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The Doco "Whitlam: The Power and the Passion"(Part 1)

Discussion in 'Historical Events & Figures' started by RonPrice, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. RonPrice

    RonPrice New Member

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    The Doco "Whitlam: The Power and the Passion"---some personal reflections---Ron Price, Tasmania
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    HEADY DAYS

    All my sins are remembered

    Part 1:

    When one writes about politics one does not have to engage in the partisan variety which divides the nation and individuals from each other. I have studied politics and taught it from grade 10 when I was 15 to these years of my retirement. I am now 69. My parents had political meetings in our home back in the early to mid-1950s. It was in those embryonic years when I was inoculated against partisan-party politics. It was characterized by endless hair-splitting and personality clashes.

    But such experience in my adolescent years did not prevent me from being interested in the political world. I just finished watching a two-part doco on Whitlam,1 Australia’s Prime Minister just after I arrived in Australia from Canada when I was in my late 20s.

    Gough Whitlam (1916- ) is now 97. He didn’t rise to the top to become Prime Minister; he had to fight to get there.1 He did that fighting all the way back to the same year my mother joined the Baha’i Faith: 1953. I was only 9, then, and living in Ontario Canada. Whitlam’s only free ride into the political arena came on the winds of social change that woke up conservative Australia and helped deliver the Australia Labor Party (ALP) victory in 1972. By then I was 28, living in the dog-biscuit dry land of northern South Australia, and teaching high school.
     
  2. RonPrice

    RonPrice New Member

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  3. RonPrice

    RonPrice New Member

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    Part 2:

    Tough Irish Catholic working class stock dominated Labor in the 1950s and 1960s; these were Whitlam’s opponents as he tried to rise in the ALP. Whitlam’s opponents included the conservatives, the Liberal Party members. Whitlam was different; he had a Protestant background; in the ‘50s and ‘60s he was young and fresh. He was also educated, witty, intellectual, brimming with ideas and committed to serving all Australians. Because of all this, he was resented and distrusted by his own party, the ALP.


    Part 2:


    Whitlam entered Parliament in 1953, and joined the Shadow Cabinet in 1959. I joined the Baha’i Faith that year, a non-partisan religion; I knew nothing of Whitlam. He became Labor Leader in 1967 after a catastrophic ALP defeat. I was teaching Inuit at the time in the Canadian Arctic. He didn’t win his first election as Leader in 1969 but he came close.

    By 1972, his persona and policies were hitting a chord with rebellious baby-boomers who were railing against sexism and racism, and demanding peace not war, especially in Vietnam. Women and migrants also liked their suburban neighbours Gough and Margaret. At the campaign launch, TV stars, rock singers and comedians pushed the “It’s Time” jingle into every Australian lounge room and Whitlam gave Labor its first Prime Minister in 23 years. By then I was on my way to Gawler in the Barossa Valley to teach in a high school outside Adelaide in South Australia, much less that dry-biscuit, and popular as a vine-growing region.

    Whitlam exercised his power at breakneck speed in 1973, appointing his own government advisor on women’s affairs, a world first; introducing a Racial Discrimination Act and investing in motorways, childcare centres, housing for low-income families and other infrastructure. Whitlam was all the rage while I got ready to move to Tasmania to teach in what is now the University of Tasmania.


    Whitlam spoke of breaking the reliance on Britain and America, and of Australia becoming more independent. He bought Jackson Pollock’s $1.348 million Blue Poles for the new National Gallery of Australia and loved the ensuing controversy. The ALP was in the news a lot of the time. I was far too busy with my 60-hour a week job, with the last and rocky-year of my marriage, and with my responsibilities in the local Baha’i community where I served as the secretary. My emotions and my mental-set were full to overflowing. The partisan-political world was like a parallel universe which existed far-out on the periphery of my new Australian life.


    Part 3:

    In one year in, 1973-74, as I left South Australia and arrived in Tasmania, and after an initial rise in ALP popularity, cracks appeared. The actions of an Arab coalition started a worldwide economic meltdown. Whitlam had assumed Australia’s economy was bulletproof, but inflation and unemployment rose steeply. Ignoring advice, he pushed through one of his most prominent – and expensive – reforms: free university education for all. The state of the economy deteriorated further.

    The conservatives controlled the Senate and tried to block government legislation, but Whitlam called their bluff by calling an election. The ALP, on 11 April 1974, won with a similar majority to its win in 1972. He enacted a free healthcare service, the forerunner of Medicare, and I settled-in to what became the beginnings of my second marriage, and another 60 hour a week job teaching a new list of subjects to students preparing to teach in primary and high schools.


