26th PRIME MINISTER
05 DEC 1972 - 11 NOV 1975
"The right man at the right time."
Parliamentary Party Positions
"You either crash through or crash" is the political philosophy of Gough Whitlam, and he looks as though he means it. A big, imposing man, with a biting wit and computer-fast intelligence, he has a dynamic confidence which made him the first Labor Prime Minister for 23 years.
Born in Melbourne in 1916, the son of a solicitor who became a leading public servant, his background was unusual for a Labor man when he joined the party in 1945. In those days, many of the leading Labor personalities were Irish Catholics from 'hard yakka' beginnings. Whitlam, an intellectual from an intellectual family, had never had to toil for his wages in the dust and heat.
In 1927 the Whitlams were among the first public service families to settle permanently in Canberra. The new capital was then little more than an unfinished sprawl, but the Whitlam home became a haven in which good books and political and intellectual discussion were all part of the daily fare. Gough Whitlam completed his education at Canberra schools and at the University of Sydney, where he graduated in Arts and Law.
In 1941 he joined the RAAF. His background left him amazed at his comrades' apathy toward the political affairs which could affect their futures. When he was discharged, his beliefs in progress and reform inspired him to join the Labor Party, although he had no intention of making a career in politics. He began to make a name as a successful barrister.
But impatience for national progress caused him to make a bid for a State Parliament seat in 1950 and, two years later, to win a by-election for the federal seat of Werriwa. He was to hold this seat, covering a new suburban area of Sydney, for more than 20 years and it gave him intimate knowledge of the needs and problems of Australian urban communities.
Whitlam entered Parliament at a time when successive Liberal-Country Party victories were shaking 'old-style' Labor to the roots. He was to encounter opposition from the old guard as he climbed steadily upward but, by 1967, he was leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party.
Labor had been given fresh hope for the future by the retirement of Menzies, the disappearance of Holt and the controversial regimes of Gorton and McMahon. Whitlam rallied the party for the hard-fought election of 1969, then prepared for the final assault in 1972.
He backed his election campaign with an armoury of 140 promises of reform, including an end to conscription and withdrawal from Vietnam, equal opportunities for women, vastly increased funding for education and the arts, a harder line toward South Africa, recognition of Communist China, urban renewal, universal health insurance, revisions to the family law and improvements to public transport. He was to keep these and many other promises.
In 1972 Whitlam was the right man at the right time. He presented an inspiring new image to an electorate tired of the old coalition, which seemed to have lost its way. The voters gave Labor a massive mandate and Whitlam instantly responded by pressing the button to start his dazzling reform program.
Despite a hostile Senate and a sometimes cynical media, the shiny new Labor machine quickly roared into top gear. But after a while it was bombarded by rocketing oil prices and it began to run out of financial fuel. Some members of Whitlam's government, including Rex Connor and Jim Cairns, defied the Constitution in a secret attempt to raise a $2 billion overseas loan to keep Labor programs rolling. The two men gave misleading answers to challenges from a revamped Opposition, led by Malcolm Fraser, and Whitlam was forced to demote them. Cairns added fuel to media fires by taking on a pretty young woman, from outside the public service, as his personal secretary.
Whitlam, campaigning against a backdrop of rising unemployment and inflation, fought a battle of wits and stamina with Fraser. Fraser, determined to force a dissolution of Parliament so that a scandalised electorate might show its opinion of Labor, contrived a Senate blockage of Labor's 1975 budget.
Whitlam still thought he would ride out the storm and, on 11 November 1975, he tried to present a plan of action to Governor-General Sir John Kerr. But Kerr demanded: "Are you prepared to recommend a general election?" When Whitlam refused, Kerr said: "In that case, I have no alternative but to dismiss you."
Kerr commissioned Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister and the coalition won a resounding victory in the December elections.
The 'Loans Affair' and 'The Dismissal' comprise one of the most controversial periods in Australian politics and many believe the whole truth about them has not yet been told. For Whitlam they were almost the end of the political road, although he has continued to play a leading role in social and international affairs since retiring from the Parliament.
|Party||Australian Labor Party|
|State||New South Wales|
|Parliamentary Service||Local and State
|Parliamentary Party Positions||
Contents | Home
Sign Guestbook View Guestbook
This page last updated on 01 Feb 01
© Robertsbridge and Langlen
The following advertising was randomly placed by GeoCities,
and does not necessarily reflect my personal interests, attitudes, opinions, or endorsements.
But it DOES keep those annoying pop-up ads off of my pages!
THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY!