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Archives for 2002

The Relevance Of The Whitlam Government Today

This is the text of the keynote speech given by Gough Whitlam at a conference held by the National Key Centre for Australian Studies and the Parliamentary Studies Unit, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Arts, Monash University.

Keynote Address by the Hon E.G. Whitlam AC QC

Thirty Years Later: the Whitlam Government as Modernist Politics

Old Parliament House, Canberra


Throughout my public life, I have tried to apply an overarching principle and a unifying theme to all my work. It can be stated in two words: contemporary relevance. It was the fundamental test I applied, in particular, to the development of Labor policy in the years before 2 December 1972. There is a case to be argued that my Government faltered whenever we lost sight of the principle or allowed the rush of events to subsume it. However that may be, contemporary relevance is certainly the thread of my remarks today, albeit in the way described by Winston Churchill in the preface to his World Crisis: “a contribution to history strung upon a fairly strong thread of personal reminiscence.”

We meet under the auspices of the Faculty of Arts in Monash University and, more specifically, the National Key Centre for Australian Studies and the Parliamentary Studies Unit of the School of Political and Social Inquiry. The Conference title is Thirty Years Later – the Whitlam Government as Modernist Politics. The auspices, the title and the distinguished speakers listed to follow me over the next two days guarantee that this will be no exercise in mere nostalgia, however powerful the associations of this anniversary and this building may be for us all. [Read more…]

Whitlam In His Own Words

SBS Television has broadcast a significant interview with Gough Whitlam.

The interview, conducted by the ALP Senate Leader, John Faulkner, was an 84-minute production culled from over 20 hours of discussion conducted over 3 days.

The interview came on the eve of three anniversaries: [Read more…]

Whitlam Says Kerr Needed Frequent Drying Out

On the verge of celebrating the 30th anniversary of his election as Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam has given an interview to the ALP Senate leader, John Faulkner, in which he says that he would never have appointed Sir John Kerr as Governor-General had he known of Kerr’s drinking problem.

Whitlam also defended his government’s economic record, pointing out that unemployment and interest rates were lower under his government than under Hawke’s or Keating’s.

The interview will be shown on SBS television.

This is the text of the article in The Australian newspaper:

Gough’s genius was economic, too

By Mike Steketee, National affairs editor

Never one to be modest about his achievements, Gough Whitlam’s latest boast is that he was a better economic manager than Labor successors Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

That will come as a surprise to many who remember economic policy was a disaster under the government Mr Whitlam led between 1972 and 1975.

But, says the 86-year-old – despite the readiness of Mr Hawke and Mr Keating to criticise him – unemployment, interest rates and the budget deficit were all lower in his time. [Read more…]

Birthday Boy Proposes Major ALP Reforms

The former Labor Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, who turns 86 today, has proposed major internal reform for the ALP, including rank-and-file election of national conference delegates.

Gough WhitlamThe man responsible for fundamental internal reform of the ALP in the 1960s and 1970s, a campaign that saw him nearly expelled from the party, says the changes are needed to overcome the “friction of the factions”.

Whitlam, whose three-year term as Prime Minister ended with a vice-regal dismissal on November 11, 1975, calls for the ALP’s National Conference delegates to be voted for on an electorate-by-electorate basis by the party membership. At present, delegates to the National Conference are chosen by the State Conferences along rigid factional and union lines.

Quoted in the Financial Review, Whitlam delivers a “scathing assessment” of the ALP machines in the various states, pointing to the ALP’s abysmal showing in Queensland (7 of 26 House of Representatives seats in 2001), NSW (20/50) and South Australia (3/12) as evidence that “the predominant factions in those states cannot win federal elections”. [Read more…]

Whitlam On His Appointment Of Kerr

As controversy swirled around the Governor-General, Archbishop Peter Hollingworth, in March 2002, Gough Whitlam commented on his choice for the Vice-Regal job in 1974.

Extracts from a report in The Age, March 11, 2002:

Former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam today said he felt sad about the vice-regal office controversy given that he had appointed a dud with a drinking problem in Sir John Kerr.

“Mr Whitlam said he believed Governor-General Peter Hollingworth should resign.

“I feel sad about this and I feel a bit sensitive because I appointed a dud, too, but it was universally applauded when I made him,” Mr Whitlam told the John Laws radio program.

He said he should have made inquiries in the legal fraternity about Sir John before he was appointed.

“I should have asked … other Supreme Court judges or senior counsel what he was like and they would have told me that Kerr had a drink problem,” Mr Whitlam said.

“And then later on his wife died, and I don’t want to go into that detail, but clearly I should have known his weaknesses.”

Mr Whitlam admitted he made a mistake in appointing Sir John and he apologised to the Queen.

“And I reassured her, I said there’ll be nothing, no demonstrations against you when you come in `77, which we’d arranged for her to do,” he said.

“I said you’ll be very respectfully and warmly received and the fault was mine, not yours.”

Has Malcolm Changed?

After years of being hated by the ALP and those on the Left of the political spectrum, Malcolm Fraser’s public persona underwent a significant change during the 1990s.

Fraser was a supporter of a Republic, a critic of globalisation, and urged scepticism towards our alliance with the United States. He joined with Gough Whitlam to oppose media ownership regulations.

Most notably, he became an active supporter of Aboriginal Reconciliation and Native Title, and a critic of the Howard government over issues such as Manadatory Sentencing, the Stolen Generations and Refugees.

Pilita Clark, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, analysed the changes in perceptions of Fraser.

[Extracts from “The Winter Of My Malcontent”, by Pilita Clark, January 5, 2002, Sydney Morning Herald.]

..We grew up amid the bucolic charms of south-west Victoria and for all of my formative years our local member was Malcolm Fraser.

I was reminded of this when I returned at Christmas to the family home, where one of my brothers was waiting to give me a highly singular gift. [Read more…]