Gough Whitlam dies at 98
Australia’s 21st prime minister, Gough Whitlam, died this morning aged 98.
Mr Whitlam defeated the conservative coalition government led by William McMahon in 1972 to become the first Labor prime minister in 23 years.
His “It’s Time” election campaign changed the face of political campaigning in Australia with its celebrity and entertainment focus. The campaign introduced a US presidential style of campaign to Australia.
Mr Whitlam was prime minister for three years before his famous dismissal by then governor-general Sir John Kerr to resolve a long-running stand-off between the House of Representatives and the Senate, which was blocking the government’s money bills.
Always a great orator, Mr Whitlam’s words on that day were memorable: “Well may we say ‘God Save the Queen’, because nothing will save the governor-general.”
He is the only prime minister to have been dismissed by the governor-general.
Although marked by controversy and scandal, Mr Whitlam’s prime ministership left a lasting legacy.
Under his leadership relations with China were normalised, universal health care was introduced, tertiary education became free and he laid the foundation for the rights of indigenous people and for women.
In this last and in other areas he was supported by his wife Margaret, a great Australian in her own right, to whom he was married for almost 70 years.
Margaret died in March 2012 just one month short of their 70th anniversary.
Mr Whitlam’s advice was sought by every subsequent Labor leader and prime minister.
He was survived by his four children, sons Antony, Nicholas, Stephen and daughter Catherine Dovey.
According to a statement issued by his family this morning a private cremation was to be conducted.
A public memorial is expected to follow.