Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gough Whitlam (thanks Jack)

I didn't really want to write about Gough Whitlam. The whole subject seems too overwhelming to me. Instead, I wrote AROUND him. I wrote about his wife. I wrote about the Governor-General who kicked him out of the Prime Minister position. I wrote about the guy who replaced him.

But then Jack gave me his name. I have a hard time saying no to suggestions of people I should add to the list. I certainly couldn't reject my own child's idea.

So here we are......

Let's go talk to Lord Wiki.

Baby Gough was born 11 July 1916. I'm not sure I want to do the timeline stuff anymore. What's the point? Does it matter what was going on the year people were born? They were babies. It's not like they're going to remember any of it.

Plus, if I skip all that, it will make my posts a tiny bit shorter.

Little Gough was born in a suburb in Melbourne called Kew. Lord Wiki says this is a very affluent suburb. It has big houses, lovely gardens, and a lot of parks.

Daddy Whitlam was a solicitor for the Australian government. He was a strong supporter of human-rights, and Lord Wiki believes this had an influence of young Gough.

It seems the family didn't stay too long in Melbourne. I can see this from the schools Whitlam attended. He went to one in Sydney called Mowbray House School. It closed in 1954.

He also went to Knox Grammar School. That was an all boy's school.

At some point, the family moved to Canberra....probably because of Daddy Whitlam's government job. There Whitlam went to Telopea Park School and Canberra Grammar School.

Lord Wiki says Whitlam is the only Prime Minister to have spent any of his youth in Canberra.

Whitlam studied law at the University of Sydney.

In 1942, he married Margaret.

During World War II, he was a navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was part of the No. 13 Squadron. This website has a photo of Whitlam with his fellow Squadron people.

After Whitlam finished the war stuff, he came back and completed his studies. He was admitted to the bar in 1947.

Now we get to the political stuff....

Whitlam joined the Labor Party in 1945. By 1950, he was a candidate in an election for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He lost. In 1952, someone died in Federal government. Whitlam took his place as the Member for Werriwa. This is the seat that Mark Latham was in from 1994 to 2005. It's been Labor since 1934. That's pretty impressive.

Whitlam did well in Parliament. He was good at speaking and all that.

In 1951, H.V. Evatt became the leader of the Labor Party. Whitlam liked him, and supported him. That makes sense. Evatt was a lot like Daddy Whitlam; supported human rights and all that. I bet Gough himself, by this time, was like that as well.

In 1960, Arthur Calwell replaced Evatt. Whitlam became the Deputy leader of the Labor Party.

Lord Wiki says that Whitlam didn't have the best relationship with Calwell. I kind of expected that. Calwell was into the White Australia Policy. That doesn't seem like something that Whitlam would have supported.

Whitlam opposed other aspects of Calwell's Labor Party stuff. Whitlam supported government aid for private schools. Calwell and the other right-wing Labor Party folks did not.

In 1966, Liberal Party's Harold Holt beat Calwell in a landslide election. This led to Calwell stepping down. Whitlam became the leader of the party, also known as the Leader of the Opposition.

During Whitlam's Opposition Days, the White Australia Policy was dropped. Go Whitlam!

Lord Wiki says the Labor Party became more socially Liberal, and more intellectual.

In 1967, the Prime Minister of Australia vanished in the big blue ocean. Oops. The Liberal Party had to get themselves a new leader. They shuffled through a few before settling on William McMahon.

During this time, Whitlam advocated the end of conscription. Along those lines, he also wanted to withdraw Aussie troops from Vietnam.

In 1971, Whitlam went to visit China. Remember. Back in those days, politicians didn't go to China. Whitlam was being a pioneer. McMahon criticized him for it. Then everyone found out that Nixon was planning on doing it too.

You know, Americans make a big deal about Nixon going to China. Whitlam did it first. I think I remember reading elsewhere that McMahon changed his tune when it was revealed that America was joining in the game. I could be wrong though.

Whitlam became Prime Minister of Australia thirteen days after I was born. Lord Wiki says his Ministry was composed of men who were all veterans.

