A Kiap’s Chronicle: 31 - Propaganda & confrontation
Father Daughter Bond

What did Whitlam ever do for us?

Gough Whitlam on the day of his government's dismissal on 11 November 1975. He died in October 2014 aged 98


NOOSA – I am, after a short stay in hospital, back home, still feeling a bit poorly – but that is my normal state.

You should also know I’m in something of an intemperate mood.

However, I’m feeling well and agreeable enough to manage this short compilation for readers too young or too senile to recall.

And the ‘this’ is just a partial list of the achievements of EG (Gough) Whitlam, prime minister of Australia for 1,071 days between 5 December 1972, and 11 November 1975, Remembrance Day.

Some of these accomplishment s have huge significance still, and some may seem minor to you but important to others.

Somehow, most have survived to this day.

And I repeat, this is a partial list.

But it does include how taking over from Andrew Peacock, Minister for External Territories, Whitlam brought Papua New Guinea to independence, a passionate goal he shared with Peacock.

There’s a link here if you’re interested in reading more about Whitlam


Aaa Morrison Somare Whitlam
Bill Morrison (Minister for External Territories), Michael Somare & Gough Whitlam


Introduced free medical care (Medibank, later privatised by Coalition and reintroduced by Labor as Medicare)

Made university and higher education free and vastly increased funding to tertiary education

Vastly increased education funding for state run schools and needy private and Catholic schools

Granted Indigenous land rights

Passed Racial Discrimination Act

Re-established diplomatic relations with China

Ended Australia's involvement in Vietnam War

Ended conscription

John Guise, Michael Somare & Andrew Peacock. In 1972 William McMahon made Peacock,  then aged 32, Minister for External Territories (PNGAA)

Abolished White Australia Policy

Established Australian Law Reform Commission

Legislated no-fault divorce through Family Law Act

Implemented system of Senate select and joint committees

Took French nuclear testing case to the International Court of Justice (French then voluntarily halted nuclear testing in the Pacific)

Ratified international conventions on eliminating racial discrimination, protecting civil and political rights and enhancing economic, social and cultural rights

He took over from Andrew Peacock in guiding Papua New Guinea to independence in 1975

Raised pensions to 25% of average weekly earnings and introduced many other welfare payments

Ensured Senate representation for the ACT and Northern Territory

Cufflinks given to Whitlam as a memento of PNG independence

Reopened equal pay case, championing rights of women to work and be fairly compensated

Abolished tax on contraceptives

Introduced Freedom of Information legislation

Created Office of Commonwealth Ombudsman

Made ASIO be accountable to Parliament

Ended death penalty for Commonwealth crimes

Lowering voted age from 21 to 18

Protected many more heritage and environmental sites (created environmental law division within Attorney General's Department)

Established community broadcasting (and Triple J)

Introduced legislation to establish SBS

Established Australian Film and Television School

Aaa Whitlam-Somare
Michael Somare and Gough Whitlam developed a very close personal relationship, as did Andrew Peacock and Somare

Initiated Australian Legal Aid Office and Aboriginal Legal Service (both providing free legal representation)

Initiated a national competition for an Australian national anthem as a result of which God Save the Queen was replaced by Advance Australia Fair

Abolished imperial honours and established Australia’s own honours list (Order of Australia)

Established National Gallery in Canberra, doubled funding to the arts and created the Australia Council for the Arts

Abolished appeals to Privy Council

Dropped prosecutions against conscientious objectors

Gough Whitlam married Margaret Dovey in April 1942. They were married for almost 70 years until Margaret's death in March 2012

Inaugurated a new royal title, Queen of Australia

Removed royal insignia (the crown) from post boxes

Passed Trade Practices Act and implemented new laws in relation to monopolies, exclusive dealing, price discrimination, restraint of trade, anti-competitive mergers and many consumer protection measures

Introduced guidelines for foreign investment in Australia

Established Institute of Criminology and Criminology Research Council

Prevented State police from engaging in illegal telephone taps

There's more. It can wait.


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Lindsay F Bond

Of Australian politicians current, does this news item indicate to whom Australians prefer to lean towards and associate with?


I'm not surprised the artists of our land regard Morrison & Co as rubbish. When money was being sprayed around like crazy in 2020, Gerry Harvey got a motzah and now fills up the johnny rapers with his ads and the poor bloody garrett dwellers got zilch - KJ

Chris Overland

Thank you Keith for this reminder of the Whitlam government's many lasting achievements.

Whitlam maintained, with tongue only half planted in cheek, that he was not Australia's best Prime Minister, only its most important.

To my mind there is a decent argument for that proposition, although it is pretty hard to argue against John Curtin for that honour.

In my lifetime I think that the PM's of the first rank have been Sir Robert Menzies, EG Whitlam, RJL Hawke and Paul Keating.

I include John Howard amongst the second rank because of his statesmanlike and determined reform of Australia's gun legislation after the Port Arthur massacre and his politically brave pursuit of the GST when this was intensely unpopular even within his own party.

Howard's record is tarnished by the infamous children overboard scandal, the thoroughly unfair Work Choices legislation which he forced through the Senate and what I perceive as the squandering of a once in a lifetime financial bonanza on unnecessary tax cuts as distinct from very necessary tax reform.

Since John Howard there has only been one Prime Minister who I think would rank amongst even the middle echelons of past incumbents and that is Julia Gillard.

The rest are very definitely amongst the lower ranks, with Tony Abbott and Morrison near the very bottom. Sir William McMahon probably still holds that position although future historians might put either Abbott or Morrison there.

In PNG, there have been very few PM's of the first rank. I think that only Sir Michael Somare and Sir Mekere Morauta would be deserving of that honour. The rest have fallen well short of the standards these two men set.

It is arguable that at least part of the malaise now affecting so many democracies lies in the inability of our political systems to now produce people of the first rank to take on leadership roles.

I blame this partly upon the professionalisation of politics, partly upon the emergence of professional lobbyists working for large and powerful interest groups and, perhaps most significantly, upon the need to generate huge financial 'war chests' to fund election campaigns.

The latter need has made political parties deeply susceptible to influence peddling and backroom dealings which have compromised both their integrity and ability to govern without fear or favour.

The current Australian government is a clear example of a party hopelessly compromised by its reliance upon very narrow interest groups for its finances.

None of this bodes well for the future and it is hard to see how the situation can be reformed unless and until someone of Whitlam or Hawke's stature comes along.

Lindsay F Bond

Almost whirl without end.

Stephen Charteris

Truely impressive. I wonder how the current bloke compares. We know he doesn't hold a hose.

Bernard Corden

That's quite an impressive and egalitarian list.

Meanwhile under the cover of Christmas and amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Stuart Robert, our acting Education Minister, has vetoed critical research grants.

Australian Research Council grants have only been blocked twice in the past.

The last time was in 2018 when Simon Birmingham (also a Liberal) blocked 11 research projects.

In 2006 Brendan Nelson (another Liberal) under John Howard's administration vetoed seven grants.


"An educated, healthy and confident nation is much harder to govern" - Tony Benn

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