Tribute to The Honourable E G Whitlam AC QC
Politics Can be a Noble Profession
Director of the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney
News of Gough Whitlam’s death on the morning of Tuesday 21 October 2014 swept across our country, not as some gentle ripple of nostalgia but with all the force of a scorching bushfire. It was befitting the stature and the nature of the man whose approach to politics will be captured forever in his own declaration that ‘you have got to crash through or you’ve got to crash’.
At 98, Gough’s time had come. His achievements though are enduring.
In a rare moment of national unity, the Australian Parliament ceased all business for the day as a mark of respect other than for the condolence addresses delivered in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and a long succession of speakers across party lines. There was an unchallenged consensus that Gough Whitlam had transformed Australia, willing us into the modern world.
In the days since Gough’s death, thousands upon thousands of words have been written and many thousands more have been broadcast. The litany of his Government’s reforms has been recited: universal health care; needs-based school funding; free vocational and university education; no-fault divorce and the family court; the National Gallery and the Australian artistic renaissance; tariff reduction and the first Trade Practices Act; land rights; Commonwealth funded urban and regional development; ending the folly of Australia’s involvement in the Indo-China war; recognition of the People’s Republic of China; an independent foreign policy alongside a commitment to multilateralism which saw a raft of treaties adopted, most notably foundational human rights and the environmental agreements; shedding the last vestiges of the White Australia policy and opening the doors to multicultural Australia as a policy of government.
Worth special mention, though often forgotten, are the Whitlam Government’s electoral reforms: reducing the voting age to 18; senate representation for the Territories and most importantly legislative reform to entrench ‘one vote, one value’.
The Whitlam reforms, though constantly challenged, are embedded in the fabric of our daily lives. They are embedded in the way we see ourselves as Australians. They set a new course for Australia’s place in our region and our relationship with the international community.
Gough’s influence extends even further. As Senator John Faulkner said in his condolence address (27 October) in the Senate:
Gough did not depart politics in 1978 when he departed this parliament. If anything, he was more influential by way of example and encouragement. He was living evidence that being involved could make a difference.
At the same time it is worth remembering that Gough was a tireless and fiercely determined politician. He made mistakes and his government was far from perfect.
He was no fool and held no illusions as to the permanence of reform. As he made clear to us here at the Whitlam Institute, reform is a constant process. Good policy flows from strong research, the best advice and hard work and only then will it have ‘contemporary relevance’ as any good policy must.
The Whitlam Institute was established under an agreement between Gough Whitlam and the then Vice-Chancellor Professor Janice Reid in 2000.
Gough saw the Whitlam Institute as more than the custodian of his Prime Ministerial Library. As important as that is, the last thing he wanted was a mausoleum.
Gough always saw the Whitlam Institute as a source of inspiration and encouragement to those who shared his ambitions for an equal, open, tolerant and independent Australia. His interest in the Whitlam’s Institute’s endeavours, and his willingness to support it in whatever way he could, never waned.
Indeed, on 31 October 2013 the 97 year old Gough Whitlam travelled to the Whitlam Institute on the Parramatta campus of the University of Western Sydney to unveil a plaque marking the opening of his institute’s permanent home in the historic Female Orphan School. It proved to be the last public appearance of one of our country’s greatest public figures.
Gough was in fine form as photos of the day attest. There was much laughter and some emotion. He smiled broadly as he pulled the cord to unveil the bronze plaque that simply read:
The Honourable E G Whitlam AC QC unveiled this plaque upon the opening of the Whitlam Institute and Prime Ministerial Library within this restored Female Orphan School. 31 October 2013
The plaque is now firmly fixed to the exterior wall of the east wing room that houses the permanent exhibition ‘A Changing Australia: the Time of Gough Whitlam’. There it will remain in the decades and the centuries to come taking on the permanence of the 1813 building that is home to the institute that bears Gough’s name.
Politics can be a noble profession but only if those who practice it do so with principle and are driven with a purpose greater than themselves. Gough Whitlam saw politics as public service and devoted his life to that end.
The reward for public life is public progress
Paul Keating/ Noel Pearson, Whitlam Memorial
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this issue of Global Media Journal/Australia Edition, dedicated to Gough Whitlam who died on October 21 2014. This special issue, co-edited by Myra Gurney, Antonio Castillo, Roumen Dimitrov and Tim Dwyer, is based on reflections on the 2013 election and the complex mediatisation associated with the Coalition’s ascension to power. Just over one year on from that election, the Coalition is in a parlous state, struggling on a number of fronts, in particular, with its seemingly futile efforts to pass its legislative program and controversial budget measures. This current impasse has its roots in the character and unique conditions under which the 2013 election unfolded – and in particular, how the media both influenced the result and itself became a focus as media. It is entirely fitting and timely to now bring the 2013 election into focus and re-consider the media relationships invoked by this historical moment in Australian politics.
As always we are grateful for the work undertaken by the referees of the articles published in this issue. The continuing high standard of the publication depends on this essential part of a journal’s ongoing existence. The mostly volunteer work on the part of the GMJ AU editorial committee members has again made this issue possible. Special thanks as always to our webmaster Roman Goik for his work on preparing the papers for online publication and to Tim Dwyer for his valuable Australia Media Monitor contribution.
I would like to add my special thanks to Eric Sidoti, who as Director of the Whitlam Institute, UWS, had a significant extra load of commitments in light of Gough Whitlam’s passing. Despite this, he immediately responded to my request for a comment that would resonate with our desire to dedicate this issue to Gough Whitlam.
University of Western Sydney
University of NSW
University of Sydney
Paul Keating once said that when you change the government of a country, you change the country. And so, on September 7, 2013, Australians voted for a change of government. Since that time, and after six tumultuous years of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor governments, the political tenor has changed significantly. New Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared that ‘Australia in now open for business’. And – in the year since the election of his government – we have seen considerable winding back of a number of the critical Rudd/Gillard policies. This special edition of GMJ AU offers papers that explore a range of perspectives related to the role of the media in the political change process and on the political landscape, one that changed significantly since Whitlam rallied us in 1972 with his memorable election ‘call to arms’, ‘It’s Time’. (See the dedication to Gough Whitlam ...more
The Australian edition of Global Media Journal invites the submission of essays and research reports that focus on any aspects in the field of Communication, Media and Journalism. We are particularly interested in articles that explore some of the following themes:
- Media and Democracy
- Children and Media
- Grassroots and alternative media
- Media Law and Ethics
- Civic Journalism
- Peace Communication
- Ethnicity and the media
- Political economy of communication
- Film and Media
- Media Audiences
- Media Policies
- Media, Citizenship and Democracy
- Communication and Cultures in Conflict
- Theories of Communication
- Media and Globalisation
Australian Media MonitorVolatile times in Oz Media
The Australian media industries are in a period of accelerating digital transition and renewed ownership concentration. First newspapers, and recently the Abbott government ABC cuts, especially in rural and regional Australia, but now commercial TV is bearing the brunt of these forces of convergent media consolidation, and the networks are scrambling to reposition themselves for an unavoidable hit from Internet Protocol TV (IPTV). This restructuring is occurring at a time when the advertising spend and splintering audience engagement with network TV has been on the wane for some years. ...more
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