Lord Wiki says the custom of Australia is to wait for the vote count to be finished. Before that time, the old Prime Minister remains in office as a caretaker. Things didn't go that way with Whitlam. He had himself and the Deputy Prime Minister sworn in immediately. Then a few weeks later, he had chosen the rest of his Ministry. Interesting. I wonder if there was any protest about this.

Whitlam had a hostile Senate. I'm sure that was a challenge, and from what I already probably led to The Dismissal. If not that, it at least made it hard for Whitlam to get legislation passed. He did manage to accomplish stuff though.

He established an official diplomatic relationship with China.

He got rid of university fees. I think this is one of my favorites about Whitlam. I totally think University should be a freebie, especially for students pursuing careers that are desperately needed by the society.

Whitlam cut Tarrifs. I guess then he was more into Free Trade than Protectionism.

He helped private schools get some government funds.

He helped single parent families.

He abolished the death penalty for Federal Crimes. What about for state crimes?

He reduced the voting age to 18. What was it before then?

He introduced language programs for Australians who didn't speak English.

He tried to bring more woman into government.

He helped Indigenous Australians.

He did lots of stuff.

Whitlam was a pretty awesome prime minister. So far, I like him much better than that other very popular Prime Minister....Paul Keating.

Some Senate stuff happened. I don't really understand it. Let me try.

Whitlam wanted some bills passed. The Senate kept rejecting them. When this happens, the response is often (or supposed to be?) a Double dissolution. I THINK what's supposed to happen here is everything in both houses is wiped out. The slate is clean, and there are new elections. I guess Whitlam was supposed to call an election. Instead, of a double dissolution, he went for a half-of-the-senate dissolution only. I might be getting this totally wrong. Don't take my words as gospel.

Ah. This is interesting. Whitlam did something kind of sneaky. He offered a Democratic Labor Party Member of the Senate a job as the ambassador to Ireland. He did this so there'd be a free seat in the Senate. Whitlam hoped a Labor Party person would get the position. His wicked plan was uncovered, and the DLP guy (Vince Gair) didn't leave his seat.

This was all known as the Gair Affair. People in the Opposition were far from happy about it. The Leader, Bill Snedden, was especially annoyed with it all. He threatened to block supply in the Senate. I think this is where the government in power can't get money. That's quite a hindrance.

It seems Snedden's threats were empty ones. Still, Whitlam finally did the Double dissolution thing. There were new elections. Whitlam won again. Unfortunately, Labor still did not get that majority in the Senate.

Malcolm Fraser became the Leader of the Opposition. His threats to block supply weren't so empty. The big dismissal thing would soon happen. I'm going to eat breakfast, and then I shall read about it.

Okay. I'm back.

The money was blocked. Whitlam still tried to run the government. Fraser tried to get Whitlam to hold an election. Whitlam ignored the requests, and instead tried to borrow money from elsewhere.

On 11 November 1975, Governor General Kerr had Whitlam dismissed. Fraser was put into office.

Whitlam tried to get back in via the next election. Lord Wiki says he tried to get election funding from Iraq. Interesting....

Fraser won. Whitlam lost.

Reading this....I feel the fault doesn't completely lie at the feet of Kerr and Fraser. Although I think Whitlam did great things as Prime Minister, I feel he made mistakes that led to his dismissal. I'm not sure what I feel he should have done differently. Maybe he should have held the double dissolution thing in the beginning?

Lord Wiki has a list of even more things that happened during Whitlam's reign.

A no-fault divorce system was put into effect.

Australia let Papa New Guinea have independence.

Ah. Lord Wiki answers I question I had on my mind. If Whitlam provided free education to university students, who took it away. He says it was Bob Hawke. I'm surprised. I figured it would be a Liberal Prime Minister.

There are some things that Whitlam did that are not looked upon as being that favorable. There were some economic shortcomings....high unemployment and stuff like that. However, as it usually is.  Some say this wasn't his fault, but the fault of previous governments. It's like blaming Obama for America's current economic situation. Can it really be his fault? The problems were there before he got into office.

Lord Wiki says Whitlam supported the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia. Many people see this as a very negative thing. Well, because Indonesia wasn't always that nice to East Timor. Women were raped. People starved. People were killed.

Whitlam remained the Leader of the Opposition for about two years. Then he stepped down.

