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Gough: progress despite the haters

It’s been a sad week. I wasn’t alive when Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister, but my parents brought me up to understand that he was a hero. When I asked mum this week how she and dad, who were around my age when Gough was dismissed, could live through this time without being driven insane with the injustice of it all, she told me how they stayed up all night, too angry to sleep, plotting revenge on Malcolm Fraser. But what more could they do back then? There was no quick way to start a protest movement like there is now, via Facebook and Twitter. There wasn’t even a way to send chain emails to bring people together.

When I heard Gough had died, I sent my condolences first to my parents, who have been staunch unwavering Labor supporters since their university days. And then I tweeted that when I met Gough, just one time, at Tanya Plibersek’s Christmas Party, he said to me ‘nice to meet you comrade’. Unlike Malcolm Fraser, whose values have moved away from the Liberal Party as he aged, Gough stuck by the Labor Party his entire life. Because his values are Labor values. The public good. Equal opportunity. Universal education. Universal healthcare. And of course the pragmatism, character and political will to get good things done. In three years, Gough’s Labor government achieved amazing things which every Australian is still benefiting from. Gough makes me proud to support Labor. And I am as proud to support Labor today as my parents were in 1975.

The way you hear people speak about Gough now, from both sides of politics, you’d swear he had a term as long as Menzies. But he didn’t. He was incredibly unpopular and his dismissal apparently caused a political rift the likes this country had never seen. And not everything he did was perfect. Of course it wasn’t. He was the Prime Minister. He was making decisions on behalf of the country hundreds of times a day. No matter how great Gough was, he was human like the rest of us.

One example of this ‘less than perfectness’ that my mum reminded me about was that many progressive people were disappointed when Gough didn’t support the independence of East Timor and instead sided with Indonesia. Many progressives preferred Gough’s more left-wing colleague Jim Cairns and perhaps if today’s crop of journalists had been around then, leadership tensions would have been big news. Even though the Greens have disgracefully and offensively claimed Gough’s legacy as their own this week, presumably waiting until he died so that the great Labor man couldn’t complain, you can image just how Greens would have responded to Gough’s East Timor decision at the time, had they been there. You’ve all seen the way Greens supporters talk about the evils of the Labor Party, and how they’ve ripped up their support of Labor and written the party off for a lifetime because of Labor’s asylum seeker policy. There is no compromise with these people. There is no pragmatism. There is no acknowledgement that politicians might sometimes make mistakes or be weaker than they should be or scared or unwise. There’s no acknowledgment that major parties, by their very nature, are broad churches that must compromise in order to survive. And that’s what made the Greens opportunistic grave-robbing promotional advertisement using Labor’s greatest leader so very distasteful and so very offensive. Gough hadn’t even been buried yet and he would have already been turning in his grave. He knew how hard it was to work a great policy idea into a great policy. Which is exactly what the Greens have no experience doing, and no right to take credit for when all they really want to do is ignore this hard work and continue to attack Labor from the left.

What I’ve learned this week is that Labor leaders will always be more popular after their time in office. I think we’re already seeing this in the way that the public admire Gillard not very long after her opinion polls were as low as Gough’s. Because Labor reforms are enduring. They might not be perfect at the time, they might not go as far as the Greens would like them to, which is irrelevant when you consider the Greens don’t actually have to fight to turn ideas into policies. And of course Labor governments and oppositions will make mistakes and will be lambasted by their own supporters amongst others and will hopefully stick to their values in the end.

I have no doubt that the same values that drove Gough also drive the modern Labor Party. It’s not fashionable, nor popular, to say this. But I don’t care. I’ll be called a hack, an apologist, a rusted-on-one-eyed-in-denial-groupie, even perhaps, as I have been called, a murderer of asylum seekers. If Twitter is anything to go by, it’s far more vogue to be a left-winger whose taken a moral stand against Labor and will NEVER VOTE FOR THEM AGAIN AND WILL SHIT ON THEM AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY because of asylum seeker policy, national security laws, gay marriage, single-mothers on the dole or a range of other cherry-picked-deal-or-no-deal-make-or-break policies which seem to turn some people into angry-Labor-haters. These haters would no doubt have reacted the same way to Gough on the issue of East Timor. In modern times, it’s Bill Shorten the haters hate and we hear constantly how they can’t possibly ever vote for Labor ever again. But apparently these very same haters loved Gough Whitlam and he was perfect in retrospect. I can imagine they’ll be telling their kids in 30 years’ time that the one-term Abbott government did its best, but failed to completely undo the enduring reforms of the Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard Labor governments. But where are these haters now now? Why aren’t they getting their hands dirty helping these reforms to eventuate and defending those they value? Where are they now when Labor needs every progressive’s eye on the one-term-Tony prize? They’re still bitching about whatever deal breaker policy it is this week which appears to override their support of every other Labor policy which we can only assume they do agree with because they haven’t ranted their opposition to it yet.

One thing I’ve learned about politics is that, like life, it’s complicated. I’m proud to stand by Labor while they keep fighting the good fight. Implementing good public policy isn’t about ideological purity. It’s about outcomes. Outcomes can be messy, ugly, and usually less than perfect and can make enemies of powerful people. Progress doesn’t often come about in a revolution – it can be just a preference over something worse. But any progress is better than no progress. And of course it’s preferential to be going forwards, however slowly, rather than backwards like we are under the Abbott government.

