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Tributes flow in Australian parliament for former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam

Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott stated Gough Whitlam was a giant figure in this parliament and in our public life and that Gough Whitlam set the tone for so much that has followed in Australia and still echoes through Australian public life four decades on since his time as Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister also stated that “He was a gifted student. He saw war service in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was a brilliant young barrister before entering parliament in 1952. He became Leader of the Opposition and helped to establish his credentials by courageously reforming aspects of his party …”

The Prime Minister also relate to story of his meeting with the former prime minister he said “I dare say that most of us who met him have a Whitlam story. I introduced myself to him one day in 1978 at an event at Sydney university. ‘I’ve heard of you,’ he said, ‘you’re some kind of a Liberal.’ ‘I’m actually supposed to be DLP,’ was my response. ‘DLP!’ he boomed, ‘that’s even worse!’ At another university event, I asked him about the book Matters for Judgment. ‘I’m very pleased,’ he said, ‘that Sir John Kerr has gone into print, because it has set up a great clamour for the truth, which only I can provide.'”

Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, said “that like no other Prime Minister before or since, Gough Whitlam redefined our country and, in doing so, he changed the lives of a generation and generations to come. Think of Australia in, say, 1966: Ulysses was banned, Lolita was banned. It was the Australia of the six o’clock swill, with no film industry and only one television drama, Homicide. Political movements to the left of the DLP were under routine surveillance. Many Australians of talent—Clive, Barry, Germaine, Rupert, Sidney, Geoffrey—as a matter of course, left their home, their native country, to try their luck in England. Yet Gough reimagined Australia, our home, as a confident, prosperous, modern and multicultural nation where opportunity belonged to everyone.” He continued with “The Whitlam government should not be measured in years but in achievements. Whitlam defined patriotism as seeing things that were wrong about Australia and trying to change them.”

The tributes continued with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop saying “He was a person of great passion and boundless energy. Regarded as one of our great orators, his speeches had the power to move public opinion. As Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam was never satisfied with the status quo; he could always find ways to shift and change policy on so many fronts. “

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