    Part 4:


    Whitlam’s renewed optimism didn’t last. The party axed his trusted deputy Lance Barnard and a scandal erupted around the relationship between his replacement, Jim Cairns, and Cairns’ exotic chief of staff Junee Morose. The decision to sign up the offshore loan shark Troth Hemline to help buy back Australia’s mineral wealth was like signing a death warrant for Whitlam’s administration. In 1975 the Opposition voted in a strong leader in Malcolm Fraser. Blocking supply this time sparked dramatic events unprecedented in Australian history: the Governor-General Sir John Kerr sacked Whitlam and appointed Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister. It was game over.

    Polls from the first week of campaigning showed a nine-point swing against Labor. Whitlam's campaign team disbelieved the results at first, but additional polling returns were clear: the electorate had turned against the ALP. The Coalition attacked Labor for economic conditions, and released television commercials including "The Three Dark Years" showing images from Whitlam government scandals.

    Part 5:

    The ALP campaign of October to December 1974, which had concentrated on the issue of Whitlam's dismissal, did not address the economy until its final days. By that time Fraser, confident of victory, was content to sit back, avoid specifics and make no mistakes. On election night, 13 December, the Coalition enjoyed the largest victory in Australian history, winning 91 seats to the ALP's 36, and taking a 37–25 majority in the Senate in a 6.5 per cent swing against Labor.

    The day before the election I left Tasmania, my several responsibilities, and my job as a senior tutor in human relations and education studies at the then Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. I moved to Elwood Victoria and then Kew, and yet another job in Box Hill with its 60 hours a week. I had yet another set of responsibilities in the Baha’i community. My first marriage ended, and my second began. That election in December 1974, the comings-and-goings of the ALP and the Liberal Party in 1975 as well as all that partisan-political-media-world remained where it had always been, far-far out on the periphery of what I thought about and felt from day-to-day.

    Part 6:

    Wallace Brown described Whitlam in his book about his experiences covering Australian prime ministers as a journalist:

    “Whitlam was the most paradoxical of all prime ministers in the last half of the 20th century. A man of superb intellect, knowledge, and literacy, he yet had little ability when it came to economics. 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.”2

    “He could devise a strategy and then often botch the tactics in trying to implement that strategy. Above all he was a man of grand vision with serious blind spots.”2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Whitlam: The Power And The Passion, on 26/5/’13 and 2/6/’13, on ABC1 TV, 7:30-8:30 p.m.; and 2 Wallace Brown was one of the longest serving and most respected members of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery(1961-1995). He was noted for his even-handed reporting of political affairs and his encouragement of young journalists.

    History is mnemonic, and

    especially recent history in

    which the events of the day

    act as a background music,

    often distant like a piece of

    classical music which one

    has heard many times but

    is unknown: its name, its

    composer or any of their

    inner workings. And, so,

    one quickly passes-on to

    a real life far away from

    the stage on which all that

    sound & fury plays itself

    out in one of our life’s great

    dramaturgies as Goffman

    calls so much of our life.1



    Of course, it all signified a

    great deal as so much of a

    life signifies a great deal,

    but: the enterprises of great

    pitch and moment..…..their

    currents turn-away and lose

    the name of action..…while

    all my sins are remembered.2

    1 Erving Goffman(1922-982) was and is now considered, by many, to be the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century.

    2Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1, lines 85 to 89.

    Ron Price

    5 June 2013
     
  4. cashmcall

    cashmcall Well-Known Member

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    Well said...I love to learn... Welcome
     
  5. RonPrice

    RonPrice New Member

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    -------------------------
    Your words, cashmcall, are appreciated.-Ron Price, Australia
     
  6. tri-n-b-helpful

    tri-n-b-helpful New Member

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    Well done! There was so much more to this than the media will ever tell. It will sadden you, no doubt, to learn of Gough's death as well as many others around him, in recent times. It is my opinion that he and Fraser were murdered, but I have no physical evidence to write or show about this here.

    Do you have copies of the latest eBooks on the subject? These are essential reading as the embargoes on the dossiers have in recent months been lifted and crucial information is right there. Melbourne University Press published Gough Whitlam: His Time (updated edition) by Professor Jenny Hocking as well as A Moment in History. I have them both, but have no time to finish reading them!
     
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  7. dogtowner

    dogtowner Moderator Staff Member

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    What he said. Interesting stroll through this bit of history.
     
  8. Aus22

    Aus22 Well-Known Member

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    Ron Price. I am sorry I just come across your posts> I remember Whitlam very well being present at his meeting and singing "Ïts Time" He was a my favourite Prime Minister. Although his regime was short he brought in many much needed changes to Australian Politics.
    Many people owed their degrees to him . He brought in free university education. Two of my degrees were gained because of Whitlam. Many people in the media, both Liberal and Labor owe their degrees to him. Without free education they would never get to university.
     

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