Gough Whitlam

Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC (/ˈɡɒf ˈwɪtləm/; 11 July 1916  21 October 2014) was the 21st prime minister of Australia, in office from 1972 to 1975. The longest-serving federal leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), he was the head of a reformist administration that ended with his removal as prime minister after controversially being dismissed by the governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr, at the climax of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Whitlam is the only Australian prime minister to have been removed from office in this manner.

Gough Whitlam
Official portrait, 1975
21st Prime Minister of Australia
In office
5 December 1972  11 November 1975
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor-General
Deputy
Preceded byWilliam McMahon
Succeeded byMalcolm Fraser
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
5 December 1972  6 November 1973
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byNigel Bowen
Succeeded byDon Willesee
Leader of the Opposition
In office
11 November 1975  22 December 1977
Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
Deputy
Preceded byMalcolm Fraser
Succeeded byBill Hayden
In office
9 February 1967  5 December 1972
Prime Minister
DeputyLance Barnard
Preceded byArthur Calwell
Succeeded byBilly Snedden
Leader of the Labor Party
In office
9 February 1967  22 December 1977
Deputy
  • Lance Barnard
  • Jim Cairns
  • Frank Crean
  • Tom Uren
Preceded byArthur Calwell
Succeeded byBill Hayden
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party
In office
7 March 1960  9 February 1967
LeaderArthur Calwell
Preceded byArthur Calwell
Succeeded byLance Barnard
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Werriwa
In office
29 November 1952  31 July 1978
Preceded byBert Lazzarini
Succeeded byJohn Kerin
Personal details
Born
Edward Gough Whitlam

(1916-07-11)11 July 1916
Kew, Victoria, Australia
Died21 October 2014(2014-10-21) (aged 98)
Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyLabor
Height194 cm (6 ft 4 in) (1.94 m)[1]
Spouse(s)
(m. 1942; died 2012)
Children4, including Tony and Nicholas
Parent(s)
RelativesFreda Whitlam (sister)
Education
Alma materUniversity of Sydney
Profession
Signature
Military service
Branch/service Royal Australian Air Force
Years of service1941–1945
Rank  Flight lieutenant
UnitNo. 13 Squadron
Battles/warsWorld War II

Whitlam served as an air navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force for four years during World War II, and worked as a barrister following the war. He was first elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 1952, becoming a member of parliament (MP) for the division of Werriwa. Whitlam became deputy leader of the Labor Party in 1960, and in 1967, after the retirement of Arthur Calwell, was elected leader of the party and became the Leader of the Opposition. After narrowly losing the 1969 federal election to John Gorton, Whitlam led Labor to victory at the 1972 election, after 23 years of continuous Coalition government.

The Whitlam Government implemented a large number of new programmes and policy changes, including the termination of military conscription, institution of universal health care and free university education, and the implementation of legal aid programmes. With the opposition-controlled Australian Senate delaying passage of bills, Whitlam called a double dissolution election in 1974 in which he won a slightly reduced majority in the House of Representatives, and picked up three Senate seats, although that was not enough to provide a majority in the Senate. The Whitlam government then instituted the first and only joint sitting enabled under section 57 of the Australian constitution as part of the double dissolution process. Despite the government's second election victory, the opposition, reacting to government scandals and a declining economy suffering from the 1973 oil crisis and the 1973–75 global recession, continued to obstruct the government's programme in the Senate.

In late 1975, the opposition senators refused to allow a vote on the government's appropriation bills, returning them to the House of Representatives with a demand that the government go to an election, thus denying the government supply. Whitlam refused to agree to the request, arguing that his government, which held a clear majority in the House of Representatives, was being held to ransom by the Senate. The crisis ended in mid-November, when governor-general Sir John Kerr dismissed him from office and commissioned the opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, as caretaker prime minister. Labor lost the subsequent election by a landslide. Whitlam stepped down as leader of the party after losing again at the 1977 election, and retired from parliament the following year. Upon the election of the Hawke Government in 1983, he was appointed as Ambassador to UNESCO, a position he filled with distinction, and was elected a member of the UNESCO Executive Board. He remained active into his nineties. The propriety and circumstances of his dismissal and the legacy of his government have been frequently debated in the decades since he left office. Nevertheless, journalist Paul Kelly said that "there is no doubt that in three years his government was responsible for more reforms and innovations than any other government in Australian history".[2]


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