Whitlam, (Edward) Gough 1916-
WHITLAM, (Edward) Gough 1916-
PERSONAL: Born July 11, 1916, in Melbourne, Australia; son of Harry Frederick Ernest (a solicitor) and Martha (Maddocks) Whitlam; married Margaret Elaine Dovey, April 22, 1942; children: Antony Philip, Nicholas Richard, Stephen Charles, Catherine Julia. Education: University of Sydney, B.A., 1938, LL.B., 1946.
ADDRESSES: Home—100 William St., Sydney, New South Wales 2011, Australia.
CAREER: Barrister, 1947; associated with New South Wales Bar Council, 1949-53; Australian Parliament, Canberra, Labor Member of Parliament for Werriwa, 1952-78, member of Parliamentary committee on constitutional review, 1956-59, deputy leader of Australian Labor Party, beginning 1960, leader of Australian Labor Party, 1967-77, member of constitutional conventions, 1973-77; foreign minister, 1972-73; Prime Minister of Australia, 1972-75; leader of the opposition, 1976-78. Appointed Queen's Counsel, 1962. Australian representative for United Nations' Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris, France, 1983-86; member of UNESCO executive board, 1985-89; member of Australian Constitutional Commission, 1986-88; World Heritage Committee and University of Sydney Senate, executive board member, both until 1989; Australia-China Council, chair, 1986-91; Council of the National Gallery of Australia, chair, 1987-90. Chifley Memorial Lecturer at University of Melbourne, 1957 and 1975; Roy Milne Lecturer in Armidale and Brisbane, 1963 and 1973; Evatt Memorial Lecturer at University of Sydney, 1966; John Curtin Memorial Lecturer at Australian National University, 1975; T. J. Ryan Memorial Lecturer at Queensland University, 1978. Visiting fellow at Australian National University, 1978-80, and first national fellow, 1980-81; visiting professor at Harvard University, 1979; fellow of Senate of University of Sydney, 1981-83, 1986-89. Founder, Hanoi Architectural Heritage Foundation, 1993—. Patron, Australian National Council for the Celebration of the Bicentenary of the French Revolution; member, Australian Olympic Committee delegation to Africa, 1993. Academy of Athens, corresponding member. Military service: Royal Australian Air Force, 1941-45; became flight lieutenant.
MEMBER: Socialist International (vice president, 1976), World Conservation Union (member of honor, 1988—).
AWARDS, HONORS: Silver Plate of Honor, Socialist International, 1976; companion of Order of Australia, 1978; Redmond Barry Award, Australian Library and Information Association, 1994; decorated by the governments of Cyprus and the Philippines, and twice by the governments of Italy and Greece. D.Litt., University of Sidney, 1981, University of Wollongong, 1989, La Trobe University, 1992, and University of Technology (Sydney, Australia), 1995.
Socialism within the Constitution, Victorian Fabian Society (Melbourne, Australia), 1961.
Labor and the Constitution, Victorian Fabian Society (Melbourne, Australia), 1965.
Beyond Vietnam: Australia's Regional Responsibility (pamphlet), Victorian Fabian Society (Melbourne, Australia), 1968.
Road to Reform-Labor in Government: Can Labor Carry Out Its Mandate? (lecture), Melbourne University ALP Club (Melbourne, Australia), 1975.
Labor and the Constitution, 1972-1975, Heinemann (London, England), 1977.
On Australia's Constitution, Widescope International Publishers (Melbourne, Australia), 1977.
The Truth of the Matter, Penguin (New York, NY), 1979, second edition, 1983.
Labor Essays, 1980, Drummond (London, England), 1980.
A Pacific Community, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1981.
The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975, Viking (New York, NY), 1985.
National Collecting Institutions: Inaugural Kenneth Myer Lecture, 5 April 1990 (lecture), Friends of the National Library of Australia (Canberra, Australia), 1990.
(With others) A Century of Social Change, Pluto Press Australia (Haymarket, Australia), 1992.
Abiding Interests, University of Queensland Press (St. Lucia, Queensland, Australia), 1997.
My Italian Notebook, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.
Also author of Government of the People, for the People, by the People's House, 1975, and The New Federalism: Labor's Programs and Policies, 1976. Contributor to books, including Australian Federalism: Future Tense, edited by Jeffrey Scott, Oxford University Press, 1983, and Wealth, Poverty and Survival: Australia in the World, edited by John Langmore and David Peetz, Allen & Unwin, 1983. Contributor to professional journals and magazines, including Australian Quarterly.