My support of the Labor Party isn’t about aligning my identity so closely to the party that the minute they do something I disagree with, my faith crumbles irrevocably and I turn my back forever on the movement and become bitter and twisted, and likely to lash out. I don’t hold the unobtainable expectation that the Labor party will be everything I want them to be all the time without fail. How is it even possible to be everything to everyone when everyone has different opinions about what this ideal looks like? Being a Labor supporter is about supporting progressive policies that align with my values. This means taking the good with the bad, disagreeing when you disagree and giving credit when credit’s due – all in equal measure.

I don’t think Gough got enough credit for his brilliant political career while he was in power, just as Labor gets no credit for their previous two terms, nor for the work they are doing in opposing Abbott. People always wait to say the nicest things about people after they’re dead – when it’s too late for them to appreciate the compliments. I keep this in mind while I watch in frustration modern Labor deal with the exact same situation. Gough supported Labor to the end. I’m happy to wait 30 years for Labor to get credit, as long as in the meantime, they keep reforming. Because it’s the progressive outcomes that are important. Far more important than what haters say today.

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  1. Declan

    Well written Victoria. I was only a kid at the time, but still remember watching the news. Also remember (to this day), when a group of men came to the house and dug up our garden (making it pretty hard to play football), but afterwards, we had proper sewerage instead of septic tanks. The NBN of 1974 I guess. Thank you Gough (and Tom Uren). Equity, fairness, inclusiveness, infrastructure, proper healthcare, and always side by side.

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    The LNP have great trouble accepting any Labor government as legitimate. Always have. I cannot understand this thinking. There have been may LNP government that I have no time for. I always accept what the voter has delivered, as them being legitimate, even this one.

    Gillard took Rudd’s agenda, putting it into law,. Then she began, and mostly finished putting her own into law. Yes, all Labor’s agenda. What more could she have or should have done.

    Whitlam., Keating and Gillard all did the same thing., History will treat them well. Maybe I should have not left Hawke out. He did bring industrial relations and the role of unions into the modern age.

    None were perfect. Cannot be., Are human and none have a crystal ball. Easy to know what was right or wrong looking back.

    I have put up on twitter a request of what Abbott did as health or industrial minister. No one seem to have any recalls.

    He did buy a Tasmania hospital. Not sure what for.

  3. Wayne Turner

    From what I see Labor in general are about policy(Most good,some bad).

    While the Liberal party are about winning elections,but do nothing good of substance when they are in(LIE,Start wars,a big new tax in the GST,rubbish Labor,demonize asylum seekers and the less well off…)

    Also,i feel Gillard’s BIGGEST problem (REALLY THE PUBLIC ARE THE PROBLEM!) was that she didn’t get the endorsement and support to be PM from Rupert Murdoch and the rest of the MSM.Sadly,the majority of the non-thinking public didn’t like Gillard because they were “brainwashed” by the MSM to hate her.Of course NOW the public have seen what a moronic LYING joke Abbott has always been and currently is.Even the MSM’s backing can’t hide the idiot Abbott and these Libs are.

  4. Kerri

    Unlike yourself Victoria I had never met Gough. Also unlike yourself I was well aware of the political goings on during Gough’s Prime Ministership. I was in year 8 when he was elected. Year 11 when the dismissal occurred. The dismissal was shocking. Especially given myself and my 16 year old schoolmates were very involved in his re election. My parents refused to tell me who they voted for. Sticking religiously to the belief that voting was secret and everyone should make up their own mind. Deep down we (my siblings and I) knew they voted Labor. They were working class.
    I benefitted from a free University education courtesy of Gough and this is where I differ with you on Labor support and Greens condemnation. The Greens were using Gough to advertise their belief in free eduction for all who are capable. A belief which seems lost in today’s Labor party. Like many others, I am completely bereft when trying to comprehend the Labor party’s policies on Asylum Seekers. This is not just because they don’t match standard Labor policy, but is also because this terrible abuse of desperate human beings is so criticized by many of your “I will never vote Labor again” people.
    The problem is, they are not listening to US. They are listening to the media. They are listening to the shock jocks. They are listening to the loud redneck minority. They are actively ignoring their voterbase. What else can we do but leave them to pursue popularity over vision and humanity and basic human decency. They are desperately trying to mimic the LNP as this may get them elected again. If it worked for Abbott it will work for us. WRONG,!!! This is why so many “rusted on” Labor voters are jumping ship. Why vote for a party so similar to our present bunch of self serving dickheads?
    Earlier this year I emailed Tony Burke, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen, Bill Shorten and others I can’t recall at the moment, imploring them that “It’s Time”???? Time to step away from the right and back to Labor values.
    Yes. Labor is still way ahead of the LNP. Always will be on issues of equality. But as the laws of Physics state ” for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” but with todays Labor there is not. The LNP are indeed a reforming Government. Their changes are easily as big and radical as Gough’s. The difference is the beneifts are all going one way. Labor is doing little to react to this. Passing policies that in the words of Joe Hockey are “utterly offensive” . How can they and you expect loyalty when they are so similar to the LNP and do little to show any difference. So intent on appearing statesmanlike and mainstream that they are distancing themselves from US.
    We are not abandoning the Labor Party, they have abandoned us.
    If they want our votes. The votes of the Labor supporters of old. They need to appeal to us. Not to the voters who swing on popular policies.

