It’s easy to score points off a dead man: they rarely put up a fight, writes Nick Kenny. All sides of the political spectrum, says Nick, have come out swinging cheap shots since Gough Whitlam’s death last week – The ALP, the Liberals, and the Greens – all trying to rewrite history in their own ink, for their own gain. Nick’s three-part series will set the record straight.
Myth # 1 – “The Whitlam Government was a shining example of progressive politics. Just like The Greens”.
This is a disgusting cheap shot and the biggest insult of all. Gough Whitlam’s entire political life was dedicated to the ALP. Never once did the man work for another party, never once did he renounce his faith, and never once did he align himself with the ridiculous noise that passes for “policy” on the far-left.
Within days of Gough’s passing, The Greens had the shameless audacity to post an image of the man with the caption “Vale Gough Whitlam” adjacent to their logo. They have since justified this mockery by blurring the memory of Gough’s ideas, picking and choosing a handful of their own, then dressing up them both up to make them seem like two peas in a pod. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For a start, Gough had no time for the pitiful ordeal of “protest politics”. Yelling slogans on a sunny afternoon, throwing a spanner into the works of anything and everything for the sake of it, then patting yourself on the back was never his style. Gough understood power was only useful by those who held it – which is how and why brought Labor back into power. The Greens have always been no more than a noisy fringe group, and so shall they remain forevermore.
Secondly, the Whitlam government had detailed, costed policies. Some worked, some didn’t. Regardless, these policies were based on extensive, evidence-based research, consultation with business, unions, academics, policy experts, community leaders, and the heads of government departments. While you can’t please everyone, Gough wanted to involve as much of the country as possible. Labor and Liberal have both used this approach – so much of their success or failure hinges on how well they pull this off. The Greens have never done this, nor will they ever. While the country gathers inside the political tent to sort out its problems, they stand outside pissing in.
Greenies have since offered the timid excuse that “the modern ALP bears no resemblance to the ALP Gough ran”, as though this somehow makes Gough a Greenie by default. This is a desperate attempt to climb back out of the gutter. The entire nation bears little resemblance the Australia of the 1970s. The entire world, in fact. The political landscape has been completely transformed, as both major parties have lurched to the right and the old socialist-capitalist warfare has faded. A new era of free market economics reigns supreme.
To claim Whitlam as a Green simply because the times suit them would be as pathetic and low as the ALP claiming Menzies as one of their own. Our longest serving PM and a blue-blooded Liberal, he ran targeted deficits when needed, expanded access to tertiary education, boosted immigration, funded the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme to deliver clean energy to the country, launched ABC television, pushed for aboriginal voting rights, boosted foreign aid, and built close ties with Singapore and Malaysia. The ALP could argue that this makes the bloke Labor through and through.
But they’ve got their own heroes – Keating, Curtin, Chifley, Hawke, and of course, Whitlam. The Liberals have the likes of Menzies and Howard. Even the bogans in Queensland who vote One Nation or The Nationals had Pauline Hanson and Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The Greens? Not one noteworthy, charismatic, or influential character. The closest they’ve come is Bob Brown – who was accurately described by one of Keating’s speechwriters as a bloke who looks, acts, and preaches like a Mormon on a bicycle missing his other half. Neither he nor his party have ever come close to legend status.
The Greens are spineless and desperate – Gough lived and died as a man of the Australian Labor Party.
Tomorrow . . . Myth # 2 – “Gough stuffed the economy, blew the budget, and made a right mess of the joint”.
This article was originally posted on Nick’s blog http://toosmartbyhalf.com/.