112 Facts About Gough Whitlam


Edward Gough Whitlam was the 21st prime minister of Australia, serving from 1972 to 1975.


Gough Whitlam was the longest-serving federal leader of the Australian Labor Party.


Gough Whitlam was notable for being the head of a reformist and socially progressive administration that extraordinarily 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.


Gough Whitlam was first elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 1952, becoming a member of parliament for the division of Werriwa.


Gough 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.


The Gough 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.


Gough 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.


Gough Whitlam stepped down as leader of the party after losing again at the 1977 election, and retired from parliament the following year.


Gough Whitlam's father was a federal public servant who later was Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, and Whitlam senior's involvement in human rights issues was a powerful influence on his son.


In 1918, Fred Gough Whitlam was promoted to deputy Crown solicitor and transferred to Sydney.


At age six, Gough Whitlam began his education at Chatswood Church of England Girls' School.


In 1932, Gough Whitlam's father transferred him to Canberra Grammar School where, at the Speech Day ceremony that year, he was awarded a prize by the Governor-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs.


Gough Whitlam enrolled at St Paul's College at the University of Sydney at the age of 18.


Gough Whitlam had originally contemplated an academic career, but his lacklustre marks made that unlikely.


In 1942, while awaiting entry into the service, Gough Whitlam met and married Margaret Elaine Dovey, who had swum for Australia in the 1938 British Empire Games and was the daughter of barrister and future New South Wales Supreme Court judge Bill Dovey.


Gough Whitlam trained as a navigator and bomb aimer, before serving with No 13 Squadron RAAF, based mainly on the Gove Peninsula, Northern Territory, flying Lockheed Ventura bombers.


Gough Whitlam was discharged from the RAAF on 17 October 1945, and continued to use Air Force log books to record all the flights he took until 2007.


Gough Whitlam completed his studies after the war, obtained his Bachelor of Laws, and was admitted to the federal and New South Wales bars in 1947.


Gough Whitlam bought the block of land next door, using the prize money he received for winning the Australian National Quiz Championship in 1948 and 1949.


Gough Whitlam sought to make a career in the ALP there, but local Labor supporters were sceptical of Whitlam's loyalties, given his privileged background.


Lazzarini died in 1952 before completing his term and Gough Whitlam was elected to the House of Representatives in the ensuing by-election on 29 November 1952.


Gough Whitlam trebled Lazzarini's majority in a 12 per cent swing to Labor.


Gough Whitlam joined the ALP minority in the House of Representatives.


Gough Whitlam was appointed to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1956.


In 1960, after losing three elections, Evatt resigned and was replaced by Calwell, with Gough Whitlam defeating Ward for deputy leader.


Gough Whitlam had not wanted Whitlam as deputy leader, and believed Labor would have won if Ward had been in the position.


In early 1963 a special conference met in a Canberra hotel to determine Labor policy regarding a proposed US base in northern Australia; Calwell and Gough Whitlam were photographed by The Daily Telegraph peering in through the doors, waiting for the verdict.


The Liberals seized on it, issuing a leaflet called "Mr Calwell and the Faceless Men" which accused Calwell and Gough Whitlam of taking direction from "36 unknown men, not elected to Parliament nor responsible to the people".


Gough Whitlam called an early election for November 1963, standing in support of those two issues.


Gough Whitlam had hoped Calwell would step down after 1963, but he remained, reasoning that Evatt had been given three opportunities to win, and that he should be allowed a third try.


The article reported off-the-record comments Gough Whitlam had made that his leader was "too old and weak" to win office, and that the party might be gravely damaged by an "old-fashioned" 70-year-old Calwell seeking his first term as prime minister.


Gough Whitlam survived the expulsion vote by a margin of only two, gaining both Queensland votes.


Gough Whitlam said this would deprive Australia of any voice in a settlement, and that regular troops, rather than conscripts, should remain under some circumstances.


Shortly after the election, Gough Whitlam faced another expulsion vote for his stance on Vietnam, and survived.


At the caucus meeting on 8February 1967, Gough Whitlam was elected party leader, defeating leading left-wing candidate Dr Jim Cairns.


Gough Whitlam believed the Labor Party had little chance of being elected unless it could expand its appeal from the traditional working-class base to include the suburban middle class.


Gough Whitlam sought to shift control of the ALP from union officials to the parliamentary party, and hoped even rank-and-file party members could be given a voice in the conference.