  5. Paul Dellit

    I love your passion, Victoria, and share it, even though there are some aspects of your case I disagree with. At the time when the ALP was led by a vacillating Arthur (“two Wongs don’t make a white”) Calwell, I was a Menzies/Holt conscript (we couldn’t vote but we could be killed in the interests of the US-pandering Coalition’s re-election), and served oversees. Later, I was a public servant in Canberra at the time of the bloodless coup which saw Gough sacked. Yet I have never seen Australian values, many of which were pioneered by Gough, so violated as they have been during the first 12 month of Abbott’s illegitimate Government won, as it was, on a platform of lies.

    I agree with the sentiments expressed in your sentence: “This means taking the good with the bad, disagreeing when you disagree and giving credit when credit’s due – all in equal measure.” – perhaps not in “equal measure” but rather on their merits. So here are some points I would raise for you to consider in your defence of the current Labor Opposition, led by Bill Shorten, in chronological order rather than in order of importance:
    • Whitlam won the leadership by facing down his opponents with the strength of his arguments in favour of principles he held dear.
    • Shorten won the leadership with the assistance of three personally ambitious faction friends by covertly engineering the sacking of two sitting Labor Prime Ministers who could have otherwise been given the opportunity to mend their ways or face the chop. One of these ambitious men now helps Packer run his gambling empire – a man of Labor values all the way. It should also be noted that contemporaneously with these sackings, Shorten was telling all in the Press Gallery who would listen that he would be the next leader of the ALP, as reported by Michelle Grattan at the time. He wasn’t taken seriously then because they didn’t know what he had up his sleeve.
    • While I disagreed with Whitlam’s muted response over the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, I also recognised the real politic of the situation meant that there was little Australia could have realistically done to stop it.
    • We could all be proud of Rudd before he abandoned “The greatest moral challenge of our time” to shore up his standing in the polls, and while I will always admire most of the policies introduced by Gillard, we must also acknowledge that she too was prepared to support the offshore warehousing of refugees, children, women, and men, and tolerate their torture, in the interests of avoiding more unfavourable reactions in the polls.
    • The difference between Whitlam and the recent crop of ALP leaders is that Whitlam led public opinion against entrenched opposition that had become set in concrete over the twenty three years of Coalition rule. He spelt out the short, medium, and long-term gains to be had from policies that provided social justice, a compassionate welfare state, and an Australia that took its independent place on the international stage, pandering to no one. And he won the day!
    • I will never believe in an ALP that just rolls over and makes the best of a bad thing. I will never believe in an ALP that sacrifices principle for short-term popularity – for this eventually foments into long-term branding as a Party that stands for nothing but popularity as a means of acquiring power for its own sake.
    • Shorten represents the cancerous faction power that infects the ALP and serves up ineffectual, poll driven apparatchiks in place of leaders: Shorten makes a big splash in support of gay marriage, and surprise, surprise, this has popular poll support.

    The sooner the ALP listens to Whitlam’s close confidant and friend, John Faulkner, and democratises the Party (and sacks Shorten in favour of, say, Plibersek, possibly with Wong as Deputy), the sooner we will get back to the ALP old sentimentalists like me used to know and love.

  6. diannaart

    I agree Kerri, the Labor of Gough Whitlam’s era stood for people, for human rights, equality of opportunity, I have no doubt that Whitlam would’ve taken action on AGW had we realised earlier the futility of reliance on fossil fuels. I too benefited personally from the Whitlam reforms – reforms both subsequent Labor and LNP governments have watered down, a couple of examples; HECS & the start of privatisation of public services brought in by Hawke & Keating.

    Today, Labor 2014 is a pale insipid thing – an impotent version of the LNP – they only look good compared to the completely reprehensible Abbott government.

  7. Urge

    Thank you Victoria,I agree with much of what you say.The LNP has never recognised why Gough spoke to so many people or really even what his message was. They took little cue from the fact that so many Aussies cheered at the abolition of British titles. The fact that so many people wanted and embraced University education, still didn’t enlighten their executive. Gough said to everybody, welcome, you are equal. You may have been born to factory workers but, if you have the intellect, feel free to become a Dr or whatever you choose. There are no longer stations or class in life, there won’t be any doffing of the cap to your betters, here is your opportunity, make of it what you will. For men & women who had been through a savage, desperate depression & in the aftermath of a tragic war that stymied the chances of many to forge a career, they were still expected to obey, without question, the demands of a quasi British Conservative Government to offer up their sons as fodder for a war(Vietnam) that they didn’t understand. Loyal Aussies were not supposed to protest or disagree with their betters, these decisions were made by people who knew better. Well, many didn’t agree & said so, Uni students spoke out to any who would listen & if they had long hair the insult to their betters was complete. Gough legitimised freedom of thought & debate, and he recognised Australia as a country in it’s own right. We mourn a past Prime Minister and the architect of our rights.

  8. Jo McSweeney

    From what I can see Victoria, you can be a bit of a hater yourself. Watching you on Twitter recently, I know that you feel attacked, but abusing people for disagreeing with you and with Labor is not the answer. Your website says words over war or some such thing, but you seem to have your elbows out all the time, attacking before someone can attack you. Maybe you ought to think carefully about why Labor is losing votes and realise that by constantly defending them, you are enabling some awful non-policy where they just sit idly by and do…nothing. Labor must find it’s inner Gough, otherwise the Light on the Hill is extinguished forever.

