Gough Whitlam: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Honourable
 Gough Whitlam

In office
5 December 1972 – 11 November 1975
Deputy Lance Barnard
Jim Cairns
Frank Crean
Preceded by William McMahon
Succeeded by Malcolm Fraser
Constituency Werriwa (New South Wales)

Born 11 July 1916 (1916-07-11) (age 93)
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Religion Agnostic (formerly Anglican)
Military service
Allegiance Commonwealth of Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank RAAF O3 rank.png Flight Lieutenant
Unit No. 13 Squadron RAAF
Battles/wars World War II

Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC (born 11 July 1916), known as Gough Whitlam (pronounced /ˈɡɒf/ goff), is a former Australian politician, and the 21st Prime Minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975. He is the only Prime Minister to be dismissed by a Governor-General using reserve powers, and was dismissed by Sir John Kerr at the climax of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.

Whitlam was born in suburban Melbourne, but grew to maturity in the new Federal capital of Canberra. He entered Parliament in 1952, representing the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In 1960 he was elected deputy leader of the ALP and in 1967, after ALP leader Arthur Calwell resigned, he assumed the federal Labor leadership and became Leader of the Opposition. After falling short of gaining enough seats to win government at the 1969 election, Whitlam led the Labor Party to victory at the 1972 election after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government. After winning the 1974 election, he was dismissed in 1975 by Governor-General Sir John Kerr following a protracted constitutional crisis, and lost the subsequent 1975 election.

Although his government spent a relatively short time in office, many of the policies and institutions set up under it are still evident today. His 'presidential' style of politics, the socially progressive policies he pursued and the dramatic dismissal and subsequent election loss still arouse intense passion and debate.


Early and family life

Photograph of Gough Whitlam and attestation paper from his RAAF officer personnel file dated 1942.
Pilot Officer Gough Whitlam in Cooktown, Queensland in 1944

Edward Gough Whitlam was born in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. His father, Fred Whitlam, was a federal public servant who later served as Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. Whitlam senior's involvement in human rights issues was a powerful influence on his son.[1] Since the boy's maternal grandfather was also named Edward, he was called by his middle name from early childhood.[2]

In 1918, Fred Whitlam was promoted to Deputy Crown Solicitor, and transferred to Sydney, and the family lived first in the North Shore suburb of Mosman and then in nearby Turramurra. At age six, Gough began his education at Chatswood Church of England Girls School (early primary schooling at a girls' school was not unusual for small boys at the time). After a year there, he attended Mowbray House School and Knox Grammar School, in the suburbs of Sydney.[3]

In 1927, Fred Whitlam was again promoted, this time to Assistant Crown Solicitor, a position which would be based from May 1927 onwards in the new Federal capital of Canberra, and the Whitlam family moved there.[4] Gough Whitlam remains the only Prime Minister to spend his formative years in Canberra.[5] At the time, conditions remained primitive in what was dubbed "the bush capital" and "the land of the blowflies"[6], and Gough, who was otherwise educated at private schools, was sent to a Government school, Telopea Park High School, since no other school was available.[7] In 1932, Fred Whitlam transferred his son to Canberra Grammar School, where, at the annual Speech Day, Gough Whitlam was awarded a prize by the Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs.[8]

Gough Whitlam enrolled at St. Paul's College at the University of Sydney at the age of 18, where he studied first arts, and then remained for his legal studies.[9] Whitlam would become the second Australian Labor Party leader to have completed university; unlike the first, Bert Evatt, Whitlam was not called upon to work his way through school.[9] He earned his first wages by appearing, with several other "Paulines" in a caberet scene in the film The Broken Melody—the students were recruited as St. Paul required (as it still does) formal wear at dinner.[10] In 1942, while still at university, he met and married Margaret Dovey, daughter of barrister and future New South Wales Supreme Court judge Bill Dovey.[11] The couple have now been married more than two-thirds of a century, and had three sons and a daughter. On the 60th anniversary of their marriage, Gough Whitlam called it "very satisfactory" and claimed a record for "matrimonial endourance".[12]

Whitlam enlisted in the Sydney University Regiment, part of the Army Reserve, soon after the outbreak of World War II.[13] In late 1941, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force.[14] He served as a navigator in Victor bombers, based principally in Gove, Northern Territory, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. While in the service, Whitlam began his political activities, distributing literature for the ALP during the 1943 federal elections and urging the passage of the "Fourteen Powers" referendum of 1944. While the party was elected, the referendum, which it advocated, was defeated.[15] In 1961, Whitlam said of the referendum defeat, "My hopes were dashed by the outcome and from that moment I determined to do all I could do to modernise the Australian Constitution."[16] While still in uniform, Whitlam joined the ALP in Sydney in 1945. Whitlam completed his studies after the war, obtained his Bachelor of Laws, and was admitted to the Federal and New South Wales bars in 1947.[15]

Early political career


Candidate and backbencher

With his war service loan, Whitlam built a house in the seaside town of Cronulla, New South Wales[17] He sought to build a career in the ALP there, but local partisans were unsure of Whitlam's loyalties, given his privileged background.[17] In the postwar years, he built his legal practice, concentrating on landlord/tenant law, and sought to build his bona fides in the party. He ran twice, unsuccessfully, for the local council, once (also unsuccessfully) for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and campaigned for other candidates[18]. In 1951, Labor MHR Hubert Lazzarini, the member for the Federal electorate of Werriwa, announced that he would stand down at the next election. Whitlam won the preselection as ALP candidate, and when Lazzarini died in 1952, Whitlam was elected to the House of Representatives at the ensuing by-election on 29 November 1952, trebling Lazzarini's majority in a 12 per cent swing to Labor.[17]