Gough Whitlam resigned the leadership, demanding a vote of confidence from caucus.


Gough Whitlam was successful in reducing union influence in the party, though he was never able to give the rank and file a direct vote in selecting the executive.


Gough Whitlam was able to reconstruct the Victoria party organisation against the will of its leaders, and the reconstituted state party proved essential to victory in the 1972 election.


Gough Whitlam finally succeeded at the 1971 ALP Conference in Launceston, Tasmania, which called for Parliament to receive "such plenary powers as are necessary and desirable" to achieve the ALP's goals in domestic and international affairs.


Labor pledged to abolish the Senate; this goal was not erased from the party platform until 1979, after Gough Whitlam had stepped down as leader.


Gough Whitlam knew that, given the ALP's poor position after the 1966 election, victory was unlikely.


Nevertheless, Gough Whitlam scored an 18-seat swing, Labor's best performance since losing government in 1949.


Labor actually won a bare majority of the two-party vote and only DLP preferences, especially in Melbourne-area seats, kept Gough Whitlam from becoming prime minister.


In 1971, Gough Whitlam flew to Beijing and met with Chinese officials, including Zhou Enlai.


Gough Whitlam noted that the polling day was the anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz at which another "ramshackle, reactionary coalition" had been given a "crushing defeat".


Gough Whitlam pledged an end to conscription and the release of individuals who had refused the draft; an income tax surcharge to pay for universal health insurance; free dental care for students; and renovation of ageing urban infrastructure.


Labor was so dominant in the campaign that some of Gough Whitlam's advisers urged him to stop joking about McMahon; people were feeling sorry for him.


Gough Whitlam took office with a majority in the House of Representatives, but without control of the Senate.


Gough Whitlam ordered negotiations to establish full relations with the People's Republic of China, and broke those with Taiwan.


Seven men were at that time incarcerated for refusing conscription; Gough Whitlam arranged for their liberation.


The Gough Whitlam government abolished the death penalty for federal crimes.


Gough Whitlam founded the Department of Urban Development and, having lived in developing Cabramatta, most of which lacked sewage facilities, established the National Sewerage Program, which set a goal to leave no urban home unsewered.


The Gough Whitlam government gave grants directly to local government units for urban renewal, flood prevention, and the promotion of tourism.


Gough Whitlam travelled extensively as prime minister, and was the first Australian prime minister to visit China while in office.


Gough Whitlam was criticised for making this visit, especially after Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin; he interrupted an extensive tour of Europe for 48 hours to view the devastation.


The Gough Whitlam government had troubles in relations with the states.


Possible control of the Senate was therefore at stake; Gough Whitlam agreed to Gair's request and had Governor-General Sir Paul Hasluck appoint him ambassador to Ireland.


The Gough Whitlam government had cut tariffs by 25 per cent in 1973; 1974 saw an increase in imports of 30 per cent and a $1.5billion increase in the trade deficit.


Gough Whitlam gave little help to his embattled deputy, who had formed the other half of the duumvirate.


Gough Whitlam announced additional spending to help the private sector.


Gough Whitlam attempted to secure financing before informing the Loan Council which included state officials hostile to Gough Whitlam.


Gough Whitlam's government empowered Pakistani financier Tirath Khemlani as an intermediary in the hope of securing US$4billion in loans.


Gough Whitlam appointed Senator Murphy to the High Court, even though Murphy's Senate seat would not be up for election if a half-Senate election were held.


The Opposition contended he had misled Parliament, and a motion to censure Gough Whitlam was defeated along party lines.


In September 1974, Gough Whitlam met with President Suharto in Indonesia and indicated that he would support Indonesia if it annexed East Timor.


Gough Whitlam had offered Barnard a diplomatic post and in early 1975 Barnard agreed to this, triggering a by-election in his Tasmanian electorate of Bass.


The next week, Gough Whitlam removed deputy prime minister Cairns, who had misled Parliament about the Loans Affair amid controversy about his relationship with his office manager, Junie Morosi.


Gough Whitlam argued that, because of the manner of filling vacancies, the Senate was "corrupted" and "tainted", with the Opposition enjoying a majority they did not win at the ballot box.


Gough Whitlam rejected the idea, seeking to end the Senate's right to deny supply.


Gough Whitlam rejected this offer, stating that he had no intention of advising a House election for at least a year.


Kerr and Gough Whitlam met at the Governor-General's office that afternoon at 1:00pm.


