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.