Gough Whitlam dead at 98 Gough Whitlam in October 2005. Pic: Stephen Baccon.
Gough Whitlam stands behind David Smith, the secretary to the Governor-General, as he reads the proclamation dissolving parliament following the dismissal of the Whitlam government. Photo: Peter Wells
Gough Whitlam and Bob Hawke having a beer in the Trade Hall Hotel on Sussexx Street on 17 April 1974. Pic: Rick Stevens
Gough Whitlam addresses a Labor rally outside of Parliament House, Canberra, November 1975. Pic: Michael Rayner
Gough Whitlam speaks to journalists in 1986.
Mick Young, Tom Burns, Stephen FitzGerald, Gough Whitlam, Rex Patterson, Graham Freudenberg, at the Great Wall in China in July 1971. Pic courtesy of Stephen Fitzgerald
Former Prime Minister Mr Gough Whitlam launching Micahels Cooiper’s book “Encounters with The Australian Constitution” at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Pic: Robert Pearce
Gough Whitlam in 1976. Pic: The Age
Gough Whitlam greeted by his daughter, Cathy, as he arrives at the polling booth to cast his vote in the 1972 federal election. Pic: Fairfax Media
Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlan with former Sydney Morning Herald writer Peter Bowers.
Gough Whitlam. Pic: Supplied
Gough Whitlam in 1973.
Gough Whitlam addresses a National Press Club luncheon in 1986. Pic: Supplied
Gough and Margaret Whitlam. Pic: Rick Stevens
Gough Whitlam before his 90th birthday. Pic: Steven Siewert
Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam about to turn 90. Pic: Steven Siewert
Gough Whitlam in 2005. Pic: Penny Bradfield
Gough Whitlam in Washington before appearing on Meet the Pressin 1974. Pic: AP
Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam as the keynote speaker at Whitehorse Business Week Breakfast at Box Hill Town Hall. Pic: Andrew De La Rue
Gough Whitlam at the Mount Prichard Community Club in October 2004. Pic: Andrew Taylor
Gough Whitlam watches Mark Latham as he speaks on stage at Mount Pritchard Community Club. Pic: Tamara Dean
Gough and Margaret Whitlam in January 2003. Pic: Simon Alekna
Gough Whitlam in the documentary ‘Gough Whitlam – In His Own Words’. Pic: SBS/Supplied
Gough Whitlam “In His Own Words”. Pic: Steven Siewert
Gough and Margaret Whitlam in 2006. Pic: Craig Sillitoe
Former PM Gough Whitlam laughs during a function at the Westmead Hospital where he planted a Millennium Tree to mark 25 years since his government’s dismissal. Pic: Andrew Meares
Gough Whitlam speaking at a public hearing into East Timor at Parliament House in Canberra. Pic: Paul Harris
Ex-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam launched the Oxford University Press latest edition dictionary at the ANU, Canberra. Pic: Belinda Pratten
Gough Whitlam. Pic: Andrew Taylor
Gough Whitlam celebrates his 80th birthday at the state library. Pic: Robert Pearce
TweetFacebookGuardian Australia that Mr Whitlam would be remembered for his impact on Australia’s universities, Medicare, family law, land rights for indigenous Australians and improving relations with China.
Australia has lost one of its greatest in Gough Whitlam
— Joel Fitzgibbon (@fitzhunter) October 20, 2014
“As prime minister, I was conscious of walking in Whitlam’s footsteps as our government set about creating a companion to Medicare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” she said.
“Every Labor leader and every prime minister who has followed him has wrestled with his legacy. Gough Whitlam transformed so much about Australia and the prime ministership.”
Former Labor leader Kim Beazley, who is now Australia’s ambassador to the United States and whose father Kim Beazley snr served as a minister in the Whitlam government, said the former Labor leader was “without question the most erudite politician we have had lead Australia” and a “timeless figure”.
“He made the modern opposition, through the establishment of shadow cabinet, the creation of comprehensive policy, the willingness not just to pursue the negative but to pursue what people wanted to know – what you would do with the place,” he told Fairfax Media from Washington.
Former Labor leaders Kim Beazley, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden and Gough Whitlam. Picture: Paul Harris
“His government was fraught and struggled but it left many monuments behind it, the changes he made in education, then changes in Aboriginal affairs, the changes he made in health, the changes he made in innovative Commonwealth use of Section 96 grants,” he said.