In the 1990's, he campaigned for Australia to become a Republic. He even joined together with an old "enemy", Malcolm Fraser, to promote the cause.. They made a commercial together. The sound on that video is a little bit off.

Whitlam didn't like Kim Beazley, or Beazley's father. He also didn't like John Howard. Well, I don't think many people do except for George W. Bush. No, I'm joking. I'm sure a lot of conservatives love the guy.

Whitlam did like Mark Latham. I think that's interesting. I think of Latham as being very negative--critical of others. I see him as a bit of a bully. He reminds me a lot of Margaret Whitlam in that way. Maybe that's the kind of person that Whitlam likes.

Ah! But there was major drama between Latham and Whitlam. They were all loving towards each other. Whitlam was Latham's mentor. But in his published diary, Latham revealed that Whitlam had said something that dreadfully hurt him. Whitlam had remarked to Joel Fitzgibbon that he believed Latham should quit politics all together. I guess somehow Latham learned about this. Did Fitzgibbon tell him? Whitlam tried to defend himself. He says he didn't say that because he thought Latham was incapable of doing a good job in politics. Rather, he was worried about Latham's health. That makes sense.

Whitlam is now the oldest former Prime Minister. He's ninety-three. That's pretty old.

I'm done with Lord Wiki. Now I'm going to go to that government Prime Minister site. I'll see if there's anything that Lord Wiki forgot to mention...or that I accidentally ignored.

Whitlam had one younger sibling.

The family moved to Sydney in 1921. So he was about five when they left Melbourne. I moved when I was five too. We went from St. Louis to Madison, Wisconsin.

The Whitlams lived in Mosman, and then Turramurra. I need to look up the latter. I don't think I know about it.

 Like Mosman, Turramurra is part of the Northern Suburbs. Lord Wiki says it has the highest rainfall of Sydney. Ah. This is where Grace Cossington-Smith lived. So, I did know about it. Oops.

Whitlam was twelve when the family moved to Canberra. This website explains why he went to two different schools. He went to Telopea Park High School. He finished with his education when he was only fifteen. He was too young to go to University, so instead he went to Canberra Grammar School to get a little extra knowledge into his brain.

In University, Whitlam studied both law and arts. He was into rowing. He was also involved with debating and drama. I'm sure both those things helped him with his experiences in Parliament. Whitlam also helped edit the student/university journals. It seems he kept himself quite busy.

By 1947, Whitlam was done with war fighting and his university education. He and Margaret had two young sons. The family moved to Cronulla in Sydney. They didn't own a car. Whitlam did his campaigning on foot.

Whitlam was involved with many different things. That's good, because this is the type of person his wife likes. She doesn't like people who sit around reading books, and who contribute time to only one or two organizations.

I think that's what Mr. and Mrs. Whitlam have in common. They believed that people should be busy....VERY busy.

Whitlam did some game show stuff on the radio. This was from 1948-1950. He won the family some money. They used the money to buy the block of land near their house. What did they do with it? Maybe they expanded their house?

When Whitlam won the seat of Werriwa, he celebrated by buying the family a car.

Whitlam did his official first Parliament speech on 19 March 1953. However, he had already spoken three times before this. The first speech is supposed to be listened to with silence, but John McEwen interrupted. McEwen was reprimanded by the Speaker of the House.

This Whitlam dismissal site has the speech. It looks like McEwen interrupted only once, but maybe the site doesn't include all the interruptions. Or maybe he just interrupted that one time.

What happens is Whitlam starts by talking about the Member of Parliament that had recently died...the guy who previously had the seat of Werriwa. He says, Mr. Lazzarini had always belonged to the Labour party, had always adhered to its principles, and had given strength to both....

McEwen interrupts and says, No, he was in and out of the Labour party.

Was he? I'm too lazy to go check.

Anyway, the Speaker reminds McEwen that the maiden speech is not supposed to be interrupted. Then Whitlam himself makes some wisecracks. I don't fully understand them, so I'm not going to quote them.

Okay, back to the Prime Minister site.

In the mid 1950's, the Whitlam family moved from Cronulla to Cabramatta. By now, they had four kids.

There's something here that Lord Wiki talked about. I didn't understand it from him, and I also don't really understand it here. It's the 36 Faceless Men. I've read it twice. I still can't figure it out. All I know is that a photo was taken, and that image was used by the opposing party. I think it somehow undermined the Labor Party.

