By JR on Wednesday, October 22, 2014
End of the road for Edward Gough Whitlam: aged 98
The memoir below is kind, as befits the dead but I think I should add a few comments here to balance the account. It is not fully set out below WHY he was sacked as PM by Sir John Kerr -- his own appointee as Governor General. It was because Gough had brought on a constitutional crisis by attempting to govern without parliamentary consent, the consent of the Senate, in particular. That he played fast and loose with parliament generally via the "Khemlani affair" was what motivated the Senate to refuse him supply. So Gough was hardly honourable.
One thing that has always amused me about the patrician Mr Whitlam is that he always used his second Christian name. Being a common old "Eddy" was obviously not to his taste.
Although he was undoubtedly a most erudite man, Eddy had a strange and disastrous intellectual gap. He himself admitted that he did not understand economics. And the economic disasters under his regime were unending -- with inflation reaching 19% at one stage.
Somehow or other he did nonetheless manage one very worthwhile economic innovation: He cut tariffs by 25% across the board.
And as a libertarian I have to applaud his ending of conscription. The motive for that was however anti-military -- as we can see from the fact that he also abolished Army cadets in the schools -- who were doing nobody any harm and were in fact a good influence on teenagers. But Leftists resent any power but their own. And his vaunted withdrawal of the troops from Vietnam was only the final stage of a withdrawal that was already almost complete.
His "free" universities did not last. Fees were reimposed by the subsequent Labor party government of Bob Hawke, a man who DID understand economics. And Malcolm Fraser reinstated the cadets.
And as for his free and universal medical care, you can judge the quality of that by the fact that 40% of Australians -- just about all who can afford it -- have PRIVATE medical insurance these days. Australia's "free" public hospitals are like such hospitals everywhere -- only for the desperate or the optimists
Gough Whitlam remained one of Australia's most admired figures despite being the country's only prime minister to be sacked, a key moment in the nation's political history.
Mr Whitlam, who died on Tuesday aged 98, was a flamboyant and erudite war veteran who ushered in a series of important social reforms during just three years in power from 1972 to 1975.
His centre-left Labour government stopped conscription, introduced free university education, recognised communist China, pulled troops from Vietnam, abolished the death penalty for federal crimes and reduced the voting age to 18.
But Mr Whitlam will be best remembered for the events of November 11, 1975, when he became the nation's only leader to be dismissed by the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, governor-general Sir John Kerr.
Mr Whitlam's dismissal was prompted by a refusal by parliament's upper house, where his Labour Party did not hold a majority, to pass a budget bill until the government agreed to call a general election.
To end the impasse, the governor-general took the unprecedented step of sacking Mr Whitlam, installing Malcolm Fraser, then opposition leader, as caretaker prime minister.
Mr Freudenberg said it would never had occurred to his friend to fight Sir John's decision. "The idea of going to barricades would have been inconceivable for a parliamentarian like Whitlam," he said.
"He believed deeply in the parliament as an institution for social reform and the expression of Australian democracy. He had a great love and respect for the parliament. The irony is that it was through the parliament he was destroyed."
David Burchell, of the University of Western Sydney, who has written widely about Australian politics, said it was ironic that the 1973 oil crisis, inflationary pressures and economic stagnation provided one of the worst times for Mr Whitlam's big-spending, socially reforming government to be in power. [The inflation and stagnation were CAUSED by Gough's free-spending and anti-business policies]
"Even though the government was dismissed, a lot of their policies remain popular," he added. "Few of the social reforms enacted were ever rolled back."