  9. stephentardrew

    Kerri I fully concur.

    Compromise brings you insipid government neither capable of reform nor adherence to a system of values that are implicitly regarded as progressive. Labor/Slabor Liberal/Piberal I don’t give a damn. I expect more than lap-dog conformity to an economic system that is destroying democracy and has no sound empirical basis.

    Why are we in trouble? Simply because we compromised and the forces of greed took advantage pushing the left further and further to the right with the neo-con faction playing the Machiavellian numbers game. Every budding Laborite should read Machiavelli’s “The Prince” as Shorten represents the very epitome of this kind of deception and self-interest.

    Listen you young-uns get it into your heads we went on strike and fought like hell for the benefits we have today while working in the most horrendous conditions and it was not the Labor right that got us our social justice. The insipid plea to pragmatism demonstrates a lack of courage and faith in the rightness and moral certainty of a just and equitable society. I don’t know if you have noticed but each electoral cycle the right are getting worse and worse while the left swings along behind in the hope of picking up the crumbs. You lot need to grow up and fight for what is decent and right not pragmatic and self-serving. The plight of refugees is the defining issue for anyone who claims any semblance of moral probity and progressive decency. We are incarcerating, humiliating, torturing, denying human rights to our fellow human beings, including “goddamn” children, in the name of expediency, You my friends, who justify this abomination, are part of the problem because you do not want to struggle for a just solution. Call yourself Labor. Bah humbug!

    Gough had guts and stood up for what he believed regardless and you think somehow this insipid mob are going to change the things that need changing. It is, in fact, the young that many of us are pinning our hopes on to rise above the pedestrian political landscape and stand for truth, the dissemination of rationality, logic, empirical-facts and justice. Gandhi, Mandela, Fred Hollows, Bernie Sanders, Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Chomsky, Doctors Without Borders and a whole raft of humanitarians are the true role models of progressives not those political representatives who willingly compromise their ethics.

    We long time progressives know what it is to fight and it is about time Labor returned to the principles of decency and social justice not weak kneed compromise. It is the power of reformist who change a society not the mainstream toadying of a captured political elite.

    You will never know if goodness will win unless you try.

  10. stephentardrew

    Paul Dellit:

    Spot on an admirable post.

  11. stephentardrew


    Hate is simply love gone wrong and if you know love then you will ultimately see the process is not of our making and then you can learn to forgive all.

  12. Kaye Lee

    When I heard Bill Shorten say “We will not have a carbon tax, the Australian people have spoken and Labor is not going to go back to that,” I was furious. Apparently, Team Shorten isn’t interested in all the people who voted Labor BECAUSE of the carbon tax.

    When I heard Shorten say “I think we’ve all been shocked at the revelations that have come out in NSW ICAC. I don’t believe the same case has yet existed to demonstrate these problems are prevalent in the national political debate in Australia,” I nearly choked. Let’s start with Kevin Andrews repealing the gambling reform laws. Let’s look at how much Tony Abbott knows about the bribery allegations against Packer’s Crown Casinos in Macau. Tony Abbott flew Packer to China to personally introduce him. Let’s look at Hockey’s North Sydney Forum. Let’s look at Dick Warburton’s role in Note Printing Australia’s sanctions-busting trip to Iraq in 1998. Let’s look at the abuse of parliamentary entitlements. I could go on for hours listing things that should be investigated.

    And the human rights abuses condoned by both parties cannot be ignored. They MUST find a better way.

    I love my children very much. That does not make them immune from criticism nor from being told to lift their game. Am I to ignore when they do bad things because most of the time they are good?

    The opinions and criticism being expressed by people you call “haters” are perhaps coming from people who are not so focused on the prize of an election win but who are genuinely pleading for what they feel to be right.

  13. votedave

    Fluffy, fruity romantic nonsense. Labor today isn’t an opposition. They don’t make stands on principle as Gough did, they aren’t driven by passion like Gough was, they have no clear plan for the future like the one that guided Gough. They’re lazy and unrepentant, relying on the warm glow of nostalgia for fallen heroes to throw some welcome light on a party, that like the Liberals, has become beholden to the pursuit and maintenance of power, dissociated from representation through a poll driven psychosis that is supposedly both “representative” and “deniable”.
    Let it go and let’s work toward an evolution that destroys the comfortable but deadly bipolarity that has gripped this and every other government of representatives. I do not use the comforting term, democracy, to describe our form of government as it’s time we, the citizens of these nations, reclaim that mandate.
    It has been given and abused. It’s Time to reclaim the birthright of all who were bought up believing in the core promise of democracy; one issue – one vote. Not; one election, two choices, one outcome, 3 to x years.
    If this was an independent media network then there just might be some information or focus outside this singularity that is parliamentary politics, but it’s not. Mostly it’s a liberal bashing labor love in which serves no-one of an independent frame of mind or reference. It affirms what we all know: that there’s something very, very wrong at the heart of our society and that is the system of government that entrenches two parties at the core of power.
    As the comments attest, there’s a huge number of people who are engaged, educated and completely capable. All that remains is political, democratic enfranchisement, regardless of age, race, religion, perspective and tribal leaning.
    We as a nation of thinking, feeling, connected individuals could do no worse a job in decision making and my bet is that we could do it for a fraction of the cost and time with the ability to freely and quickly recall issues that delivered bad outcomes and make corrections without having to maintain the pretense of invulnerability or god like competence (we are after all only human)
    That’s my take and I’m glad to say, that of an increasing number of aware and engaged citizens. So AIM, it would be nice if you could attempt to be what you profess rather than just another partial player in a fascinating but deadly game. (then my junk filter wouldn’t be so right)
    All the best citizens. We do not live in a Democracy but we can.