Whitlam joined the ALP minority in the House of Representatives. His maiden speech in the House of Representatives provoked an interruption by future Prime Minister John McEwen, who was reminded by the Speaker that maiden speeches are traditionally heard in silence. Whitlam responded by recalling that Benjamin Disraeli had been heckled in his maiden speech, and had stated, "The time will come when you shall hear me." He told McEwen, "The time will come when you may interrupt me." According to early Whitlam biographers Laurie Oakes and David Solomon, this cool response put the Coalition Government on notice that the new member for Werriwa would be a force to be reckoned with.[19]

In the rough and tumble of debate in the House of Representatives, Whitlam called fellow MHRs Bill Bourke "this grizzling Quisling", Garfield Barwick (who would, as High Court Chief Justice, play a role in Whitlam's downfall) a "bumptious bastard" and stated that William Wentworth exhibited a "hereditary streak of insanity".[20] After he stated that future Prime Minister William McMahon was a "quean", he returned to the House Chamber and apologised.[20]

The ALP had been out of office since the Chifley Government was defeated in 1949, and was under the leadership of Bert Evatt, whom Whitlam greatly admired. In 1954, the seemed likely to return to power. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, adroitly used the defection of a Soviet official to his advantage, and his coalition of the Liberal and Country parties was returned the election with a seven-vote majority. After the election, Evatt attempted to purge the party of industrial groupers, who had long dissented from party policy, and who were predominately Catholic and anti-communist. The ensuing division in the ALP, which came to be known as "The Split" sparked the birth of the Democratic Labor Party—a conflict that would help keep Labor out of power for a generation, since DLP supporters would choose the Liberal Party in preference voting. Whitlam continued to support Evatt through The Split.[21]

In 1955, redistribution split Whitlam's electorate of Werriwa in two, with Whitlam's home in Cronulla placed in the new electorate of Hughes. Although Whitlam would have received ALP support in either division, he chose to continue to stand for Werriwa, and moved from Cronulla to Cabramatta, though this meant even longer journeys for his older children to school (at the time, neither electorate had a high school). Margaret Whitlam campaigned for the building of a public swimming pool in Cabramatta, and later became president of the swimming club.[22]

Whitlam was appointed to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1956. His biographer, Jenny Hocking, calls his service on the Committee, which included members from all parties in both chambers of Parliament, as one of the "great influences in his political development".[23] According to Hocking, service on the committee caused Whitlam to focus, not on the internal conflicts which continued to consume the ALP, but on which Labor goals were possible and worthwhile in the constitutional framework. Many Labor goals, such as nationalisation, ran contrary to the Constitution. Whitlam came to believe that the Constitution could be used to advance a worthwhile Labor programme.[24]

Deputy leader

By the late 1950s, Whitlam was seen as a future leadership contender, once the existing Labor leaders exited the scene. Most Labor leaders, including Evatt, Deputy Leader Arthur Calwell, Eddie Ward, and Reg Pollard were all in their sixties, twenty years older than Whitlam.[25] In 1960, having lost three elections, Evatt resigned, and was replaced by Calwell, with Whitlam winning the election for deputy leader over Ward.[26] Calwell came within a handful of votes of winning the cliffhanger 1961 election. Calwell had not wanted Whitlam as deputy leader, and believed Labor would have won if Ward had been deputy leader.[27]

Soon after the 1961 election, events began to turn against Labor. Calwell responded to an announcement by Indonesian President Sukarno that he intended to take over West New Guinea as the colonial Dutch departed with a statement that Indonesia must be stopped by force. Calwell's statement was called "crazy and irresponsible" by Prime Minister Menzies, and the incident cost the ALP support.[28] At that time, the Federal Executive of the Labor Party, which dictated policy to the parliamentary members, consisted of six members from each state, but did not include Calwell or Whitlam. When the Executive met in a Canberra hotel to determine Labor policy regarding a proposed US base Northern Australia in early 1963, Calwell and Whitlam were photographed peering in through the doors, waiting for the verdict. The photograph proved greatly damaging to the ALP, with Menzies dubbing members of the executive "Faceless Men", who controlled the ALP without electoral responsibility.[29]

Menzies manipulated the Opposition on issues that bitterly divided it, such as direct aid to the states for private schools, and the proposed base. Menzies called an early election for November 1963, standing in support of those two issues. The Prime Minister did better than Calwell on television, received an unexpected boost after the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, and the Coalition easily defeated Labor. Whitlam had hoped Calwell would step down after 1963, but the leader insisted on staying on, reasoning that Evatt had been given three opportunities to win, and that he should be allowed a third attempt to win the Prime Ministership.[30] Calwell dismissed Whitlam's proposals that the ALP leader and deputy leader should be entitled to membership on the executive, and instead successfully ran for one of its Victoria seats.[31] Labor did badly in the 1964 by-election in the Tasmanian electorate of Denison, and lost seats in the 1964 half-Senate election. It also was defeated in the state elections in the most populous state, New South Wales, surrendering control of the state government for the first time since 1941.[32]

Whitlam's relationship with Calwell, never good, was damaged even more in 1965 when The Australian reported off-the-record comments Whitlam had made that his leader was "too old and weak" to win office, and that the party might be gravely damaged by an "old-fashioned" 70-year-old Calwell seeking his first term as Prime Minister at the next election.[33] Later that year, at Whitlam's urging, and over Calwell's objection, the annual Party Conference made major changes to the party's platform, including deleting support for the White Australia policy, and made the ALP's leader and deputy leader ex officio of the executive, as did the leader and deputy leader in the Senate. As Whitlam considered the Senate unreprentative, he opposed the admission of its ALP leaders to the executive.[34]

