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Gough Was An Unreasonable Man!

As I like pointing out from time to time – particularly after I’m dismissed as a typical Labor supporter by those who seek to dismiss any criticism of the current government by citing Labor’s record in government – I have never been a member of the Labor Party. Neither am I a member of The “that’s even more loony” Greens. What’s Labor’s record got to with what I’m saying about Abbott, I wonder, as I’m talking about the current government and to me, any argument about the past is like asking why you’re annoyed that I punched you when someone else kicked you yesterday.

If I’m rarely critical of the Labor Party, it’s not because I’m going to support them through thick and thin, it’s because, compared to the current mob, their sins are trivial. Sort of like comparing a drunk driver with a parking offence. (Although with a letter from George Brandis, driving over the legal limit is regarded as ok by the legal system.)

Now, the eulogies to Whitlam during the past week made me remember much of the criticism I’ve had of Labor in the past forty years.

While, Whitlam is remember as a Labor hero now, it’s worth remembering that the old guard of the Labor Party nearly nobbled him. He only survived the Deputy Leadership by one vote. He threatened the system and, like many who try to reform the Labor Party, he made enemies. And it was these enemies that made his government unworkable by its end. Perhaps, that’s why Whitlam was in such a hurry, He realised that there was no way of keeping Labor together for more than a handful of years.

To me, it wasn’t that Whitlam Government tried to borrow money from less conventional sources that was the worrying thing about his government by the end of 1975. It was the fact that so many ministers seemed to operating in their own little worlds. Rex Connor, for example, continued to deal with Khemlani after Whitlam told him not to.

The electable of the Whitlam Government in 1975 is an interesting topic of discussion. Notwithstanding the magnificent achievements of the previous three years, the overwhelming bias of the Murdoch Press, the actions of Kerr and the rights of a democratically elected government to see out its full term, there were some compelling reasons not to vote them back into office.

After all, they were an economic disaster, right? Well Stephen Koukoulas would disagree. Whitlam’s Fiscal Legacy. But he uses facts, facts do have a tendency to be biased against Liberal propaganda.

And I guess this is my biggest criticism of the Labor Party over the past forty years: For too long far too many have been prepared to sacrifice Whitlam to the myths of the time, to say that yes, he was economically irresponsible but we’ve learned our lesson. This has enabled the Liberals to build up the sort of nonsense that Andrew Bolt was peddling in his pathetic attempt to create controversy last week. Even allowing for the fact that Whitlam’s Government was hit with the sort of financial shocks that rocked the rest of the world and sent the US and others into the previously unknown “stagflation”, there is still the obvious fact that the Fraser /Howard team didn’t solve our inflation or our unemployment problems. When the Fraser/Howard partnership was voted out, the debt relative to GDP was higher than it had ever been. And Howard remains the only Treasurer to hit the 10% inflation, 10% unemployment double. (And if there’d been an official interest rate at the time, he’d have hit 10% with that also!)

Labor shouldn’t have waited till Whitlam’s death to defend him. And yes, I am aware that many of the rank and file did. But for too long, the Liberals have been allowed to say “the worst government since Whitlam” without protest from the Labor side of politics.

Gough achieved more in three years than Fraser achieved in seven. In fact, I have trouble thinking of anything enduring that Fraser introduced. The same for Holt and McMahon. Howard? Ah, yes. The GST. And the Private Health Insurance subsidy. Yep, Gough was a leader while Liberal PM’s have been managers.

It wasn’t easy for Mr Whitlam. To achieve, he fight many in his own party as well as the Coalition and the media. I keep thinking of a quote:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

George Bernard Shaw

Let’s hope that another unreasonable man soon emerges for Labor. God knows, the Liberals have enough of them. But unfortunately, while Whitlam wanted to take us into a new era, they’re content with taking us backwards.


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  1. Keitha Granville

    agree with all of that. But who in the party now has anything that comes close to the drive of GW ? Or the ability to orate, to debate aggressively in the Parliament with out resorting to abuse and inanity which is the norm at the moment. Tanya Plibersek springs to mind, but she’s a girl and they are unlikely to go down that road again – well, not yet anyway. Leader of the future where are you ? Step up now.

  2. Bacchus

    Howard remains the only Treasurer to hit the 10% inflation, 10% unemployment double.

    It was actually a trifecta Rossleigh – unemployment, interest rates and inflation all over 10%. 😉

  3. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I hope a brave, visionary woman or man will come to the fore to lead Labor now into a reformist future.

    I hope this woman or man is able to forge alliances with other reformist forces, including the Greens, progressive parties and other reformist Indies.