  14. Ricardo29

    Wrote a long piece and lost it. But I don’t subscribe to the ‘ My party right or wrong’ theory. There are principles which must never be given up and, for me, too many recent Labor governments/wannabe governments have been prepared to compromise those principles I regard Gough as a genuine Australian hero, but was disappointed in his stance on East Timor. Similarly I was disappointed that it was a Labor Govt. that brought back fees for university education. Much as I admired Julia Gillard’s strength and her own vision, I hated her role in the demonisation of boat people asylum seekers (cf Malcolm Fraser and the Vietnamese) and the ineptitude of some of her proposed solutions. Now we have Labor acquiescing to the disgraceful Abbotocracy on issues like the same asylum seekers, attacks on freedom of information, the war on terrorism and Iraq three, and on it goes. Until Bill Shorten and his team return publicly to the principles referred to above — many of which the Greens espouse– I am going to switch my allegiance to the Greens. If Bill and his team want my vote, they are going to have to earn it.

  15. nettythe1st

    Paul Dellit: Thanks you said so eloquently what I’ve been feeling.

  16. John Kelly

    Show me the perfect politician….no don’t bother. You can’t. But show me a true statesman and Gough would stand six feet taller than anyone you could mention. We have not had one like him since. Only Keating comes close in intellect and vision. That so much was achieved in such a short time speaks volumes. That so much still exists today, is exemplary.

  17. Kerri

    One of Gough’s greatest strengths, in my opinion, was his determination to do what was right. Not what was popular. Similar determination from Hawke and Keating to drag us kicking and screaming into the world economy. The present mob of Labor elite are simply popularists. Too afraid to treat asylum seekers with dignity, in case the voters in lower class ignorant and upper class snobbish Australia will not vote for them. And this ridiculous vilification of and interference in the middle east. The only decent thing to come from Labor in recent times is their criticism of Abbott and co’s excuses for not contributing to the Ebola crisis. They let new spying laws be rushed through and now say they will try make amendments later!!! Even Albo waited until the damage was done. Like the little Dutch boy pointing while the dam wall bursts in the hope they may staunch the flow?
    As I said it is modern Labor who have abandoned their constituents. Not the other way around.

  18. Keitha Granville

    “Unlike Malcolm Fraser, whose values have moved away from the Liberal Party as he aged,…”
    I think if you listen to MF now he has explained that the Liberal Party as he knew it has moved to become Conservatives , which is quite different and THAT was why he cancelled his membership. I also think that wisdom of age has shown him that so much of policy SHOULD be bipartisan – international human rights being one of the most fundamental. In my opinion he has become a decnt human being, no longer tethered to the ideals of his ex-party policies.
    Gough was a visionary, achieved so much in his short time, but at the same time that enthusiasm and zeal for achieving ultimately was his undoing. He believed in himself so much (and that’s not a bad thing) that it was impossible for him to consider that he might be wrong.
    Gillard’s term was totally scuttled by the backbench mutterings and dirty tactics of K Rudd. She did not enjoy the unity and total support of her leadership that (mostly) GW did.
    Sadly, the current government is very good at unity, and a great deal of the electorate sees that as more important than the lack of policy and the destruction of our international reputation.
    I agree that the Labor Party needs to get its mojo back, BE the party of GW and Hawke and Keating, reignite the light on the hill. If they do that and stop following the easy road, we will be there to support them and we will have a cat in hell’s chance of persuading some others to join.

  19. Bilal

    Do not ever forget how he was removed. Democracy was trashed that day and we have never had a Labor Government prepared to stand up for Australian interests and independence again. Remember how Hawke and Rudd and Gillard wrapped themselves in the American flag and how Shorten appealed for support to the US Embassy when seeking leadership some years ago.

    The dismissal is dealt with in a detailed article from 2005, ‘Beyond Conspiracy Theory: US presidential archives on the Australian press, national security and the Whitlam government,’ presented by Stephen Stockwell at the Journalism Education Conference in Griffith University.

    Some of the archives have been released but with heavy redactions. However he concludes that
    1) The Packer empire had put their media interests at the service of the United States and Rupert Murdoch received a briefing from Kerr before taking an active editorial line against Whitlam;
    (2) President Nixon ordered the NSC (National Security Council) to do something more than produce policy options to hold current, and create new, US defense installations in Australia; and
    (3) White House staff considered that the NSC did have a jurisdiction in Australia in 1975 and that US security services were active in promoting the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

    We do not expect the political descendants of Pig Iron Bob to stand up for Australia but we do expect the ALP to be loyal to the nation.