Menzies retired in January 1966, and was succeeded as Prime Minister by the new Liberal Party leader, Harold Holt.[35] The relatively youthful Holt contrasted well with both the former Prime Minister, and with the aging Calwell, with an election due by the end of the year.[35]

In early 1966, the ALP executive, with Caldwell's assent, banned any member from supporting state aid. Whitlam broke with the party on the issue, and was charged with gross disloyalty by the executive, which carried the penalty of expulsion. Before the matter could be heard, Whitlam left for Queensland, where he campaigned intensively for the ALP candidate in the Dawson by-election. The ALP won, dealing the government their first by-election defeat since 1952. Whitlam survived the expulsion vote by a margin of only two, with the strong support of the Queenslanders.[36] At the end of April, Whitlam challenged Calwell for the leadership; though Calwell received two-thirds of the vote, the ALP leader announced that if the ALP lost the upcoming election, he would not stand again for the leadership.[37]

Holt called an election for November 1966, at which the Australian involvement in the Vietnam War was a major issue. Calwell called for an "immediate and unconditional withdrawal" of Australian troops from Vietnam. Whitlam, however, stated that this would deprive Australia of any voice in a settlement, and that the regular troops, rather than conscripts should remain under some circumstances.[38] According to Calwell, Whitlam's remark, five days before the election, was disastrous. The ALP suffered a crushing defeat in the 1966 election, falling to forty seats in the House of Representatives. At the ALP caucus meeting on 8 February 1967, Gough Whitlam was elected leader of the party.[39]

Opposition leader

Whitlam swiftly made his mark on the ALP, bringing his campaign for internal reform to fruition, and overhauling or discarding a series of Labor policies that had been enshrined for decades. Economic rationalism was pioneered,[40] the White Australia policy was dropped, Labor no longer opposed state aid, and the air of grim working-class puritanism that attended the Labor Party of the 1950s gave way to one that was younger, more optimistic, more socially liberal, more intellectual, and decidedly middle-class.

Meanwhile, after Holt's disappearance in December 1967, the Liberal Party began to succumb to internal dissent. They first elected Senator John Gorton as leader (he quickly switched to the House of Representatives, taking over Holt's vacant seat). However, Whitlam quickly gained the upper hand on Gorton, in large part because he was one of the first Australian politicians to realise and fully exploit the power of television as a political tool. Whitlam won two by-elections, then an 18-seat swing in the 1969 election. He actually won a bare majority of the two-party preferred vote, but the Democratic Labor Party's longstanding practice of preferencing against Labor left him four seats short of bringing the Coalition down. In 1971, the Liberals dumped Gorton in favour of William McMahon. However, McMahon was considered well past his political prime, and was never able to get the better of the more charismatic Whitlam.

Outside parliament, Whitlam concentrated on party reform and new policy development. He advocated the abolition of conscription and Australian withdrawal from the Vietnam War, and in 1971 visited the People's Republic of China (PRC), promising to establish diplomatic relations—much to the chagrin of McMahon, who attacked Whitlam for this policy, only to discover that U.S. President Richard Nixon was also working toward recognising the PRC. The 1972 federal election saw Whitlam lead the ALP to its first electoral victory since 1946.

Prime Minister 1972-75

Custom dictated that Whitlam should have waited until the process of vote counting was complete, and then call a Caucus meeting to elect his Ministers ready to be sworn in by the Governor-General. Meanwhile, the outgoing Prime Minister would remain in office as a caretaker.[41] However, unwilling to wait, Whitlam had himself and Deputy Leader Lance Barnard sworn in as a two-man government as soon as the overall result was beyond doubt, on 5 December 1972, the Tuesday after the Saturday election; they held all the portfolios between them (see First Whitlam Ministry). Whitlam later said: "The Caucus I joined in 1952 had as many Boer War veterans as men who had seen active service in World War II, three from each. The Ministry appointed on the fifth of December 1972 was composed entirely of ex-servicemen: Lance Barnard and me." The full ministry was sworn in on 19 December.

Although Labor had a comfortable working majority in the House, Whitlam faced a hostile Senate voted in at the 1970 half-senate election, making it impossible for him to pass legislation without the support of at least one of the other parties – Liberal, Country, or DLP.

After 23 years of opposition, the Labor party lacked experience in the mechanics of government. Nevertheless, Whitlam embarked on a massive legislative reform program. In the space of a little less than three years, the Whitlam Government established formal diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China;[42] assumed responsibility for tertiary education from the states and abolished tertiary fees;[43] cut tariffs across the board by 25% and abolished the Tariff Board;[44] established the Schools Commission to distribute federal funds to assist non-government schools on a needs basis; introduced a supporting benefit for single-parent families; and abolished the death penalty for federal crimes. It also reduced the voting age to 18 years; abolished the last vestiges of the White Australia policy; introduced language programs for non-English speaking Australians; introduced the Multiculturalism policy for all new migrants; mandated equal opportunities for women in Federal Government employment; appointed women to judicial and administrative positions; abolished conscription; set up the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee; improved access to justice for Indigenous Australians; introduced the policy of Self-determination for Indigenous Australians; advocated land rights for Indigenous Australians; increased funding for Indigenous Australians' welfare; amalgamated the five separate defence departments; instituted direct federal grants to local governments; established the Order of Australia (Australia's own honours system); established Legal Aid, and increased funding for the arts.

