Whitlam Comments On Hocking’s Biography

Gough Whitlam is 96 years old. In this video, published today on Fairfax websites, he recommends Jenny Hocking’s second volume of his biography.

Gough and Margaret Whitlam Awarded ALP National Life Membership

Gough Whitlam, 90, and his wife, Margaret, 87, have been awarded the first-ever life memberships of the Australian Labor Party at the national level.

Gough and Margaret WhitlamThe awards were made at the ALP National Conference in Sydney.

Addressing the conference, the former Prime Minister reminded delegates of his famous admonition of the Victorian branch in 1967 when he derided the oppositionist mentality that equated defeat with ideological purity: “Certainly the impotent are pure”.

Forty years later, the nonagenarian Whitlam told the conference, “when I was 50 I could get away with saying things like that.”

Whitlam noted that under his leadership in the 1969 elections, the ALP secured “the greatest swing on record and won 17 seats”. It would not have been lost on conference delegates that in 2007 the ALP needs to win 16 seats to secure a bare majority in the House of Representatives. [Read more…]

Gough Whitlam’s Eulogy For Sir James Killen

Gough Whitlam has delivered the eulogy for Sir James Killen at his funeral service at St. John’s Cathedral, Brisbane.

Killen died last week at the age of 81. A Member of Parliament for the House of Representatives Division of Moreton from 1955 until 1983, Killen served as Defence Minister in the Fraser Government.

In his eulogy, Whitlam said: “Jim Killen was a proud Australian parliamentarian and a great one. In his career Parliament was as significant as the ministerial offices he held with distinction. His influence, his abiding interest in the great affairs of our country, his fascination with the intricate interplay of the political machinery, his knowledge of and respect for the Constitution, all came from his love of Parliament. He understood completely the indispensable role of strong political parties as the mainstay of our parliamentary democracy.”

This is the text of the Eulogy delivered by Gough Whitlam at the state funeral of Sir James Killen, at St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane.

Denis James KillenThe last time I spoke in public about Jim Killen was at the Irish Club on 19 November 2005, his 80th birthday.

The last Jim spoke in public about me was in Sydney last July, my 90th birthday.

Between those two public occasions, we spoke to each other by phone, regularly and almost religiously, usually Sunday, as indeed we had done for more than a decade, and were to do almost to the end. [Read more…]

Philhellenes And Philologists: NSW Teachers Of Modern Greek

This is the text of a speech by Gough Whitlam to the NSW Teachers of Modern Greek Association, in Bankstown.

Philhellenes and philologists

The ancient Greek gods are alive and well. Athena and Phevos will make the awards at to-day’s ceremony in Bankstown. Last year their images presided over the splendid Olympics in Athens. Throughout Australia the Governor-General makes more and more appearances as Zeus to express his omnipotence. A generation ago a Governor-General whom I had chosen made an unforgettable appearance as Bacchus to present the Melbourne Cup at Flemington in Victoria.

The matters on which I should address you are (a) how important is the Greek language in Australia? (b) how important is Greek civilisation to Australia? [Read more…]

Joint Sitting 30th Anniversary

This is the text of Gough Whitlam’s speech to the Whitlam Institute on the 30th Anniversary of the Joint Sitting.

The Joint Sitting took place in August 1974, following the double dissolution election of May 18, 1974. It is the only joint sitting ever held under Section 57 of the Constitution.

The Whitlam Institute is within the University of Western Sydney.

Gough Whitlam’s speech to the Whitlam Institute on the 30th Anniversary of the Joint Sitting.

At 88 years of age I enjoy being invited to 30th anniversaries of events during the terms of my first and second Governments, which were elected on 2 December 1972 and 18 May 1974. In December 2002, the 30th anniversary of the election of the Whitlam Government was celebrated, Labor’s first election win for 26 years. In December 2003 the 30-year restriction on the release of the 1973 Cabinet Papers was lifted. I intend to survive for the release of the 1974 and 1975 cabinet papers. Today we remember the 30th Anniversary of the first and only Joint Sitting of Australia’s federal Parliament and the accompanying exhibition arranged by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney. [Read more…]

Whitlam’s Message To The Liberal Party’s Killen Dinner

Jim Killen served in the House of Representatives as the Liberal member for Moreton from 1955 until 1983.

Killen was famous for having won his seat on Communist Party preferences at the 1961 election, saving the Menzies government from defeat. He invented a famous story that Robert Menzies told him: “Killen, you’re magnificent.”

Killen was Minister for Navy in the Gorton government from 1969 until 1971, and Minister for Defence in the Fraser government from 1975 until 1982.

Throughout their parliamentary careers, Whitlam and Killen maintained a jocular friendship, that is reflected in the message shown below. [Read more…]

Maintain the Rag, A Celebration of the Whitlam Years

This is the text of Gough Whitlam’s speech to the Australian Institute of Music, in Sydney.

Thank you, Peter Calvo, for your introduction and your invitation to the John Painter Hall at the Australian Institute of Music. John Painter was a former director of the Canberra School of Music and is currently Senior Academic Advisor to this Australian Institute of Music.

I am happy that the most common question asked by reviewers of this CD is not “why celebrate the Whitlam years?” but rather “why celebrate them in rag?” The rag’s most distinctive feature is its syncopated melody. As a noted Italophile I point out “syncopation” is known to Italian musicians as alla zoppa, meaning “limping”, or literally, “as a cripple”. I trust my advancing years did not influence the choice.

It was a century ago this year that the first ever rag opera was performed; it was called “The Guest of Honour”. Perhaps that most famous of ragtime melodies, Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”, could serve as an alternate title for this collection. I am told that even those who have never liked politics have at least found me entertaining. I take comfort that they come from near and far when I turn to vaudeville. [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

Centenary Of ALP Caucus 1901-2001: Whitlam Speech

This is the text of a speech given by Whitlam to a Federation Anniversary Dinner in Melbourne celebrating the centenary of the Federal ALP Caucus.

The event was part of the centenary celebrations of Federation. The first Commonwealth Parliament met in Melbourne on May 9, 1901.

Whitlam was 84 years old at the time he made this speech.

Text of Gough Whitlam’s speech to the ALP’s Federation Anniversary Dinner, May 8, 2001.

For once, Shakespeare got it wrong. His Henry V said: “Old men forget.” My problem is the multitude of vivid memories brought about by the grandeur of the occasion, the association with my birthplace, the presence of so many colleagues and your warm and enthusiastic welcome. Maintain your zeal and your enthusiasm through the coming campaign and until polling day.

The Caucus I joined in 1953 had as many Boer War veterans as men who had seen active service in World War 11, three from each. The Ministry appointed on 5 December 1972 was composed entirely of ex-servicemen: Lance Barnard and me. [Read more…]