-es-p-ar-i ..

  19. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.

    Coles at it again with misleading advertising.
    All part of Kevin Andrews’ master plan?
    The consequences of Hockey’s slaughtering of the ABS.
    John Faulkner’s tribute to Gough.
    Well who would have thought? What other reason than for tax avoidance would a company operating in Australia channel its monies through places like Luxembourg?
    Even the Future Fund is playing at it!
    The more I see of Sam Dastyari the more I like his work.
    Michael Pascoe takes IKEA.s ethics apart.
    Who’s been telling fibs then?

  20. Section 2 . . .

    Surely the ethics of these business people would not countenance ripping us off!
    Here we go again!
    More problems for Essendon.
    David Lyonjhelm with some measured advice for Bill Shorten. Fair enough I guess.
    This bastard continues his abuse from the grave!
    If you are in Canberra over the next four months you should take the time to see this exhibition of Ron Meuke’s and other’s work. It is astounding!
    Greg Jericho analyses the profits of the big four banks.
    Stephen Koukoulas tells the RBA that it’s time to wake up.
    The three worst things the Liberals did yesterday.
    Ben Eltham – Why Abbott doesn’t put medical boots on the ground.
    Malcolm Fraser and Barry Jones come together to pile into the latest immigration laws. Well worth reading.
    Alan Moir puts into perspective the gutting of the ABS.
    David Pope explains international tax minimisation.
    Ron Tandberg takes us to Flemington after the big race.
    David Rowe does Mitch McConnell beautifully!

  21. Hot day coming up..: Horse troughs full?….check!…Fire pump ready?…check!..house shut up?…check!…Swimming pool up and running?..check!…Sauv’ blanc cooling in fridge? …check!……Right..ready for anything!

  22. billie11
    NDIS is to be privatised

    Not exactly.

    What is happening is state governments are flogging off the services they currently provide. This is being done as a cost-cutting exercise. Provisions in the NDIS legislation are being used to justify this.

    I can only talk about what is happening in NSW, but I assume the other states will be doing the same.
    The NSW government will sell off its suported accomodation (also known as ‘group homes’), its very important Home Care service, what remans of state-owned homes for people with severe disabilities and whatever respite care it provides.

    There is a bit of a scare campaign being run over this, with unions claiming it will all be sold to companies like Moran and Serco. What is more likely to happen is the taking over of these services by already established not-for-profit organisations who are already involved. Most disability services – there are many varieties catering for diverse needs – are run by charities, small not-for-profit groups and churches with state government funding meeting most of the costs. The rest of whatever money is needed has to be found through fund raising.

    The NDIS will not provide these services, it will be the link that ensures people get the services they need.

    Some links that might explain it all.

    The NDIS site –

    Some info on the sell-off – there’s plenty more if you want to search.


    Who knows what Abbot will do with the NDIS? It’s a very complicated set-up, only in the trial stage, and I don’t see how any private company could make money from it without massive government funding.

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