The Senate resolutely opposed six key bills and twice rejected them. The bills were designed to:

The repeated rejection of these bills provided a constitutional trigger for a double dissolution (a dissolution of both houses followed by an election for all members of both houses), but Whitlam did not decide to call such an election until April 1974. Instead, he expected to hold an election for half the Senate. To improve his chances of winning control of the Senate, Whitlam offered the former DLP Leader, Senator Vince Gair, the post of Ambassador to Ireland, thus creating an extra Senate vacancy in Queensland which Whitlam hoped Labor could win. This manoeuvre backfired, however, when the Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, learnt of the scheme and advised the Governor of Queensland to issue the writs for the Queensland Senate election before Gair's resignation could be obtained.

This "Gair affair" so outraged opponents of the Whitlam government that the Opposition Leader Billy Snedden threatened to block supply in the Senate, although he took no actual steps to do so. Whitlam, however, believing Snedden was unpopular with the electorate, immediately went to the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, and obtained a double dissolution of both Houses on 11 April, with the election set down for 18 May. Whitlam went to the polls asking for a mandate to "finish the job", and the ALP campaigned on the slogan "Give Gough a Go". At the election the Whitlam government was re-elected, though with a reduced majority. The DLP lost all its seats, but Labor failed to win a majority in the Senate. The balance of power in the Senate was now held by two independent Senators. In the short term, this led to the historic joint sitting of both houses, at which the six contentious bills were passed. In the longer term, it contained the seeds of Whitlam's downfall.

In its second term, the Whitlam Government continued with its legislative reform program, but became embroiled in a series of controversies, including attempts to borrow large amounts of money from the Middle East, using as an intermediary a man called Tirath Khemlani (the "Loans Affair"). Khemlani's background was shadowy, but there were mentions of arms dealing. Whitlam was forced to dismiss Treasurer Jim Cairns and another senior minister, Rex Connor, for misleading Parliament.

Emboldened by these events, a weak economy and a large swing at the 1975 Bass by-election, the Liberal-Country Opposition, led now by Malcolm Fraser, argued that the Government's behaviour in breaching constitutional conventions required that it in turn attempt to breach one of the most fundamental, that the Senate would block Supply (that is, cut off supply of Treasury funds).

Constitutional crisis

The crisis of 1975 was precipitated by the Senate's refusal to pass the Whitlam government's money (Supply) bill. In October 1975, the Opposition moved to delay consideration of the budget in the Senate. This delay would have resulted in essential public services ceasing to function due to lack of money.[45] Malcolm Fraser warned that the bill would not be passed unless Whitlam called an early election. Whitlam determined to face the Opposition down, and proposed to borrow money from the banks to keep the government running. He was confident that some of the more moderate Liberal Senators would back down when the situation worsened as appropriations ran out during November and December.

The Governor-General Sir John Kerr, a Whitlam appointee, was concerned about the legality of Whitlam's proposals for borrowing money, and to govern without supply, although the Solicitor-General and Attorney-General had scrutinised them for legality.[46]

At around 1 pm on 11 November 1975, Kerr, in accordance with Section 64 of the Constitution, revoked Whitlam's commission and installed Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister, with instructions to make no policy changes, no appointments, no dismissals and call an immediate federal election.[45] At 2.45 pm Fraser announced to the House of Representatives that he had been appointed caretaker Prime Minister and the terms of his appointment.[45] This came as a surprise to many Labor members, since Whitlam, in the confusion, had not told them what had occurred. Whitlam moved a motion 'that this House expresses its want of confidence in the Prime Minister and requests Mr Speaker forthwith to advise His Excellency the Governor-General to call on me to form a government'. This vote of confidence in Whitlam was passed on party lines. News of this vote was delivered personally to Kerr by the Speaker of the House Gordon Scholes, but Kerr refused to see him until after his Official Secretary David Smith had read the notice of double dissolution at Parliament House at 4.45 pm.[45]

On hearing the proclamation dissolving Parliament, which ended with the traditional 'God Save the Queen', Whitlam delivered an impromptu address to the crowd that had gathered in front of the steps of Parliament House. During the speech he labelled Fraser as "Kerr's cur" and told the crowd: "Ladies and gentlemen, well may we say 'God Save the Queen', because nothing will save the Governor-General." and informed them that the Governor-General had ignored the house of representatives, he should have met the speaker, since he was to deliver the house of representatives decision that Mr. Fraser did not have the confidence of the house of representatives, and that the house of representatives had called for Mr. Whitlam to form the new Government. This was ignored by the Governor-General as he refused to see the speaker until he had dismissed the Labor government and called that new elections would be held.[47]

In the lead-up to the resulting election, Whitlam called upon his supporters to "maintain your rage". With co-instigators David Combe and Bill Hartley, he also called on Iraq for a $US500,000 gift to help fund Labor's election campaign.[48] Fortunately for his reputation, the funds failed to materialise. Whitlam ran a bitter and passionate campaign but, despite this, the ALP suffered a 7.4% swing against them and Whitlam was to remain as Opposition Leader until his second defeat in the 1977 election.


