“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. Employment/unemployment figures were released yesterday. No matter what spin the government uses, no matter how they might have tried to nobble the ABS, it’s not good news.

    Peter Martin says this –

    In October and also in September only 60.5 per cent of the working age population was in a job. (Unrounded the proportion was 60.53 in October up from 60.50 in September, so if the government really wants to it can argue there has been an improvement .)

    The proportions haven’t been that low since December 2004. They were never that low at any time during the Rudd/Gillard government or at any time during the global financial crisis.

    Disturbingly, apart from a brief blip in March, the employment to population ratio has been sinking during the Tony Abbott’s entire first year in office. He was elected with an employment to population ratio of 61.1 per cent. In a year in which Australia’s working-age population has climbed by 1.9 per cent, the number of Australians with jobs has climbed just 0.9 per cent.

    The Coalition promised one million jobs in five years. In its first year in office it has delivered 105,500. In a year in which Australia’s working-age population grew 1.9 per cent, the number of Australians with jobs grew just 0.9 per cent


    Remember this, from two years ago?
    Tony Abbott, 27 November 2012 –

    Today, I am committing a future Coalition government to creating one million new jobs within five years and two million new jobs over the next decade

    And –

    Another election promise broken. It’s going to take a very long time, much longer than five years, to get that first 1 million jobs, not to mention the further million with the Abbott government doing all it can to add to the ranks of the unemployed. Don’t forget, all the manufacturing shut-downs and flow-on business closures, all the public service sackings, are still to happen.

    The rest of Abbott’s press release is a laugh. No wonder this country is facing a recession and racing towards record unemployment.

    Sixteen members of the Shadow Cabinet were ministers in the Howard Government

  2. Speaking of employment. How is Abbott’s promise to create 2 million jobs going ? Admittedly it was a fraudulent promise as natural population growth would deliver the sort of numbers promised. On the other hand we have a bunch of incompetent clowns in charge there is every chance they will screw up such a ‘tap in’ .

  3. I usually keep several windows going, even when not directly using. One or two these when idle for long periods will default to an old link I’d used. At the moment my Canberra Times window defaults to “Abbott booed at Whitlam Memorial”, which I rather enjoy.

  4. Janice
    Miss Molly is doing very well. The same cannot be said for her slave. Molly is not taking kindly to being confined to barracks, even though she always spends most of her time inside anyway.

    This morning she wanted to go out. Understandable. These cats came house-trained and, since being allowed/brave enough to come indoors have always gone outside to do what cats need to do, they have never been interested in litter trays. After a couple of hours of door scratching, pitiful meowing, an aborted escape attempt and death glares Mesma would envy I finally managed to convince Molly to use the (very expensive) new litter tray. After that much-needed relief she had a second breakfast and is now fast asleep. If she follows her usual routine she will sleep until some time this afternoon. Then we will begin the performance all over again.

    I don’t know if I can take two weeks of this. We go back to the vet’s next week for a check-up. I’m hoping she gets the all-clear to go outside then.

  5. This is fantastic!

    The story –

    More than 6 years of hard work were required to achieve this mammoth project, the A400M RC in 1/10 scale! The project started in 2004 with a core group of 6 people, with the financial backing of the CE Airbus Nantes. Never seen that required means in hardware, tool and manpower out of the ordinary. It truly is a work of art within the aeronautic engineering, many hours of work to see the success of their efforts more than excellent ensemble work, people like you make the world a wonderful place.

    This cargo aircraft made ​​of wood is exactly like a real Airbus freighter with a mass of 42 kg and a length of 4.2 m. It has 4 Hacker engines with 6 KW of power. It is remotely controlled by two operators with two remote radios. In addition, it is capable of taking off, landing, and a flight plan identical to a real Air Bus


  6. leonetwo

    Thank you for that link . It was amazing.the level of detail. I particularly liked the parachutists. And the different camera views.

    Wonder what the cost was

  7. BB wouldn’t be the only one. I know at least three family members who would kill for one of those. Wouldn’t mind one myself.

    I have an idea –

    Instead of mini paratroopers you could have mini Abbotts and Murdochs and they could be shoved out with faulty parachutes. That could be very cathartic.

  8. All those years struggling to get Darling Daughter’s fine hair into pony tails and buns for ballet – why didn’t someone tell me I could have used the vacuum cleaner.

    I don’t think that trick would be safe with a Dyson. Those things would leave a bald head.

  9. l2

    Fond memories of a single father dealing with precious Ms hair for around a decade and a half.

  10. The cost is probably immaterial as the parts were probably taken out of Airbus stores and the model assembled on Airbus premises with the proud approval of the bosses.

