It is with sadness I heard this morning about the death of former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam at the age of 98. He was a big man in both stature and actions.
I believe he was the last of the great political leaders, in his wake the role of politicians has changed from that of leadership to that of management. Malcolm Fraser was forced into that position due to the sacking of Whitlam by the then Governor General John Kerr being on the grounds of poor financial management by the Labor Government. John Howard turned this management style into a fine art, at the expense of vision.
But back to Gough Whitlam, when he came to power he hit the ground running driven by political aspirations for a better Australia. Whitlam’s opposition to the Viet Nam war and drive for social justice brought Labor to power after the ‘It’s Time’ campaign in 1972.
During the Whitlam government’s three years in office, a record number of bills were enacted, and change swept through the nation. This left an unrivalled legacy for Australia, a legacy we are still enjoying today.
Key changes were in the recognition of the first people, with the handing over of title deeds of traditional lands in the Northern Territory to the Gurundji people at Wattle Creek, From little things big things grow (Kev Carmody). The education sector was opened up to all, with university fees being abolished and needs-based funding for government schools instigated. Also the health system was forever changed, with the introduction of Medibank, now known as Medicare. Whitlam also made proactive moves for Australia to engage with China, something our wealth is now built on.
In 3 years Whitlam used political vision and expertise to cement a strong future for Australia. No political manager could ever have done that, and I mourn the loss of such incredible political leadership.
RIP Gough, you are sadly missed.