Whitlam was the first Labor Prime Minister since 1949. Wow. I didn't realize how much time had passed. That's twenty-three years.

I've mentioned this recently, but not yet in this post. Whitlam pushed for Australian filmmaking. This included opening the National Film and Television School in Sydney.

Whitlam suffered from air-sickness when he was in the air force. Yikes.

Okay, that's about it for that site.

There's a Whitlam Institute. It's part of the University of Western Sydney. I didn't know there was a University of Western Sydney. I'm looking at Google Maps now. It's in (or near) Parramatta.

The purpose of the institute is for the research of and advocation of fairness in Australia.

I should probably look at that Whitlam Dismissal website. It probably has some good stuff.

A lot of the information is stuff I've already seen. This page is interesting to me though. It talks about the effects that The Dismissal had on Australia. It says that the Labor government might have been a bit weary of being dismissed again...repeating the same mistakes that led to Whitlam's drama. Some say that because of this, Bob Hawke's Labor government was the most conservative Labor government Australia had ever had. The site says that although in today's world, Whitlam is seen as an iconic Labor figure, after The Dismissal, his name often evoked fear. Is that true? I have to sort of believe it. What has never made sense to me is this. Whitlam is seen as such a huge hero. The Dismissal is seen as this huge stain on Australia's history. Yet, at the next election....Fraser won the vote and not Whitlam. I had figured....if he was so loved, he would have gotten back into office. Maybe the massive amounts of love didn't come until later. I do know that there were SOME people who adored him and wanted him back in office. I guess there just wasn't enough of these people.

2005 was the 30th anniversary of The Dismissal. The website has a collection of stuff that was written. I shall read a few things.

This editorial talks about Whitlam trying to get money from Iraq for his campaign funding. Tony Parkinson says that Whitlam and some of his political mates decided to approach Saddam Hussein for a $500,000 donation.

Parkinson says, The three Labor insiders initiated a secret negotiation that might have left Australia's political system vulnerable to corruption by a foreign government. This was the first and last time an Australian political party had sought to solicit funds from an outside power. And not just any foreign power. This was an invitation to a regime they knew to be despicable and despotic.

Did they know Hussein's regime was bad? I mean it's the same with Fraser supporting Mugabe. I think sometimes leaders are supported by our governments because we don't yet know they're going to end up being wicked.

Well, most of the links to these articles are dead. I'm going to move on. I think I'll spend the rest of my research time watching videos.

What treasures can I find?

Here's a Barry Humphries video about Whitlam. I've actually watched it before, but I'm going to watch it again. I think it provides a pretty good review of stuff. I love the part around 2:00. Humphries talks about how Aussie expatriates said they wouldn't come back to Australia until Australia had a less conservative government. Humphries says, But since the conservative Liberals had been in power for over twenty years, they felt they could say this without much risk of having to go home. That line gave me a great laugh.

I like the song sung at the end of the video.

What exactly did Whitlam mean when he said, Well may we say that God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor General? Save him from what exactly? A bad reputation? A naughty soul? Was Whitlam giving him some kind of threat?

This video has Whitlam's bye bye speech. There's a lot of cheering and booing. Whitlam says, They won't silence the outskirts of Parliament House even if the inside has been silenced for the next few weeks. It lasted a bit longer than a few weeks. Fraser remained Prime Minister until 1983.

Here's Norman Gunston at The Dismissal. Lord Wiki says he's an Aussie comedian. I shall have to add him to the list. I'm GUESSING that was trick video stuff....that they inserted Gunston into the video....kind of like a Forrest Gump thing. But I'm not completely positive. Did they even have such video technology back then?

In this video, Whitlam sings The Dismissal speech. I think it's one of those things where they add music to talking, and make it seem like someone is singing. Tim showed me some recent videos like this.

This video has the band The Whitlams receiving an award. A surprise guest appears! Oh. It looks like Whitlam helps present the award. Did they know The Whitlams were going to win? What if they lost? Whitlam's appearance would be much less meaningful.

Anyway, it's very sweet. Tim Freedman from the Whitlams hugs the Prime Minister Whitlam.