    Labor needs to do something quick to make Gough’s legacy proud. Otherwise, it risks losing the hearts and minds of its most loyal supporters, who don’t want a paler version of the LNP Neanderthals.

  4. diannaart

    …that’s why Whitlam was in such a hurry, He realised that there was no way of keeping Labor together for more than a handful of years.

    I have always held that opinion. Would also explain his actions vis a vis ‘questionable sources of revenue’.

    I would, however, like to make a distinction between Fraser’s actions upon taking (literally) office to Abbott’s ascendancy. Fraser retained most, if not all, of Whitlam’s reforms. Abbott is still slashing everything and anything that has a taint of ‘Labor’.

  5. silkworm

    The next Whitlam is in the Greens.

  6. nettythe1st

    Scott Ludlam for PM 🙂

  7. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Scott’s great.

    I also like and respect Christine Milne and Sarah Hanson-Young. They work doggedly for what they represent as the true course of action for social justice, wide scale reform and the environment.

  8. stephentardrew


    What a wonderful term “unreasonable man” when reason is so distorted by lies that the truly rational person is inevitable completely unreasonable. Gough, like all progressives, confronted stupidity and irrationality with logic and reason while fools bleat on about the reasonableness of economic rationalism laced with social Darwinism; a grand does of ideological fantasy; economic elitism; and unmitigated greed.

    If that is the case then I am “radically unreasonable” as are so many of the contributors and bloggers on this site. To me it is a badge of honour to “unreasonably expect democracy”; justice, equality; equitable redistribution of wealth; the right to basics food, shelter, medicine, technology, education and a comfortable old age – and most of all the right to expect that we, as a people, help those who suffer through no fault of their own including refugees.

    As it stands now conservatives think that any appeal to equity is unreasonable no matter how difficult peoples life circumstances and histories are. Low incomes earners are viewed as dispensable economic serfs who can go to their graves in poverty. They are making cruelty and injustice magically appear like democratic goods. Only the the vile, irrational, ideologically driven and dysfunctional could twist facts so completely and then represent them as reasonable democratic goals.

    I am an entirely “unreasonable man” when I think that this is one of the most cruel and heartless periods ever in this nation tantamount to shotting miners for rebelling against poverty and injustice. “Eureka” the cry of unreasonable plebes to justice. Lets just starve the buggers to death. This is what conservatives are saying to us today. You are no more than chattels of a global corptocracy who is taking over national laws through trade deals like the TPP.

    The crazies are in charge of the hen house convincing the rabble to lie down and reasonably submit themselves to economic injustice, cruelty, suffering and psychological torture.

    Deflection: Look over there a big bad Debt; look a juice war over here (of our own making); Oh damn! a terrorist under the bed; a new draconian law to save you from yourselves (we will decide who is to be saved and when); and, coming to you soon in High Definition, a nasty Ebola arriving under your bed while the real demons terrorize their constituents with lies derived from primitive fallacious; totally fictional; irrational, illogical dogma or should I say “God be Damned”.

    You may have noticed I am getting a little testy and “unreasonable” lately.

  9. nettythe1st

    I agree with you Jennifer. Christine is a brilliant woman. The Greens team is inspiring with the likes of Adam Bandt, Sarah Hanson-Young and Robert Di Natale. But I think by the time Scott Ludlam has hit full swing, Australia just might be ready for a Greens PM.

  10. Kaye Lee

    It truly is time for us all to shout ENOUGH. It has gone beyond politics. Our country is fast becoming morally bankrupt. The worst in our society, led by Bolt and Hadley and Ackerman and Devine and Pickering and Jones, feel empowered and policies are geared to appeal to them.

    If you want to stop people from drowning as they flee violence and oppression, you would up the humanitarian intake, open processing centres in transit countries with sufficient staff to assess applications in a set time frame (barring problems…sack a few of the thousands of spin doctors employed to sell this hellish scheme), and fly successful applicants here. You would set up partnerships with country towns who are willing to welcome newcomers to give them some stability as they heal and learn about a new culture. You would offer safety and willingly give assistance. Perhaps if we treated people this way they may be less vulnerable to “radicalisation”… if they can see that life can be better…..that we can actually care for each other and celebrate our difference.

    As I heard Liberal after Liberal get up and say that Gough put Australia on the map, I cried to think of the pissant selfish ignorant backwater we have become in the space of a year. Our place as a respected global citizen has been obliterated. We are the little dog yapping around the heels of money and the US – anyone and anything can be bought by the rich and powerful.

  11. lawrencewinder

    A good read… and it’s interesting the affection expressed for GW and how quickly those carping uncouth carping naysayers were dealt with. The sense of a chance lost has been very real and I think the 40th anniversary of the dismissal might be a good time to have another one!