During its three years in power, the Whitlam government was responsible for a long list of legislative reforms, some of which still stand today. It finalised supremacy of the High Court by abolishing remaining avenues for Privy Council appeal; replaced Australia's adversarial divorce laws with a new, no-fault system; enacted trade practices law; slashed tariff barriers; ended conscription; introduced the national health insurance scheme Medibank (later renamed Medicare); gave independence to Papua New Guinea; made all university education free to its recipients (a policy later reversed by the Hawke Labor government); introduced needs-based federal funding for private schools; enacted federal environment protection legislation; and established diplomatic and trade relations with the People's Republic of China.

However, critics of Whitlam identified what they believed to be substantial failings in his administration. During Whitlam's term of office, economic decline characterised by adverse balance-of-payments figures and high unemployment, inflation and bank interest rates was evident. Many of these issues had been significant challenges for previous Coalition administrations,[49] and external factors such as the 1973 oil crisis and resulting higher world oil prices, as well as falling prices for Australian farm produce, were significant contributors. But some believed that the Whitlam government's own economic policies, such as the decision on 18 July 1973 to reduce tariffs across the board by 25%, damaged Whitlam's standing and contributed to the issues faced by the business sector.

On social matters his reputation has been tarnished by his complicity in refusing to act against the pro-separatist movement on Bougainville on 1 September 1975,[citation needed] just two weeks before Papua New Guinea's independence on 16 September 1975; supporting Suharto government's invasion of East Timor by Indonesia (see Indonesian occupation of East Timor). Whitlam and many government members also refused to allow South Vietnamese refugees into the country following the fall of Saigon in 1975, concerned that they would have anti-communist sympathies hostile to the Australian Labor Party.[citation needed]

The autocratic Whitlam's "crash through or crash" style made many political enemies, and the various scandals afflicting the government cost it electoral support and momentum. His 'crash through or crash' style was also his Achilles heel surrounding the lead-up to the dismissal.[50]

Some Australians regarded his dismissal by the Governor-General as an outrage, but the Australian electorate voted to replace the Whitlam government by a record margin, and the Labor Party would not be a serious candidate for government again until Whitlam was replaced as leader.

The Whitlam government was also greatly damaged by several highly publicised scandals, most notably the disastrous "Loans Affair" masterminded by Rex Connor, the series of controversies over the questionable conduct of Treasurer and deputy party leader Jim Cairns, and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. However, Whitlam's book The Truth Of The Matter recounts legal steps essayed in the attempt to obtain or bypass parliamentary supply.

In September 2000, the Department of Foreign Affairs released previously secret files that showed that the Whitlam Labor government encouraged East Timor's integration into Indonesia by Suharto's "New Order".[51] Two months after the Portuguese military began to withdraw from East Timor, Whitlam suggested to Indonesia that it launch undercover operations to ensure East Timor's incorporation into Indonesia. During September 1974 discussions with Suharto in Central Java, Whitlam described East Timor as "too small to be independent". An Indonesian general is quoted as saying that the September 1974 meeting, "crystallised Suharto's thinking on the matter". An estimated 102,000 East Timorese died during the subsequent 27-year Indonesian occupation of East Timor.[52] Five members of an Australian television crew were killed, whom Whitlam subsequently described as "foolhardy", and "the source of a long running media vendetta against Indonesia."[53]

More books have been written about Whitlam, including his own writings, than any other Australian prime minister.[54]

Out of office

Gough Whitlam (right) at 88, with the then-leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mark Latham, at an election fundraising event in Melbourne, September 2004.

Whitlam stayed on as Opposition Leader. The Whitlams were visiting China at the time of the Tangshan earthquake in July 1976. Although they were staying in Tianjin, 90 miles away from the epicentre, Margaret Whitlam was slightly injured.[55]

Whitlam fought the 1977 election but Labor was defeated nearly as heavily as it had been in 1975. On election night he announced his immediate retirement as Leader of the Opposition, and he resigned from Parliament in 1978. After a few years as a travelling lecturer, he was appointed Australian Ambassador to UNESCO by the next Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.

The sole issue over which he has received sustained criticism from the left is his failure to oppose Indonesia's plans to annex East Timor, then Portuguese Timor.[56]

Whitlam turned 80 in 1996, but still made regular public appearances and continued to comment on some issues, notably republicanism: in the 1999 referendum, he campaigned together on this issue with his old enemy Fraser. He felt the Hawke government had wasted its opportunities to continue the Whitlam reform program, but was more enthusiastic about Paul Keating's government. After 1996, he was scathingly critical of John Howard, but also of Kim Beazley, who was Labor leader from 1996 to 2001 – this feud apparently went back to Whitlam's dislike of Beazley's father (Kim Beazley senior), who had been a minister in Whitlam's government.

Gough Whitlam with wife Margaret at the wedding of current Premier of South Australia Mike Rann and Sasha Carruozzo in July 2006.

Whitlam was delighted when his former research assistant and then-MP representing his old seat of Werriwa, Mark Latham, was elected Labor leader on 2 December 2003, exactly 31 years after Whitlam's own election as Prime Minister. By that time Whitlam, 87, was increasingly frail and usually appeared in public with a walking stick, but his ability and willingness to make outspoken comments had not diminished, and he spoke frequently in praise of Latham.

Gough Whitlam with wife Margaret at Parliament House for the national apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008.

In April 2004, Whitlam spoke at a function marking the centenary of the Watson Labor government. Later in the year he appeared at Labor events during the unsuccessful 2004 federal election campaign, and appeared to be in good health.

Latham's diaries, however, were published in September 2005, and included a claim that Whitlam had dismissively remarked to Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon that he thought Latham—who had by then resigned as leader—should quit politics altogether. When Latham learned of the remark, he cut off all contact with his former mentor and described Whitlam's comment as "the cruellest cut of all". Whitlam subsequently claimed that he simply told Fitzgibbon he thought it was "unsustainable" for Latham to stay on as an MP because of his ill-health.