    It was possibly built by the aircraft model making apprentices

  11. Please don’t think I am mocking that model or the skill and technical know-how that went into its manufacture – just envious that Australia has probably lost that skill-set

  12. from Lizzie @ pollbludger

    During the hearing, Liberal senator Cory Bernardi sparked anger from Greens senator Larissa Waters when he told representatives of the state’s oldest women’s refuge they were not “experts” and there were times it was appropriate for a man to put his partner in a headlock.

    Women’s House Shelta’s Barbara Crossing told the hearing a man had a protection order taken out against his partner using evidence she bit him under the arm.

    Ms Crossing, a support worker since 1991, said the injury could only have been caused by the man having the woman in a headlock.

    Senator Bernardi said police considered headlocks an “appropriate means of deferring an aggressor” and Ms Crossing was second-guessing the police who were the “experts”.

    Senator Waters said Ms Crossing was the expert and a headlock was an example of domestic violence.


  13. Billie,

    Bernardi probably believes that, deep down, the little woman really enjoys a bit of rough and tumble.

  14. Our Niemöller moment?

    The legislation is the perverse creation of a Government prepared to tear up the rule of law for its own political ends. It bestows an unprecedented level of power on the immigration minister to make life and death decisions about individual refugee cases. It creates a regime where the chance of sending people back to a situation of grave danger, or even death, is a real possibility.

    It denies permanent protection to those found to be refugees, simply because of their mode of arrival to this country. Even babies born on Australian soil to parents who arrived by boat will be denied protection, rendered stateless and detained offshore until being “resettled” in squalor and risk of attack on Nauru. We should rightly ask, if the government is prepared to be so cruel and give itself this much unchecked power over refugees, who’s next?


  15. We’ve all been saying this for a year now. it’s good to see we are not the only ones, even if others have been slow on the up-take. Paywalled, I couldn’t decide what to leave out so I’ll have to quote it all.

    ‘Ditch toxic Tony!’ — and other headlines you’ll never read

    If a Labor government had performed as poorly as this one, its media coverage would be very different.

    Let’s try a thought experiment: imagine the Rudd government had, within a few short months of being elected, fallen significantly behind Brendan Nelson’s opposition in the polls; imagine that it had produced a budget universally panned as unfair, one that it struggled to get through the Senate, that Cabinet was leaking like a sieve without any wire mesh, that treasurer Wayne Swan had made repeated gaffes and been forced to apologise and was widely regarded as a growing liability, that corruption in the NSW Labor Party had forced a Labor minister to stand aside within months of being sworn in, that Kevin Rudd had consistently negative personal ratings and at times fell behind Nelson as preferred PM, that Rudd was so unpopular, state Labor leaders preferred he kept away from them during their election campaigns, that Labor had announced it was doubling the budget deficit, and if it was reliant on a political freak show of independent and minor party senators to secure passage of its bills.

    And imagine if the Rudd government had resorted to national security in an effort to take the focus off its domestic woes, and it had failed to restore its fortunes, leaving it still trailing the Coalition?

    Now imagine how all that would have been reported — and not just by the Coalition cheerleaders at News Corp, but by the entire media? You wouldn’t have been able to click on a news website without seeing “debacle”, “crisis”, “fiasco” and “Whitlamesque” in every political story.

    It’s true that in some areas, Labor gets the benefit of the doubt from the media — for example, journalists are hyper-sensitive to any statement from Tony Abbott regarding gender issues, in a way that they aren’t for Labor or other figures — witness the relatively mild criticism Clive Palmer drew for his personal smear of Peta Credlin, versus the likely reaction if Abbott had said something similar about an opponent’s childlessness. But it’s impossible to imagine that, if Labor were in a similar position a little over a year into its first term to what the Coalition is in now, the media atmosphere would not be far more febrile.

    And it would be more febrile still if a minor party and key swing-vote senator had gone rogue and declared she wouldn’t pass any government legislation unless her demands were met, as Tasmanian PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie threatened today (imagine if she’d been a Greens senator!). “Labor hostage to rogue senator,” the headlines would have screamed. Lambie has, right from her election, looked the most likely PUP candidate to go off the reservation — indeed, the PUP is now marked more by people leaving its ranks than joining them, as Clive Palmer’s electoral popularity begins to slide. Now she threatens the government’s legislative agenda just when it has worked out a way to deal with Palmer himself.

    This week continued the run of bad news for the government. Someone in cabinet leaked not once but twice — first on Monday to Phil Coorey on how Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb had (correctly) argued in favour of joining the Chinese-led development bank, only to be headed off by Abbott and Bishop — and then to Dennis Shanahan on Abbott telling his ministers to get their act together and stop jockeying (geddit?) for position. Despite the government going full kitchen sink on national security, Newspoll showed a worsening in its position — indeed the result was so bad it was consigned to page 2 of The Australian. Hockey produced another trademark howler, on tertiary education. The issue of jailing journalists over revealing Special Intelligence Operations continues to dog the government.