Unknown to Gough Whitlam, Fraser was waiting in an ante-room; Gough Whitlam later said he would not have set foot in the building if he had known Fraser was there.


Kerr instead told Gough Whitlam he had terminated his commission as prime minister, and handed him a letter to that effect.


Immediately after his meeting with Gough Whitlam, Kerr commissioned Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister, on the assurance he could obtain supply and would then advise Kerr to dissolve both houses for election.


Gough Whitlam immediately moved a successful no confidence motion against Fraser in the House.


Gough Whitlam concluded his task by taking the unilateral step of re-instating the traditional ending for a royal proclamation "God save the Queen", a practice the Whitlam government had abolished.


Gough Whitlam, who had been standing behind Smith, then addressed the crowd:.


Christopher Boyce, who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union while an employee of a CIA contractor, said the CIA wanted Gough Whitlam removed from office because he threatened to close US military bases in Australia, including Pine Gap.


Gough Whitlam later wrote that Kerr did not need any encouragement from the CIA.


Gough Whitlam was unable to find either the witness or testimony, despite having the support of "a senior [US] senator".


Labor was left with five fewer seats than it had when Gough Whitlam took the leadership.


Gough Whitlam stayed on as Opposition leader, surviving a leadership challenge.


In early 1976, an additional controversy broke when it was reported that Gough Whitlam had been involved in ALP attempts to raise $500,000 during the election from the Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr government of Iraq.


In early 1977 Gough Whitlam faced a leadership challenge from Bill Hayden, the last treasurer in the Gough Whitlam government, and won by a two-vote margin.


Shortly after the election, Gough Whitlam resigned as party leader and was succeeded by Hayden.


Gough Whitlam was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in June 1978, and resigned from Parliament on 31 July of the same year.


When Labor returned to power under Bob Hawke in 1983, Gough Whitlam was appointed as Australia's ambassador to UNESCO, based in Paris.


Gough Whitlam served for three years in this post, defending UNESCO against allegations of corruption.


Gough Whitlam was appointed chairman of the National Gallery of Australia in 1987 after his son Nick, who was then managing director of the State Bank of New South Wales, turned down the position.


Gough Whitlam accepted an autographed copy of the book and presented Fraser with a copy of his 1979 book about the dismissal, The Truth of the Matter.


Gough Whitlam initially had a close relationship with Labor leader Mark Latham; however, by 2005 he had called for Latham's resignation from parliament.


Gough Whitlam called his support of Latham to enter federal politics as one of his "lingering regrets".


Gough Whitlam supported fixed four-year terms for both houses of Parliament.


In 2007, Gough Whitlam testified at an inquest into the death of Brian Peters, one of five Australia-based TV personnel killed in East Timor in October 1975.


Gough Whitlam indicated he had warned Peters' colleague, Greg Shackleton, who was killed, that the Australian government could not protect them in East Timor and that they should not go there.


Gough Whitlam said Shackleton was "culpable" if he had not passed on Whitlam's warning.


Gough Whitlam joined three other former prime ministers in February 2008 in returning to Parliament to witness the Federal Government apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations by the then prime minister Kevin Rudd.


On 21 January 2009, Gough Whitlam achieved a greater age than any other prime minister of Australia, surpassing the previous record holder Frank Forde.


In 2010, it was reported that Gough Whitlam had moved into an aged care facility in Sydney's inner east in 2007.


Gough Whitlam died on the morning of 21 October 2014.


Gough Whitlam's family announced that there would be a private cremation and a public memorial service.


Gough Whitlam was survived by his four children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.


Gough Whitlam was the longest-lived Australian Prime Minister, dying at the age of 98 years and 102 days.


Gough Whitlam predeceased his successor Malcolm Fraser by just under five months.


Gough Whitlam's funeral was attended by seven Australian prime ministers.


Gough Whitlam remains well remembered for the circumstances of his dismissal.


Ross McMullin, who wrote an official history of the ALP, notes that Gough Whitlam remains greatly admired by many Labor supporters because of his efforts to reform Australian government, and his inspiring leadership.


Gough Whitlam was the most paradoxical of all Prime Ministers in the last half of the 20th century.


Gough Whitlam rivalled Menzies in his passion for the House of Representatives and ability to use it as his stage, and yet his parliamentary skills were rhetorical and not tactical.


Gough Whitlam could devise a strategy and then often botch the tactics in trying to implement that strategy.