  12. David

    Many similarities in your article to the problems Julia had to overcome. While the old guard of the Labor Party ‘nearly knobbled him’, they are now the conservative right faction who must wear majority of the blame for the so so timid approach by their man in Canberra Bill Shorten. Knobbling the peoples choice Albo by muscle and bullying within Caucus, has thus far been a dismal failure.
    The polls are despite Bill as his personal rating shows, I have seen no evidence yet, despite so many birds in the hand, of the full force of Opposition to the filthy evil actions of Abbott and his Govt. The birds in the hand may get tired of waiting and return to their fate in the hands of their captors.

  13. Bilal

    It seems that since the “Liberal” Party adopted Pauline’s political vision in order to undermine the One Nation Party, we have drifted towards a more and more racist, know-nothing society. That even the ALP was able to adopt offshore detention without any backlash from voters was worrying enough. However the policy direction of the Minister for the Border and Offshore Concentration Camps indicates the dangers of this trend. Indeed that he is the Member for Cronulla seems particularly apt.

  14. Roswell

    Bacchus, we mustn’t forget – though I’m sure most people have, or either didn’t know – that Julia Gillard had all three under 5%. First person to do it in 40 years.

  15. Kerri

    I wonder when Julia Gillard dies, will the critics finally realise what an excellent Prime minister she was? Will the propaganda fade into oblivion like it sort of has with Gough? Will the good memories outweigh the bad?
    Probably not because Abbott with his newspeak double think practices will do all he can to even remove Julia’s memory let alone her lagacy!!!

  16. stephentardrew

    As an aside: What the Unreasonable Man Would Do.

    Australia warned by Kerry and US not to join the Chinese Development bank. This could be the most important game play in Asia and guess what? Little bitty Tony will do what big daddy bully boy US tells him. Remember BRICs are involved. Now we are getting the big picture game play that is freaking out the US and Europe. In actual fact it would be a real bonus for our fiat currency to have another viable world currency to challenge US hegemony. If Whitlam and his advisers on China (Dennis Argall and ilk) were around today he would not hesitate to join.

    While the US is playing turf wars in the Middle East and with Russia the BRICs are setting up a New Development Bank with the goal to develop an alternative trade-able world currency.

    Let the games begin.


  17. sandrasearle

    Kaye Lee, you have been reading my mind when it comes to the refugee situation (oh and the rest of your comments regarding Oz going from best to last in 1 year).
    I have been bleating to anyone who will listen to me about getting those refugees who have been cleared, to bring them into the country areas so that they really do get to know what Australians really are like. Our country brothers & sisters have the ability & the practice of knowing how to help each other in troubled times & I’m sure they would welcome their areas growing again instead of gradually being run down.
    So much for anyone in the LNP (and some others) who really cannot see past the end of their noses. They need to open their minds, their eye & their ears to what could be really achieved. I want our country back, not the country that TA & his mob are trying to drag us into.

  18. David

    Kerri so true, Abbotts maniacal intense hatred of Julia is all consuming within him. No more obvious as in the speed he is demolishing her wonderful legislative successes. Sadly in many cases with the assistance of the Opposition, which is not surprising given the Rights destruction of her Prime Ministership over 3 yrs.
    Can you hear me Bill!!!

  19. mark delmege

    No need to be sexist in your last line rossleigh.
    As I said earlier this week … ‘What the media is unlikely to report today is how empire brought him down – and I don’t mean in a CIA black bag kind of way. What killed his government more than anything was the collapse of the world economy in the early 1970’s – (global) inflation generated by the bloated US war spending on Vietnam – and the excuse this gave OPEC to raise Oil prices and also in part as a reaction against US support for expansionist Israel. The affect this had on the global economy with inflation and unemployment took almost 10 years to play out.’
    As for Khemlani there are reasons to assume he was part of a many pronged cia/mi5 sting operation to undermine and create the proper circumstances to bring down the Whitlam ‘socialist’ government.

  20. rossleighbrisbane

    Point taken, Mark. Can I use the Cormann defence that just as “Girlie Man”isn’t sexist because he was quoting Arnie that I was quoting Shaw?
    Yes, I certainly believe that the next unreasonable man may well be a woman.

  21. Kaye Lee

    The Whitlam government “left zero net government debt to Fraser” who then boosted net government debt to 7.5 per cent of GDP by the time Hawke ran him out of office. And when Whitlam was removed by Fraser’s bloodless coup, “the tax to GDP ratio was around 20 per cent”. Fraser’s treasurer, honest John Howard, “got this up to an all-time record tax take exceeding 24 per cent of GDP”.

  22. stephentardrew

    Little Johny Howard the second worst treasurer in Australian History.