    As has been the usual case this year, international matters will be a welcome distraction for the government, with APEC in Beijing next week, followed by the G20 meetings in Fortress Brisbane, allowing Abbott to mingle with world leaders and keep the focus off his government’s domestic woes — although hopefully without discussions straying onto climate change. Even then, however, Abbott has made life unnecessarily difficult for himself with his “shirt-front” rhetoric about Vladimir Putin, which voters thoroughly enjoyed but which requires some form of follow-through beyond a post-meeting “we had a robust exchange of views”. What are the odds Abbott seeks to manufacture a Lathamesque handshake with the Russian kleptocrat in front of the cameras?

    Then again, Kevin Rudd’s and Julia Gillard’s international performances were subjected to similar microscopic examination by the media, with every stumble, literal or otherwise, endlessly analysed. Let’s see if Abbott’s performance over the next 10 days gets similar scrutiny


  16. Fiona that article actually says

    Would we have expected people fleeing Nazi Germany to obtain travel documents from Hitler? Would we punish them for using a friend’s passport to clear the border and escape the concentration camps?

    and I think to Australia’s shame in 1938 we refused to allow Jews to migrate to Australia and set up a colony in the Kimberleys

  17. “…set up a colony in the Kimberleys”….But that would mean a military invasion of the Princedom of ..Victoria River Downs !!

  18. Like this…

    Shirley was quite old when I met her by accident, dropping in for a cool beer to the saloon bar on the corner of Jetty Rd. and The Esplanade there by the Brighton jetty. She had that sharp, dry wit of an experienced woman that could cheer highly or cut deeply depending on the occasion or the person…I used to go to the TAB. , drop a few bets and then listen to the races there on a quiet day when things weren’t busy…I remember I was there at the bar one day…while Shirley was wiping the bottles in the fridge and this too obvious “high-camp” chap rushes in and buys several tins of UDL. pre-mix and then just as quickly rushed out…
    “What do you make of THAT?” I casually commented. Shirley just leant on the bartop staring blankly out at the chap crossing the road.
    “What’s TO make of it? …these days, what with the surgery they do, a couple of clips and snips and bango!..Bob’s your aunty”….she swished the cleaning cloth at an idle fly and went back to work. I could imagine her getting home and the old man asking her how the day went.. “Oh..the usual…five drunks, three proposals, two-on-a-promise and too few tips!” But she was sensitive to the dark soul…I.ve seen a bloke come in to the bar..a local…not looking good (and you’d bet Shirley’d know the problem), order a beer, put some coins on the mat and Shirley put her finger on the coin and pushed it back into the pile with a knowing wink…it doesn’t take a grand gesture to prop a fellah up…a good soul was Shirley.

  19. Your Government was born with a particular vile form of Cretinism. One should be grateful, I suppose, that its parents, News Limited, are looking after it very tenderly.

  20. ctar1

    I wish I knew about the pony tail trick when I was 12. I suppose I could try now if I tied my hair into a pony tail but it would only be about 5cm long …

  21. re – Gough

    OH spoke to a nurse today. She said that a number of doctors were appreciative of Gough. And she – the nurse – said “We wouldn’t have a job around here if it hadn’t been for Gough.” Nice.

  22. I even considered the idea if you could make a fitting that could go on the head of a pimple…but then you’d lose the thrill of the “long-distance-shot” onto the mirror..my record’s about one foot…what’s yours ?

  23. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/07/g20-australia-resists-international-call-supporting-climate-change-fund

    Lenore Taylor reports that the draft communique for G20 currently reads:

    The text that has so far made it through the G20’s closed-door, consensus-driven process is very general, and reads as follows:

    “We support strong and effective action to address climate change, consistent with sustainable economic growth and certainty for business and investment. We reaffirm our resolve to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that is applicable to all parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015.”

    Well providing sustainable economic growth and certainty for business and investment is going well isn’t it Tony with SMH reporting that business confidence is down and Peter Martin reporting that workforce participation rate has fallen.

  24. I just rang Dymocks and found out about the JG book signing on 24 December. They are not issuing tickets as such, but I ordered a book for the night, and gave them my name to make sure I get a spot. I might have to sleep on the cheap chinese bricks they used to replace the good Adelaide Hills bricks (even if the life of the imported bricks is declared to be half that of Adelaide Bricks,) to be first in line. 😆

  25. Super hot…trapped inside at the computer…a bit quiet today…..might go check the ice cubes..

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