SIDELIGHTS: Gough Whitlam was the socialist-leaning Prime Minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975 whose liberal policies changed the political landscape of his country forever, but whose economic and foreign policies led to his controversial dismissal in 1975. While conservative thinkers have since then felt that Whitlam was justly taken down because he was running the country into the ground by overspending and insulting powerful allies such as the United States, Whitlam's supporters have always questioned the way the Prime Minister's career was ended and still maintain that it was done because Whitlam's policies threatened the interests of the upper classes. Whitlam defends his viewpoints and actions in several of his writings after he left Parliament in 1978, including The Truth of the Matter, The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975, and Abiding Interests.
Elected to Parliament in 1952, Whitlam rose through the ranks to become leader of the Labor Party in 1967. In this role, he helped improve the image of his party by being more moderate in his views and dispelling the suspicions many Australians had that Labor had close ties with the Communists. Through his leadership, Labor gained many seats in the 1969 election, and three years later Whitlam was elected Prime Minister, breaking the decades-long dominance of the conservatives. Wasting no time on this opportunity, Whitlam's new government passed legislation at record speeds, creating new laws protecting the environment, rectifying injustices perpetrated against the Aborigines, establishing a national health care system, and increasing funding to education, the arts, and social welfare programs. In the area of international relations, Whitlam put into place policies that facilitated the independence of Papua New Guinea, Australia's most important colony, and he tried to break free of his country's ties to the Commonwealth by ending the imperial honor system and even having the national anthem changed so that it was no longer Britain's "God Save the Queen."
But Whitlam's aggressive style also created enemies for his government. His reduction of farm subsidies angered farmers, for example, and his belief that the Australian government should take over energy interests infuriated miners and others in the energy industry. Furthermore, Whitlam's anti-American views, especially with regard to Vietnam and his decision to withdraw Australian troops from the conflict, severely strained Australian-American relations. Finally, when Australia was drawn into the world-wide recession of the mid-1970s, Whitlam's response was to pour money into government programs. While unemployment soared, inflation rose and the government's budget was in crisis. Whitlam's opponents took the opportunity to attack his leadership, and the nails were hammered into his political coffin when a scandal involving government loans to Arabian oil interests was revealed. The scandal resulted in Whitlam dismissing his deputy, Jim Cairns. However, Whitlam found himself on the receiving end when John Kerr, the Governor-General of Australia under the Commonwealth system, exercised his rarely acknowledged power to dismiss Whitlam in 1975. Supporters of Whitlam have questioned the legality of the move ever since, but despite this controversial action, the deed was done, and Malcolm Fraser was named "caretaker" Prime Minister until new elections could be held.
After losing his office, Whitlam remained in Parliament for three more years, but left government for good in 1978 to pursue other interests, including teaching and working as a member of UNESCO's executive board. He has always maintained, however, that his courses of action while in office were correct and just, and he writes about these experiences in The Truth of the Matter, The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975, and Abiding Interests. Times Literary Supplement writer Robert Manne described The Truth of the Matter as "a one-sided and bitchy, yet powerfully argued case against Kerr," and The Whitlam Government as "an extraordinarily self-centred and deeply tedious, but none the less indispensable, account of what he took to be his government's outstanding record of achievement." As for Abiding Interests, which describes not only Whitlam's dismissal but also his activities afterwards, Manne felt the essays here "show Whitlam at his boastful and pedantic worst." The critic concluded, though, that Whitlam's "narcissism might have given him the boldness to undertake, more or less single-handedly, the transformation of his country."
Other books about the 1975 Prime Minister controversy have been written, including Don Aitkin's Stability and Change in Australian Politics and John Kerr's Matters for Judgment: An Autobiography, published the same year as Whitlam's The Truth of the Matter. Whatever viewpoint one takes on how Whitlam's dismissal was handled, the case clearly reveals problems with Australia's constitutional system, according to Robert J. Williams in Pacific Affairs. "The irony of the tale," Williams concluded, "is that no serious efforts will be made to remedy the defects until the problems begin to emerge again."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
International Affairs, January, 1980, J. M. Lee, review of The Truth of the Matter, p. 196.
Library Journal, June 1, 1981, Peter J. Coleman, review of A Pacific Community, p. 1228.
Pacific Affairs, autumn, 1980, Robert J. Williams, "To the Precipice and Back: Reflecting on the 1975 Australian 'Constitutional Crisis,'" pp. 515-520.
Times Literary Supplement, October 3, 1997, Robert Manne, "Rebirth or Ruin?"; January 31, 2003, Peter Porter, "Cultural Studies."
Whitlam Institute Web site,http://www.whitlam.org/ (May 18, 2004).*