“While his actual activities ebbed and flowed in the hands of different governments, his approach basically remains as the underpinnings of many of great Australian social initiatives.”
Mr Beazley said he had “millions” of personal memories of Mr Whitlam but the first was when, as a child, he would travel to Canberra with his father in August each year for parliament.
“My father used to be put me in the Speakers’ gallery of parliament, almost as a babysitting service, and Gough would often, if I was sitting there, come across and say hello.”
Liberal backbencher Philip Ruddock, the only sitting federal MP to serve with Mr Whitlam, having been elected in 1973, said that after John Howard, the former Labor PM was the former prime minister to whom he had been most connected.
The Canberra tally room in 1975: Gough Whitlam holds his head high despite the early indications.
“My election as the member for Paramatta [in 1973], it was a very adversarial by-election, it was when Billy Snedden was making ground and we got a huge swing. But it was primarily because he proposed Galston as the second airport for Sydney and that caused a great deal of anxiety that could be very easily exploited.”
“He forgave me for beating him. In his very magnanimous way he would say ‘comrade, that’s the way it had to be’…I liked Gough Whitlam, he was a gentleman who believed in what he believed but it didn’t interfere with the personal relationships.”
Mr Fraser said that his predecessor as prime minister had a place in Australian history that was “very special to Gough”.
“He is in some ways almost a mythological figure, he is revered, whatever the success or shortfalls of his government, he has played an enormously important part in Australians life and that can’t be taken from him,” he told Fairfax Media.
“In the arts, opera theatre literature, music he opened up possibilities that seemed to be new and exciting”.
“He went to China at a time when the visit took some courage, China was still very much on the outer, [US president Richard] Nixon’s visit hadn’t taken place, but he laid the foundations for a new and more productive relationship.”
Mr Whitlam was larger than life and a tough opponent in and outside of the parliament, who had not born a grudge for the manner of his dismissal, Mr Fraser said.
“He was a formidable parliamentary performer and one of the significant debaters of his time … Gough was one of the leaders. It was a time when there were people who had their own character because of who and what they were. I think the Parliament today has less personalities in it, people who don’t seem to shine – people read speeches rather than making them.
March 2008: Gough Whitlam, the special guest at the ANU Bruce Hall commencement dinner.
As for the events of 1975, Mr Fraser said he “never had the feeling he carried personal animosity to me as a result of 1975”.
“As we met at different forums, mostly overseas initially, the ice began to break and we established a friendship. We supported the independence ofThe Agefrom the back of a truck overlooking Fitzroy Gardens together. We found that we had a number of issues where we had a common view – on refugees, independence of the media, but also we had a common idea of Australia as a country that could play an active and productive role as a middle-ranking power cooperating with others.”
“It was only later we developed a closeness and a friendship, after we left the parliament.”
And in the years after both left politics, Mr Fraser said, the pair had not discussed the events of 1975 as “those events were passed, he knew and I knew what the facts were”.
“There wasn’t a great deal of point really. There were enough things to discuss between us that were relevant and significant and more up to date than 1975.”
Paying tribute: Flowers on the steps of Old Parliament House. Picture: Jamila Toderas
“If he had a fault it was trying to do too much too quickly, which made it difficult to implement everything. That’s possibly a product of being out of office for 23 years, which is not healthy for democracy. It’s better that governments change more often than that.”
ACTU president Ged Kearney called Mr Whitlam “a once in a generation leader” who was driven by a vision for a greater Australia.
“Gough Whitlam sensed that Australians wanted something different and he harnessed that and ushered in a period of great social, cultural and economic change in Australia,” Ms Kearney said.
She listed recognition ofChina and equality for women and the first peoples of Australia among Mr Whitlam’s achievements.
Ms Kearney also paid tribute to the partnership of Gough and Margaret Whitlam.
“Gough and Margaret were a terrific team and together they made an enormous difference to generations of Australians.”
Ms Kearney said while Mr Whitlam was only prime minister for three years, he continued to contribute to the nation over his lifetime.
“Gough Whitlam’s legacy is one of a fairer and more just society and it is our responsibility to instil this in generations of Australians to come,” Ms Kearney said.
Find out more about Gough Whitlam’s legacy at The Whitlam Institute