    Couldn’t believe it when Joe Blunderbuss Bluster-crap outdid him.

    Life is a vale of tears for those whose records are broken hey little Johny?

  23. Paul Dellit

    A good summary, Rossleigh. One of Gough’s early challenges was unifying a Party that was divided on ideological lines. Oh for those Halcyon Days when the big issues were about clashes of strongly held beliefs. Gough was a man of principles, not polls, and successfully led the electorate to see his vision for the future, one that obtains to this day. The LNP seems to be more about right wing ideologies than anything else. They may be loony ideologies that fly in the face of reality and require serial reinterpretations of the facts and outright lying to the electorate, but at least they provide a target (an easy target) to aim at. Shorten snipes from time to time, but remains poll driven an unable to cut through on the big issues of principle. Rudd abandoned “the biggest moral issue of our time” because the polls told him to, and Shorten to this day supports the torture of innocent children, women, and men as a way of avoiding our moral obligations to refugees, because the polls tell him to. Gough can rightly be thought of as the father of genuine welfare state and social justice values in Australia. The current ALP cannot expect to be taken seriously while ever its leader is manifestly ideologically impotent.

  24. Jason

    Interesting article and very interesting observations by other commenters.

    Whitlam said the best history was done by focussing on the document. In other words history will be evaluated in the evidence and not the propaganda. I’d suggest that the oft repeated line of worst prime-minister ever and economic vandal will probably be contextualized and mostly revealed to be the ‘marketing’ of the Conservative Establishment that actually lives in fear of democracy.

    Jones and Bolt really are losing grip and they realise it. Social media, independent media, and citizen journalism will usurp their rancid power and influence. They have fewer and fewer horses left to flog and as the disenchantment with Abbott grows they will be left nothing other than a more perverse desperation that becomes increasingly negative. The electorate will look to something far more optimistic than unrelenting fear.

    Australia needs a federal ICAC and a Royal Commission into the state of well-being of the public institutions that should serve to keep Australian democracy healthy. The consequences of the assault on the public service and in particular on the ABS, CSIRO, Tax Department, the ABC, and the BoM, need to be properly investigated and detailed to the Australian citizenry.

    To get some sort of integrity into mainstream politics then a concerted effort needs to be made to see who holds influence over ‘our’ politicians.

    Decent and principled politicians like Scott Ludlam, Larissa Waters, Nick Xenophon, and Andrew Wilkie, should be the way of the future.

  25. kathysutherland2013

    I think Julia had the potential to become an “unreasonable woman,” but she was hobbled by having too many egos to cope with in the ALP at the time. She certainly had the vision – carbon pricing, plain package cigarettes, NBN, Disability Insurance Scheme….. Politics was just plain nasty at the time; infighting, negativity, jealousy. I don’t think even Gough could have coped.

  26. mark delmege

    Julia was certainly UN reasonable in the way she fawned over the Genocidal State of Israel and the Zionist lobby and The Empire of Chaos and The Slaughter President.

  27. kathysutherland2013

    Mark, I was pretty miffed when Gough didn’t support East Timor. Unfortunately our icons mess up sometimes!

  28. mark delmege

    kathy if you read his first speech in parliament circa 1954 you would know why – back in those days it WAS understandable.

  29. mark delmege

    kathy we are talking 1954 (or thereabouts) The world was a very different place and the European colonisers had pockets all over Asia. Places like Honkers is now being manipulated by the American alphabet agencies into rebellion against the Chinese. Fortunately most other pockets have been absorbed without the problems of East Timor and Oecussi. Just for the record I have always (at least since 1975) supported East Timorese independence.

  30. kathysutherland2013

    The point I was trying to make is that our leaders and parties don’t always act they way we’d like them to. I wasn’t happy with all of Julia Gillard’s actions (think asylum-seekers, gay marriage) but I respected her and supported her, on the whole. For Bill Shorten, I have no respect.

  31. Billy muddle moir

    A great read sadly I won’t be around when labor praises the reforms of Gillard and the work of swan and the last three years hard labour of labor, most of which are already trashed in the mind so the media readers and viewers and any that are useful (AAA) are now the rabbott’s achievements. But I can have a rueful laugh at the friends of fawkner fools and reformers who are ignorant of the history of Evatt , Calwell et al, are responding to the rabbott’s excesses by quietly praying that osmosis will

  32. Lee

    I’d like a credible explanation of why Whitlam’s spending was reckless. He ran budget surpluses from 1972-75. Once again the Fiberals are full of shit.

  33. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear, Lee.

  34. Billy muddle moir

    I have always thought the profligate PMs were pig-iron bob and little johnnie howard. Despite the IMF who label Howard as the spendthrift.

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