In November 2005, he donated his letter of dismissal and his copy of the "It's Time" campaign speech to the University of Western Sydney. A member of the Australian Fabian Society, Whitlam was its President in 2002.

Whitlam has been a supporter of fixed parliamentary terms since his membership of a constitutional review committee in the 1950s. A week before his ninetieth birthday he accused the ALP of failing to press for this reform.[57]

On 13 February 2008, Gough Whitlam joined three other former Prime Ministers, Fraser, Hawke and Keating, in returning to Parliament to witness the historic Federal Government apology to the Stolen Generations by Kevin Rudd.[58]

On 21 January 2009, Whitlam achieved a greater age (&0000000000000092.00000092 years, &0000000000000195.000000195 days) than any other person who was Prime Minister of Australia, surpassing the previous record holder Frank Forde.


Bust of Gough Whitlam by sculptor Victor Greenhalgh located in the Prime Minister's Avenue in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

Whitlam was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1962 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1978.[59] In 2005 he was created an honorary Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of Melanesia by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea.[60]

In 2006 both he and Malcolm Fraser were conferred with the Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon, which represents the highest of eight classes associated with the award. The decoration was presented in recognition of their role in improving relations between Japan and Australia.[61]

Whitlam is an honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities.[62]

He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, La Trobe University and the University of Technology, Sydney.[62]

In April 2007, Gough and Margaret Whitlam were made life members of the Australian Labor Party. This was the first time anyone had become life members at the national level of the Party organisation.[63]

See also

Further reading

  • Barry Cohen, Life With Gough, Allen and Unwin, 1996
  • Hugh Emy and others, Whitlam Revisited, Pluto Press, 1993
  • Gareth Evans and others, Labor and the Constitution 1972-1975, Heinemann, 1977
  • Richard Hall & John Ironmonger, The Makers and the Breakers: The Governor-General and the Senate vs the Constitution, Wellington Lane Press, Sydney, 1976.
  • Paul Kelly, Crash Through or Crash, Angus and Robertson, 1976
  • Paul Kelly, November 1975, Allen and Unwin, 1995
  • John Kerr, Matters for Judgment, Macmillan, 1978
  • Graham Freudenberg, A Certain Grandeur, Macmillan, 1977
  • Jenny Hocking, Gough Whiltam A Moment in History, The Biography Vol 1, MUP 2008 [1]
  • Jenny Hocking & Colleen Lewis, It's time again: Whitlam and Modern Labor, Circa Publishing, 2003
  • Alan Reid, The Whitlam Venture, Hill of Content, 1976
  • James Walter, The Leader: A Political Biography of Gough Whitlam, University of St. Lucia QLD, 1980.
  • Patrick Weller & R.F.I. Smith, 'The Rise and Fall of Whitlam Labor: The political context of the 1975 elections' in Australia at the Polls: The National Election of 1975, ed. H.R. Penniman, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, 1977, pp. 49–76.
  • Gough Whitlam, On Australia's Constitution, Widescope, 1977
  • Gough Whitlam, The Truth of the Matter, Penguin, 1979 (Reprint, Melbourne University Press, 2005)
  • Gough Whitlam, The Whitlam Government, Penguin, 1985
  • Gough Whitlam and others, The Whitlam Phenomenon, Penguin, 1986
  • Gough Whitlam, Abiding Interests, University of Queensland Press, 1997


