Gough Whitlam was a polarizing figure. People either loved him or hated him. His passing overnight will sadden many.
I was thrilled to portray him at the recent Melbourne Fringe Festival but I really knew very little about him.
For a man who was Australia’s leader for three short years, he had a significant impact on it. You need only look at the considerable list of achievements to see that we still enjoy some of his benefits today. The Guardian newspaper lists some of the following:
- created Australia’s national health insurance scheme, Medibank;
- abolished university fees;
- introduced state aid to independent schools and needs-based school funding;
- returned traditional lands in the Northern Territory to the Gurindji people;
- drafted (although did not enact) the first commonwealth lands right act;
- established diplomatic relations with China,
- withdrew the remaining Australian troops from Vietnam;
- introduced no-fault divorce laws;
- passed the Racial Discrimination Act;
- blocked moves to allow oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef;
- introduced environmental protection legislation;
- and removed God Save the Queen as the national anthem.
In his first year in office his government passed over 200 bills. Gough had created a vision for the future of Australia and it was referred to as his Program. Rightly or wrongly, he was steadfast in his commitment to achieving it.
My hope is that his passing with further stimulate open discussion about our current political state. While Gough was polarizing, he had character, vision and commitment to his cause. Our current political leaders pale in comparison. They appear to be self indulgent, self serving and, at best, “flexible” on their ideals. Our leaders have forgotten the notion that the are Servants of the PEOPLE and for the PEOPLE!
Gough was famous for his quote of “Maintain the Rage”. My tribute to him is his quote in a mash up with Dylan Thomas’ great work.
Rest well Gough, It’s Time!