This conspiracy video says the CIA had a part in The Dismissal. That should be interesting....
I'm usually pretty easily brainwashed. I'm sure by the end of the video, I'll be a believer.

The first lesson here is that if you want to make a conspiracy video, have your show host wear black clothing and speak in a very spooky voice.

What the video says is that under Menzies' Liberal government, ties were strengthened with The United States. Now you can't please America by simply serving tea and Vegemite on toast. The American government demands much more than that. They wanted American bases in Australia;top Secret CIA type stuff. This is the type of thing that Mulder and Scully would investigate. I believe the Smoking Man was behind it all.

Yeah. I know I joke about all this stuff. But I do kind of believe it. It would NOT surprise me if America was involved in some kind of top secret wicked plan.

I trust the American government about as much as I trust that annoying guy who comes to our door selling magazines.

I love the use of eerie blue smoke in the video. The movie has additional parts. I'm not going to watch them. I'm too lazy.

I think I'm going to quit here.


  1. You're in fine form today M'Dear ;)
    Love your quip about the smoking man ... love, luv, lurrve your humour.
    Check out Norman Gunston aka Gary McDonald one day - he's an intriguing man, a comdeian who was way before his time!
    Thanks for a great post ...
    p.s. BTW Margaret Whitlam is a wonderful, iconic Aussie woman and gracefully bore the brunt of many long standing Aussie jokes! ;)
    Have a wonderful day. xo

  2. Redness,

    Thank you : )

    I can't remember if I added Norman (or Gary?) to my list. I'll go check. If I didn't, I shall add him now!

  3. I will try to keep this short. I am not verifying anything I say, so be warned.

    Arthur Calwell was seen as someone from a different time and was unelectable. Whitlam was fresh, new and progressive.

    Re the death penalty. Federal government did not have jurisdiction over state laws, still don't but have other methods when a problem arises.

    Your account of the Gair affair is close, but something is not right. Can't put my finger on it.

    Loans for the government, not the Labor Party, from the Middle East was known as the Khemlani Affair.

    Independence for Papua New Guinea did not work out well. It was premature and PNG is a basket

    The thirty six faceless men refers to Labor Party National Executive. Men who were unelected by the public and supposedly in control of the party and policy.

    Whitlam in his speech where he mentioned about nothing saving the Governor General meant, I think, from public retribution. The GG did go on to become a figure for ridicule.

    That really was Norman Gunston at the dismissal. He is very talented and still around today, I mean the real person, Gary McDonald.

    Not sure about the CIA, but I am sure they were quite happy Whitlam was sacked.

    It was a time of high passions and regardless of the rights or wrongs of Whitlam or his party, I cannot forget that the the Queen, through her representative in Australia, the Governor General, sacked a democratically elected government.

  4. Hi Dina,
    Just clearing a few things for you. A Double Dissolution is when a bill that is passed in the House of Representives (HoR or lower house) but rejected in the Senate (upper house) twice but a least 3 months apart. This gives the government or the Governor General (G.G) the option of calling an early election whereby all the senate is up for re-election instead of just half and all of the HoR. This is not always in there interest as it makes it easier for independents or smaller parties to get elected to the senate.
    Bob Hawke changed it from a free university education to a government loan system (HECS), whereby the government pays your fees and you repay the government when you start earning money. The repayments increases as your earnings increase and is take out every week just like your tax.
    The University of Western Sydney has 6 campuses (i think) Parramatta, Richmond, Blacktown, Penrith, Campbelltown, Bankstown and i think it is the biggest university in Australia in size and student numbers.
    In regards to 'well may we say god save the queen, cause nothing will save the Governor General', it is in response to the the G.G secretary who ends his proclaimation of the dissolving of Parliament with 'God save the Queen' so Whitlam response with the famous line and i think he's saying that the G.G is beyond redemption.
    And yes Norman Gunstan was actually at the Dismissal but some of the footage was added on later.

  5. Andrew: Thanks for all the info. Yeah. I think there's something disturbing about the queen coming in and interfering in a democratic government. I do hope Australia becomes a Republic someday.

    Matt: Beyond redemption...that makes sense.

    I think free education is better than loans...but I guess loans are better than nothing. I think I understand the double dissolution thing...sort of.