  1. ^ Oakes 1973, p. 49.
  2. ^ Hocking 2008, p. 25.
  3. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 27–28.
  4. ^ Hocking 2008, p. 27–28.
  5. ^ ABC Ballarat
  6. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 33–37.
  7. ^ Oakes 1973, p. 48.
  8. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 55–56.
  9. ^ a b Oakes 1973, p. 48.
  10. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 59, 64.
  11. ^ Oakes 1973, pp. 48–49.
  12. ^ After 50 years' hard Labor, Gough tells it like it was, The Age, 7 November 2002
  13. ^ Hocking 2008, p. 73.
  14. ^ Hocking 2008, p. 80.
  15. ^ a b Lloyd 2008, p. 330.
  16. ^ Oakes 1973, p. 53.
  17. ^ a b c Lloyd 2008, p. 331.
  18. ^ Oakes 1973, p. 50.
  19. ^ Oakes 1973, p. 54.
  20. ^ a b Hocking 2008, p. 172.
  21. ^ Lloyd 2008, pp. 332–333.
  22. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 177–179.
  23. ^ Hocking 2008, p. 181.
  24. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 181–186.
  25. ^ Lloyd 2008, p. 333.
  26. ^ Lloyd 2008, pp. 333–334.
  27. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 218–219.
  28. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 219–220.
  29. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 224–227.
  30. ^ Lloyd 2008, p. 334.
  31. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 232–233.
  32. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 235–236.
  33. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 240–241.
  34. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 244–248.
  35. ^ a b Hocking 2008, p. 248.
  36. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 250–256.
  37. ^ Hocking 2008, pp. 257–258.
  38. ^ Oates 1973, p. 59.
  39. ^ Hocking 2008, p. 271.
  40. ^ John Quiggin - Journal Articles 1997 - Economic rationalism
  41. ^ As a matter of long-standing party policy, ALP Ministers are elected by the entire Parliamentary Party—the 'Caucus'—with the Prime Minister only having the power to assign portfolios. Liberal Prime Ministers, in contrast, have traditionally had the power to nominate their own Ministry.
  42. ^ Whitlam Institute (archived, originally published by the governments of Australia and the People's Republic of China). "Joint communique establishing diplomatic relations between China and Australia". Press release. http://www.whitlam.org/collection/1972/1972_Joint_Communique.html. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  43. ^ Whitlam, Gough (2003-11-06). "Speech transcript, Launch of Social Justice and Social Change Centre". Whitlam Institute. http://www.whitlam.org/collection/2003/20031106_UWS_Social_Justice_Centre/index.html. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  44. ^ "Tariff reduction". Statement by the Prime Minister, Mr. E.G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P., and by the Minister for Overseas Trade and Secondary Industry, Dr. J.F. Cairns, M.P.. The Whitlam Institute (originally published by the Government of Australia). 1973-07-18. http://www.whitlam.org/collection/1973/19730718_Tariff_Reduction/. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  45. ^ a b c d Weller, Patrick; R.F.I. Smith (1977). H.R. Penniman. ed. The Rise and Fall of Whitlam Labor: The political context of the 1975 elections. Australia at the Polls: The National Election of 1975. American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington. pp. 49–76. 
  46. ^ Freudenberg, Graham (1977). A Certain Grandeur: Gough Whitlam in Politics. Sun Books. pp. 384. ISBN 0333230019. 
  47. ^ "Whitlam's speech". ozpolitics.info (Bryan Palmer). 1975-11-11. http://www.ozpolitics.info/guide/topics/dismissal/dismissal-speech/. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  48. ^ Parkinson, Tony Shame, Whitlam Shame The Age, 15 Nov 2005
  49. ^ Hughes, Colin A. (December 1972). "Australian Political Chronicle: May–August 1972". Australian Journal of Politics and History 18 (3): 403–404. ISSN 0004-9522. 
  50. ^ Walter, James (1980). The Leader: A Political Biography of Gough Whitlam. University of St. Lucia QLD. 
  51. ^ Mike Head (2000-09-18). "Documents reveal that Australia urged Indonesia to invade East Timor in 1975". World Socialist Web Site. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/sep2000/timo-s18.shtml. ; "Fed: Cables show Australia knew of Indon invasion of Timor". AAP General News (Australia). 2000-09-13. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-31689348.html. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  52. ^ Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (9 February 2006). "The Profile of Human Rights Violations in Timor-Leste, 1974-1999". A Report to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation of Timor-Leste. Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). http://www.hrdag.org/resources/timor_chapter_graphs/timor_chapter_page_02.shtml. 
  53. ^ ABC Radio AM (2000-09-21). "Whitlam lashes out over East Timor crisis". http://www.abc.net.au/am/stories/s182826.htm. 
  54. ^ Evan Williams, The definitive Gough botherer, The Australian, 15 November 2008
  55. ^ Reynolds, Jack (1976-07-28). "China Earthquake / Whitlams / United States Information". NBC. http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/program.pl?ID=489280. Retrieved 2008-01-01. ; "China: Shock and Terror in the Night". Time. 1976-08-09. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,914483,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-01. ; nolefan (2005-12-19). "Tangshan, Hebei". http://www.chinateachers.proboards17.com/index.cgi?board=cities&action=display&thread=1135000941. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  56. ^ Scott, David (2005-11-09). "Last Flight Out of Dili". New Matilda. http://www.newmatilda.com/home/articledetailmagazine.asp?ArticleID=1107&HomepageID=112. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  57. ^ Emery, Ryan (2006-07-06). "Gough attack's ALP's aim as second best". The Australian. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19699587-2702,00.html. Retrieved 2006-07-11. ; Grattan, Michelle (2006-07-08). "Party hails Gough in his 10th decade". The Age. http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2006/07/07/1152240491091.html. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  58. ^ Welch, Dylan (2008-02-13). "Kevin Rudd says sorry". The Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/prime-minister-kevin-rudd-made-today-an--historic-one-for-australia/2008/02/13/1202760342960.html. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  59. ^ "It's an Honour Website". Australian Government. http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  60. ^ "Papua New Guinea Gossip Newsletter". PNGGossip.com. http://pnggossip.com/news/g050916.html. Retrieved 31 December 2006. 
  61. ^ Embassy of Japan in Australia (2006-11-03). "Japan honours distinguished Australians". http://www.au.emb-japan.go.jp/e_web/Honours.htm. 
  62. ^ a b "Hon E.G. Whitlam, AC QC". The Whitlam Institute (within the University of Western Sydney). http://www.whitlam.org/people/whitlam_gough.html. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  63. ^ "Gough, Margaret Whitlam get ALP life membership". ABC News Online. 28 April 2007.. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200704/s1908845.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  • Freudenberg, Graham (2009), A Certain Grandeur: Gough Whitlam's Life in Politics (revised ed.), Viking, ISBN 9780670073757 
  • Hocking, Jenny (2008), Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History, The Miegunyah Press, ISBN 9780522857054 
  • Clem, Lloyd (2008), "Edward Gough Whitlam", in Grattan, Michelle, Australian Prime Ministers (revised ed.), New Holland Publishers Pty Ltd., pp. 324–354 
  • Oakes, Laurie; Solomon, David (1973), The Making of an Australian Prime Minister, Cheshire Publishing Pty Ltd., ISBN 0-7015-1711-5. 
  • Whitlam, Gough (1997), Abiding Interests, University of Queensland Press, ISBN 0702228796. 