  20. Evisrevbus

    A somewhat cheap and misleading shot you took at Malcolm Fraser whose values it may be fairer to say have overall remained fairly constant but the LNP moved away from him rather than the other way around. Those of us around at the time would remember that Fraser was criticised for being economically more moderate than the free-market, Milton Friedman influenced, Thatcherite elements of the party demanded. While supporting expanding the private sector and reduced government intervention he nonetheless placed human rights ahead of economics and politics. He increased spending on welfare housing, family allowances and home mortgage rebates. He took a leading role against apartheid, opposed white minority rule in what was then Rhodesia, accepted East Timorese refugees, accepted Vietnamese asylum seekers, supported multiculturalism and cemented the SBS. He banned sand mining on Fraser Island and prohibited drilling in the Great Barrier Reef. He established the Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the first freedom of information laws. He banned whaling in Australia and the trade in endangered species and signed a convention on the international importance of wetlands. He completed the introduction of Indigenous land rights in the Northern Territory. I think there are many in the current LNP who would denounce the 1975 – 1983 Fraser government as being left wing in comparison to their current Neoconservative position, maybe even further left than the current Labor party.

    So I would assert that contrary to your suggestion, Fraser, like Whitlam, stuck to his principles and when the Liberal Party lurched to the right he gave precedence to his principles ahead of blind loyalty to a changing party, but not without considerable effort to encourage moderation. Remember also that elements within the Liberal party accused him of a wasted decade because he was not a far right economic rationalist and some called for the revocation of his life membership. The new LNP policies about which he could not agree (refugees, terrorism and civil liberties) were significant departures from the policies of his government and his long standing positions on these matters. Many erstwhile supporters of the Labor party find themselves in a similar positions. This is not capricious desertion – even Churchill endorsed giving in to convictions of honor and good sense.

    You talk of Labor critics cherry picking deal breaker policies but ignore that it is the net weight of many unpalatable policies and failures to prosecute polices that are doing the damage. You rightly identify that politics is compromise and the art of the possible but in the case of the ALP it looks increasingly like capitulation not compromise. If you give away half of what you have left at every juncture you will finish up with almost nothing. There must come a point where you say enough compromise is enough. You correctly explain that it is unrealistic to expect the labor party will do everything everybody wants all the time, however, when it does little anybody wants most of the time people have to consider whether it is best placed to represent them. If Labor were adequately representing its range of constituents the Greens would not be able to attack from the left. Those on the right will never vote for Labor no matter how far right it’s policies veer, just as you would never vote for the Greens. Labor’s best chance at regaining power is the recapture the centre and the centre left. For example, I understand that compassion may be viewed as weakness by the the centre right but even if Labor accepted offshore processing it could press hard for transparency, adequate living conditions, proper medical care and due process but instead there is meek acquiescence. Similarly for national security. This is not the art of compromise but the act of surrender. If the same values that drove Gough also drive the modern Labor Party there seems to be very little evidence of it. It will never return to those values if its’ members simply accept a ‘do whatever it takes to gain power’ strategy. Even if you gain the world you may lose your soul.

    “Vote for me because I am not quite as bad as the other guy” does not amount to inspirational, transformative leadership. You need a clear vision and a realistic path to get there, with identifiable, achievable, measurable steps. Instead of promising things you can’t deliver, explain why they are not necessary. Rebut criticism with reasoned argument rather than excuses or caving in or watering down.

    Lastly the tone of this article causes concern. Instead of an objective assessment of the relative merits of the actions and positions of the concerned parties and a well reasoned critique we have instead a somewhat emotional party political advertisement in which objectivity is replaced with accusation. There is no sense of independence in thought or word and since this article appears in a publication positioning itself as an independent media provider it has the potential to call into question the very independence of the AIM network.

  21. M-R

    “Unlike Malcolm Fraser, whose values have moved away from the Liberal Party as he aged” ! – would you prefer that Malcolm had stuck with what the Liberal Party became?
    You set out to make Gough the hero your parents knew: don’t use foolish comparisons like this in your efforts.

  22. Lee

    It’s a nice tribute to Gough but the values of the Labor Party of today have moved a long way from Gough’s values. Why are you bagging Malcolm Fraser for acquiring more socialist values since his days as PM? There’s a lot of criticism on this site for the right, and rightly so, no pun intended. Yet when one of them moves a little more to the left – and does so in the public arena – you’re still not happy. Is there any pleasing you?

    Former Labor supporters who now vote for the Greens have made that choice based on a lot more than asylum seeker policy. Labor have compromised to the point where they are little more than a mini version of the Liberal Party. At both state and national level they have been selling off public assets and contracting out what was formerly public service work for many years now. It was the Hawke government that introduced HECS fees for university students and to the best of my knowledge, no Labor politican since has publically advocated the abolishment of tertiary education fees in this country.

    The Labor Party now acts like it is scared of Murdoch and goodness knows why when Murdoch’s rags are diminishing in relevance for an increasing number of Australians. Lefties have noticed that Labor’s message isn’t getting out via newspapers due to Murdoch’s bias, but the Labor Party aren’t doing a good job of spreading their message via social media either. I subscribe to information from both the Greens and Labor and the Greens are the only party consistently demonstrating that they are working to address the issues that are important to me. The LNP’s war on science is a case in point. The advancement of science is important for this country, to develop new technologies that will hopefully create employment to replace dying industries. The Greens are quite vocal in this area, unlike the ALP. Quite possibly there are issues that are important to me which are being addressed by the ALP. However, since they are communicating poorly with the voters they’re not giving us valid reasons to vote for them again.

