Gough Whitlam Gough Whitlam was a man who achieved many things during his time as prime minister, but was also the only prime minister to be sacked by the governor general in all of history. As well as outlining Whitlam’s significance and contribution to Australia, I will also recognise how he went wrong, and what he did that got him removed from parliament. Edward Gough Whitlam was born in 1916 in Melbourne. At 56, he became the 21st prime minister of Australia, which lasted for approximately three years, from 5th December 1972, to 11th November 1975. He entered parliament in 1952, when he was 36.
It took him 20 years to become prime minister, but not after narrowly losing the 1969 election. He was the first labour prime minister in 23 years. The ALP party were fairly certain that they were, once again, not going to win the 1972 election. They were aiming their appeal at the traditional working class people, but to win the election, had to appeal to the middle class as well. Whitlam wanted to shift the control of the ALP from the Union officials to the parliamentary party, and he also wanted to give every party member a voice in the parliamentary conferences.
After the close election, Gough Whitlam had a considerable amount of control in his party and in parliament. He introduced new laws, such as establishing an Australian Schools Commission for recognising the need for help and funding in state schools and universities, recognising aboriginal land claims, eliminating conscription and improving universal health care. The Whitlam government also introduced other policies after they had been in parliament for a while. The ALP introduced Legal Aid, University/College/TAFE fees, and the voting age was reduced to 18 years and funding to schools.
One of the most recognised policies was demolishing the death penalty for federal crimes. This policy was a major breakthrough in society, and was introduced in 1973. The country was willingly behind it, and the bill passed through thanks to a recent case that had caused uproar amongst society. A man was hanged after being charged guilty for murder, but after the execution new evidence surfaced, making people believe that the man was, indeed, innocent. Questions were raised about the topic. Is the death penalty ethical?
Is there a better way to do things? If evidence proves them innocent too late, what happens then? The ALP was expected to lose the election again that year, so they really needed something behind them to gain the votes they needed to win. And this controversial topic seemed like exactly what they needed. With the publicity of the innocent man hanged, they were bound to get the votes. An innocent man was hanged under Liberal control, vote for labour and help this be the last government-controlled death. This is what they said, and the people lapped it up.
The election results were tighter than they had initially expected, but Liberal had some good policies as well. But Whitlam had still won the election, and the death penalty was abolished. Two of Whitlam’s new policies were related to young people, the free university and the younger voting age. Both of these policies were implemented almost purely to get votes from the younger generations. University students, especially, would benefit from this policy and would be eager to vote for the ALP because of it. This policy lasted for 15 years before Paul Keating re-introduced the payment.
The School funding policy was the first of its kind. It involved giving out money to public schools across Australia so that they could improve the buildings for a more fulfilling education for Australian school students. This program was especially beneficial to small country schools which didn’t have very much money to hire teachers and the right facilities. This policy also helped the aboriginal communities in the rural towns, with little money for education. With a school to go to, the kids can then grow up with qualifications under their belt, and get a job.
But amongst all those good things, pressure was building on the Australian Labour Party. The economy was going downhill, something Whitlam wasn’t prepared for. The opposition was continually making better offers to the public, and ALP was losing support quickly. Even people from his own party were beginning to have wavering support. After months of economical descent, the governor general, Sit John Kerr, fired Whitlam; something no one else had ever done in the history of politics. This is the situation that started what is called the ‘Constitutional Crisis’.
Kerr elected the leader of the opposition, Malcolm Fraser, the temporary prime minister until the next election. The whole thing happened because the opposition had control over the senate, and started strategically blocking all the bills that Whitlam tried to pass. Labour had also miscalculated their spending and funding. The Liberal party threatened that they would keep blocking the bills until Kerr sacked Whitlam. This case is pretty much one of blackmail because Whitlam and Kerr had a pretty good relationship and o one really saw his dismissal coming. But John Kerr wasn’t really given another option. Nothing would be achieved in parliament until Whitlam was sacked. The election came quickly after that, and Liberal passed through with flying colours. Whitlam stepped down from prime minister and stayed in parliament for another year, but later left parliament in 1978. Whitlam still continues to publicly comment on the government at 92. Although his time as prime minister was short, he introduced some laws that are still in place today.
During his time in parliament, Gough Whitlam has greatly impacted Australias government, and history. Bibliography * Brown, Wallace (2002), Ten Prime Ministers: Life Among the Politicians, Loungeville Books * Lloyd, Clem (2008), “Edward Gough Whitlam”, in Grattan, Michelle, Australian Prime Ministers (revised ed. ), New Holland Publishers Pty Ltd. * Cohen, Barry (1996), Life With Gough, Allen ; Unwin * http://virtaus4. tripod. com/volume6/prime_ministers/gough_whitlam. htm, Copyright Unknown * http://whitlamdismissal. com/whitlam/ whitlamdismissal. com 1995-2010