External links

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Hubert Lazzarini
Member for Werriwa
1952 – 1978
Succeeded by
John Kerin
Party political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Calwell
Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party
1960 – 1967
Succeeded by
Lance Barnard
Leader of the Australian Labor Party
1967 – 1977
Succeeded by
Bill Hayden
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Calwell
Leader of the Opposition of Australia
1967 – 1972
Succeeded by
Billy Snedden
Preceded by
William McMahon
Prime Minister of Australia
1972 – 1975
Succeeded by
Malcolm Fraser
Preceded by
Nigel Bowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs
1972 – 1973
Succeeded by
Don Willesee
Preceded by
Billy Snedden
Treasurer of Australia
Succeeded by
Frank Crean
Preceded by
Ivor Greenwood
Attorney-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Lionel Murphy
Preceded by
Don Chipp
Minister for Customs and Excise
Preceded by
Doug Anthony
Minister for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Jim Cairns
Preceded by
Peter Nixon
Minister for Shipping and Transport
Succeeded by
Charles Jones
Preceded by
Malcolm Fraser
Minister for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Kim Beazley (Education)
Bill Morrison (Science)
Preceded by
Robert Cotton
Minister for Civil Aviation
Succeeded by
Charles Jones
Preceded by
Kevin Cairns
Minister for Housing
Succeeded by
Les Johnson
Preceded by
Reginald Wright
Minister for Works
Succeeded by
James Cavanagh
Preceded by
Andrew Peacock
Minister for External Territories
Succeeded by
Bill Morrison
Preceded by
Peter Howson
Minister for Environment, Aborigines and the Arts
Succeeded by
Moss Cass
Preceded by
Jim Cairns
Minister for the Environment
Succeeded by
Joe Berinson


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Ladies and gentlemen, well may we say "God Save the Queen", because nothing will save the Governor-General.

Gough Whitlam (b. 1916-07-11) is an Australian politician who was Prime Minister of Australia (1972-1975).


  • Ladies and gentlemen, well may we say "God Save the Queen," because nothing will save the Governor-General... The proclamation you have just heard read by the Governor-General's Official Secretary was countersigned Malcolm Fraser, who will go down in history as Kerr's cur.
  • We would do absolutely nothing. Now that's a blunt, truthful answer.
    • When asked what a Labor government would do if Indonesia were to invade East Timor, in an interview three days before the invasion. Sydney Morning Herald (1975-12-05)
  • If I begin my book with a review of the coup, it is only to show that my abiding interests for Australia did not end with it. They shall end only with a long and fortunate life.
    • Abiding Interests (1997), Foreword
  • He reveals that he has been a poor politician, a bad judge and a malevolent individual.
  • I was profoundly embarrassed by it [the White Australia Policy] and did all I could to change it.
    • Quoted in Paul Kelly, 100 Years – The Australian Story (Allen & Unwin, ABC Books, NSW, 2001), p. 196
  • I’m not having hundreds of fucking Vietnamese Balts coming into this country with their religious and political hatreds against us!
    • After Saigon was taken over by North Vietnamese troops in 1975 and thousands of Vietnamese refugees sought asylum in Australia. Miranda Devine (October 18th, 2008). "A woman who believes Cabra matters". Sydney Morning Herald.
  • The Emperor does not concern himself with trifles.
    • Gough Whitlam on Hawke's penis.
      • Quoted by Tim Freedman during Whitlam's attendance of the 12th Annual Aria Awards, during presentation of Band of The Year.
  • The punters know that the horse named Morality rarely gets past the post, whereas the nag named Self-interest always runs a good race.
    • Written by Gough Whitlam for the London Daily Telegraph, (19 October 1989). (Andrews, 1993, p. 824)
  • 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 part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever.
    • Spoken at the Gurindji Land Ceremony, 16 August 1975

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Gough Whitlam
[[Image:‎|225px|Gough Whitlam]]

In office
2 December 1972 – 11 November 1975
Preceded by William McMahon
Succeeded by Malcolm Fraser

Born 11 July 1916
Melbourne, Victoria
Political party Labor

Edward Gough Whitlam (born 11 July 1916) was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia.[1] He is the only Prime Minister to have been dismissed by the Governor-General. He was Prime Minister for three years. He was elected after more than 20 years of government by the Liberal-Country Party Coalition and his government made a lot of new changes. Gough Whitlam married Margaret Whitlam in 1942 and they have remained married ever since.[2]

His government did not have a majority in the Senate (the upper house of the Australian Parliament). This made it hard for Whitlam's government to make laws. In 1974–75 the government thought about borrowing US$4 billion in foreign loans. A Minister, Rex Connor, had secret discussions with a loan broker from Pakistan. The Treasurer, Jim Cairns, misled parliament over this. This made the new leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser use the Senate to stop passing money for the government until there was an election. In 1975 the opposition, led by Malcolm Fraser, blocked government supply in the Senate. This meant that the government had no money. This was a big crisis in Australia. In order to end the crisis the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Whitlam and made Fraser the Prime Minister. Whitlam lost the election that was held a month later.[3]

Whitlam is one of the most controversial people in Australia. Many people think of him as a hero while others consider his government to have been poor.


Prime Ministers of Australia
Barton | Deakin | Watson | Reid | Fisher | Cook | Hughes | Bruce | Scullin | Lyons | Page | Menzies | Fadden | Curtin | Forde | Chifley | Holt | McEwen | Gorton | McMahon | Whitlam | Fraser | Hawke | Keating | Howard | Rudd | Gillard


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address