  23. Billy muddle moir

    A great ‘infuser’ piece with many fabulous comments within comments that make even better points. (Spot on Paul, I count myself lucky to have been too old for conscription)
    There is nothing wrong with expecting labor to stick up for the economic management of the last three labor governments by showing the lie to the ‘debt crisis’ slogan of the rabbott, little joey and the Belgian.
    Is it sad the labor is short on avoiding quietly pushing, to the commercial media, the point that the rabbott’s pragmatic tag simply means that he can say and do anything because his end point is pure. Funny that he told o’brien he lies to avoid pressure years ago and we have accepted that is his right but he and the media made sure it was not gillard’s right. Now pragmatic lying has become his rite and he has blessed his ‘team’s’ right to lie with blokey honesty.
    Why has labor left us bottom dwellers unarmed against those who ‘remember’ via parent propaganda, believe and, like sheep bleat, economics ‘liberals good, labor baaaad’? Those who can say labor only waste and wreck then the libs have to save the country from bankruptcy are legion and cannot be challenged easily without political trashing of the rabbott et al (notice robb erring in tourism). But the bottom line is I spent 23 years with liberal lying and inaction, so am appalled why would anyone expect, after 30 years waiting for labor to reform, there to be a centre left or centre, left.
    I see nothing but a cowed poor on food stamps, powdered eggs and sausages by 2020.

  24. Lee

    Labor has been cruising the neo-liberal highway since the days of Hawke and Keating. I remember my late father saying when Hawke was PM that he would never vote Labor again because ordinary Australians were being shafted in favour of big business. Whitlam made businesses pay their fair share of income tax. The tax rate for businesses dropped significantly under the Hawke-Keating government. They also introduced negative gearing, another perk which favours the wealthy. We’re now seeing the wealthiest people in Australia paying no income tax at all and Labor isn’t in a hurry to correct this situation. They’re pandering to capitalism and big business as much as the LNP is.

  25. John Fraser


    @Victoria Rollinson

    "They might not be perfect at the time, they might not go as far as the Greens would like them to, which is irrelevant when you consider the Greens don’t actually have to fight to turn ideas into policies."

    Always putting the knife into The Greens.

    I have to wonder if the same applies to the Independents …. a la … Rob Oakshott, Tony Windsor and Nick Xenophon.

    Or by some twisted dint of logic it doesn't apply to them.

    I can tell you and any Labor powerbrokers who may be reading ….. keep knocking The Greens and when you cannot achieve government because The Greens refused to direct preferences to Labor …. then don't sit down crying into your weetbix and blaming The Greens.

    On Thursday I was speaking to a State Labor candidate and I told him that I would be voting Green in the knowledge that Wayne Swan would get the seepage………… and it was just over a year ago that we were both at Wayne Swan's election campaign launch.

    Swannie could be in trouble without Green preferences.

    And that could be replicated across Australia.

    Far better to praise The Greens for policies that are compatible with Labor ideals ….. you know Victoria, the ones that Labor has abandoned …… then to just join the Abbott gang in continually attacking The Greens.

  26. Lee

    Totally agree John. Well said.

  27. Jo McSweeney

    The quality of the replies on this site is outstanding, but I must direct any who haven’t to read the comment by Evisrevbus to please do so. The points made by this person sum up completely what is wrong with blind obedience to any party. Being willing to side with cruel and inhumane policy for political expediency makes Labor a mere replica of the Liberal party. As Evisrevbus says: You talk of Labor critics cherry picking deal breaker policies but ignore that it is the net weight of many unpalatable policies and failures to prosecute polices that are doing the damage. You rightly identify that politics is compromise and the art of the possible but in the case of the ALP it looks increasingly like capitulation not compromise.

  28. Lee

    Thank you Jo for highlighting Evisrevbus’ post – it did not come through to my email for some reason. Fantastic post Evisrevbus. Blind devotion to political parties regardless of their behaviour is one of the reasons why this country is in such a mess today. During my early years of voting I voted Labor because they did less harm than the Liberals, or at least they appeared to do less harm. One day I realised they would never change while I kept voting for them, because my vote was telling them that I support all that they do. We deserve much better and we won’t get it unless we demand it.

  29. Kerri

    So many good comments here. So many accurate assessments of Labor, Liberal, media politics in general. Can anyone make sure this article and subsequent posts are read by Shorten, Burke, Plibersek, Bowen.
    These days I find myself wishing my local member was Nick Xenophon or Andrew Wilkie.

  30. Kayla Flamenco Malaysia

    To understand Gough’s dismissal you really don’t need to look far, because what we have today is the continuing story. It had little to do with domestic issues. It had much more to do with US foreign policies, protection of US interests and US empire building that continues today. We were lucky where most of South America were not, but the same plan was aimed in our direction. Read the political history of Pine Gap, Gough’s opposition to it and the CIA’s dirty handed knobbling of Gough and who was their local, paid for lacky.
    I am most definitely one who would find it very difficult to vote for the current Labor establishment, they would need a long side step back to their leftist roots. Gough would have never ever ever supported all the new security measures being thrust upon us, he would never ever ever have allowed policies that degrade and reject asylum seekers. Jim Carnes was talking about renewable energy in the sixties and seventies, he wrote much about it, knew the sense of it but was labelled a nutter because of it, but I can tell you this was the most intelligent man I have ever met in my life.
    These two men, if sitting in parliament today would likely cross the floor and join the Greens ….. often, and Albo would follow.

  31. silkworm

    I agree with most of the article, except for the dig at the Greens. Their claiming Gough as their own was not the disgrace you say it was. It is current Labor’s slow move away from these ideals that is the disgrace.

  32. corvus boreus

    Leaving aside federal Labors’ complicity in the outsourced incarceration and brutalization of blameless individuals, including children, there are many other reasons they are hemorrhaging traditional supporters.
    Shortens’ Labor supports our involvement in foreign wars and opposes the notion that parliament should be consulted.
    They support draconian legislation allowing unwarranted surveillance and incarceration.
    They now oppose any pricing of carbon.
    Crucially, they also oppose the notion of an impartial examination into the blatant corruption in federal politics.
    Perhaps you can rationalise that this collusion to conceal corruption demonstrates admirable qualities of pragmatism and compromise, but I for one am disgusted by the general lack of ethics shown, and their cynicism in scuttling motions for a federal ICAC is just a betrayal too far.
    You can, of course, continue to barrack for your club, but my vote will certainly go elsewhere, and my decision will only be reversed if Labor returns to embracing some kind of common decency in their policies.
    Shouting in CAPLOCKS, slinging broad tabloid sledges (‘haters bitching’?) and accusing people of reactive hate-mongering certainly won’t help change my mind.

  33. Lee

    I agree with most of the article, except for the dig at the Greens. Their claiming Gough as their own was not the disgrace you say it was. It is current Labor’s slow move away from these ideals that is the disgrace.”

    I don’t see how the Greens have even claimed Gough as their own. They honored a man who shares their values and who worked for the same outcomes they work for. Every message from the Greens carries their logo. There are far more important issues deserving of time and energy than that.

  34. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Gough is my hero. His legacies will shine on. (I cry for the loss of the energy and promise Gough gave and understood.)

    I can’t say the same for modern Labor and I would love to. Why can’t I? Ask Labor yourself.

    Ask them about their attitudes and policies with respect to vulnerable people on welfare, for example, Newstart. Where were the innovative paid, meaningful employment opportunities, for mature age people with quals, experience and skills? Micro-financing for self-employment?

    Ask Labor about their policies on asylum seekers and detention. Not a proud record. Just because Labor is better than Abbott’s LNP Neanderthals, this does not excuse Labor for its paler version of abuse of asylum seeker rights.

    Before Labor denigrates the Greens, I think it would be much wiser and politically astute (not to mention conscionable and community-building) to make bridges with the Greens, progressive parties old and new and sane Independents, as well as other social enterprises within the community that have grassroots knowledge of the diverse challenges and prospective solutions.

  35. Zathras

    I know how you feel Victoria.

    However I’m not really a Labor supporter per-se, but I’m a rage-maintaining Liberal despiser – I hate everything about them – their hypocrisy, their dishonesty, their passion for personal smear, their selfish social philosophy and their born-to-rule smug self-righteousness.
    Even their media-manipulative blue ties annoy me. They remind me of the “old school tie” brigade (which they are).

    However, if there is ever going to be another Gough (or even a -semi-Gough) he/she will inevitably rise from within the ALP so I live in hope.

    Sadly, some of Gough’s current stature is due to the increasing smallness of his successors. The current ALP leaders have squandered his legacy in favor of quick populism.

    It’s also interesting that his loudest media critics at this time seem to have been between the ages of 7 and 14 during those years.

    On an interesting note a University historian who specialises in that era claims that what really finished Gough off for the CIA was his plan to refine our own yellowcake and take away the uranium production monopoly from the USA by using a non-patented process developed by the French. The CIA put pressure on MI5 who put pressure on Kerr. The rest is history.

  36. Conrad

    Has the present Labor leadership totally lost touch with progressive thought in Australia? Now even poor tortured animals are being chucked overboard (well, technically on-board!) as the ALP tries to have a love-in with the right. Get some bloody spine Bill. Stand up for what we believe in: see Facebook page of ANIMALS AUSTRALIA:
    “The week after the worst cruelty ever documented in the live export trade was exposed, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten MP said, “We are seeing that it is possible for increased animal welfare to coincide with increasing export volumes.” His Ag Spokesperson Joel Fitzgibbontold the same conference that the live export industry enjoys “more public confidence” these days, for having the “best animal welfare system in the world’ ( Seriously gentlemen, seriously?

    It seems the Australian Labor Party’s leaders’ disconnect from the Australian people is almost as bad as the live export industry’s understanding of the term ‘good animal welfare’ … If you have a moment to politely put them back in touch with the vast majority of Australians – caring people who are sick and tired of seeing cruelty in live export trade that is getting worse – not better – leave a message (having difficulty? Contact him the old fashioned way here: .”

  37. auntyuta

    Kerri, I agree with your statement: “We are not abandoning the Labor Party, they have abandoned us.
    If they want our votes. The votes of the Labor supporters of old. They need to appeal to us. Not to the voters who swing on popular policies.”
    The Labor Party is a mainstream party. Is this why they have to go along with the abhorrent asylum seeker policies and also cannot fully support some of the rights that the first inhabitants of our country should have? Well, I am sorry, but mainstream policies like this I just cannot support.

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