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The Liberal’s attack on Whitlam and Gillard 38 years apart: An attack on progressive ideas & a return to mediocrity

Originally published on

Despite the IPA’s urgency for “Abbott to be more like Whitlam” because Whitlam ‘changed Australia, more than any other Prime Minister ever has,’ the IPA’s agenda for Abbott is very different.

In the 1970’s Gough Whitlam was seen as the first progressive Prime Minister, who stood for the people. He stood for workers, battlers, migrants, everyone. He wanted to shift Australia to a more inclusive and progressive society.

Gough shifted Australia from a stagnant, mediocre nation, to a nation of ideas, progress and voices.

For so many years, the voices of the worker, the battlers and migrants had been silenced, by the collective group of individuals who could manage just fine on their own; whether that be through the privilege of money, position in society, family heritage or education, is neither here nor there. The crux of the what Gough Whitlam did, was to bring more people into this exclusive collective by opening up opportunities, thought a hand up, a fair go for all. Gough’s vision was to propel the nation forward, through ensuring that individual Australians could achieve enormous success; even if they were in a previously ‘excluded group’ under the Liberals. He wanted every single Australian, to be the best that they could be.

Gough Whitlam propelled this country forward, and these changes became the status-quo we all accepted and still do:

  • Access for all to Higher Education
  • Needs based funding for schools
  • The beginning of what we know today as Medicare – Medibank
  • National funding of hospitals and community health centres
  • The creation of the single mother’s pension (now parenting payment-single)
  • The handicapped children’s allowance (now known as carer’s payment).
  • Funding community grassroots social welfare organisations and volunteer organisations (now collectively known as ‘the community sector’) who served a need to assist individuals in their communities.
  • Enacted the Social Housing Act for States, which has housed so many Australians from low income/disadvantaged households
  • Outlawed discrimination against Indigenous people
  • Handed back land to Indigenous people
  • Funded legal services for Indigenous people
  • Enacted Human Rights protection through International Acts
  • Funded urban transport projects
  • and connected homes to sewerage – the beginning of the end of the thunderbox

It is well known that Gough Whitlam’s legacy is very vast, therefore, I have only chosen a few for example. To read more go to: The Whitlam Government’s achievements

In the 1970’s, the Liberals, not happy at all with such changes to our society, sought a means to attack this progress and ‘return Australia to its Status Quo – to the mediocre way Australians had lived before under the Liberals.” Through political mechanisms within our system, the LNP stamped their feet and got their own way.

The reason why I have highlighted the above is to me, the correlation between the attack on Julia Gillard and Gough Whitlam. Why do I see this as a correlation between the two? Because both have the underlying construct of:

Shifting the status-quo to exclusion of groups, the notion that only ‘those who try succeed’, that everyone is equal, and the disadvantaged and unemployed are the burden of society’

In ways that Gough Whitlam shaped Australia, Julia Gillard was also attempting to do so. Policy highlights such as Gonski reforms (needs based funding for education), NDIS (Peace of mind for every Australian, for anyone who has, or might acquire, a disability), A price on Carbon (a leader ahead of many other western countries, now adopting a price on carbon), the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, an attack on Work Choices and the introduction of Fair Work Australia and Modern Awards, the National Broadband Network (which would give fast internet nationwide, including regional & rural), Plain packaging for cigarettes (a leader ahead of other nations wanting to adopt the same) and an apology to all persons affected by forced adoption practices, to name a few.

In fact, the IPA, the right wing think tank of Australia, found Prime Minister Gillard’s progress for Australians, so threatening to the Liberal way of life, they have issued a list to Abbott in 2011, to which he has agreed to implement.

The threat to the Liberal’s right-wing side of politics, that these progressive changes of the Gillard Government would become norm and adopted as the status quo amongst Australians, was a serious concern and action needed to be taken.

Indeed action was taken. The Liberals did not hold the balance of power in the senate, as they did in 1975, so they needed to adopt ways and means of bringing down a progressive and effective Government. They needed to ensure that the Liberals gained power. To do this, they needed to taint the left as corrupt, a shambles and not to be trusted.

The onslaught on Julia Gillard during her Prime Ministership was relentless, astounding, hateful and most of all untruthful.

The right, did not care if Prime Minister Gillard was not a criminal. The fact of the matter is, they had to paint her as a criminal to bring her down. Once the trust of the electorates where broken, through this tactic, they were home and hosed.

The idea behind the IPA’s list of ideas to Abbott is so that reforms could be torn down, as quickly as possible and that a push to the right through Liberal policy can shift the status quo to the hard right. The reasoning behind this, is once this becomes status quo, it will be extremely hard for any left Government in power to shift policy back to the progressive left.

This is summarized in this quote below from John Roskam, James Paterson and Chris Berg of the IPA:

Only radical change that shifts the entire political spectrum, like Gough Whitlam did, has any chance of effecting lasting change. Of course, you don’t have to be from the left of politics to leave lasting change on the political spectrum.

Essentially, the IPA has requested Abbott push the country as far right as possible, so it then becomes adopted by the public as the status quo and becomes normal over time. This is the impetus behind the relentless attacks on the Prime Minister Gillard and her Government.

Now we have a situation where the former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has been cleared of all criminal activity. The question is, how did this play in the minds of voters at the election in 2013? How did this sway the votes to the ‘trusted right?’ The question we need to ask ourselves now and in the future, is now we understand the true agenda of the Liberal party, do we vote again in 2016/17 for a progressive Australia, or the Liberals return to mediocrity?


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  1. Blanik

    Abbott aka Captain Catholic will never be like Whitlam. Captain Catholic is a fascist, as are his followers.

  2. Christel Nathan

    I just hope that Apathralia wakes up before it is to late ,I so enjoyed your Article it is spot on Thank you

  3. David

    There are too many similarities between the right GOP / Tea Party fundamentalists in the USA and the Prime Minister Abbott Murdoch … if Rupert Murdoch wanted to be PM why doesn’t he come back to Australia and put himself up as a MP .. Abbott is taking Australia back into the class system where only those in power or who those have to stay within the system (for instance to pay off a huge education debt) will be educated … the rest of us are irrelevant. He punishes the already marginalized and poor as skape goats for his own inability to recognise that the problem is global … the major problem for us, in the collapse of America and the EU instability … with the resulting effect on China and hence as the major buyer of our raw materials on our own economy – of course he rushes to the support of industry (mining and ++++) where all they want is more money and power …but why not have a go at the the retired, the unemployed the disabled .. remember Abbott they vote … and thankfully they also have memories .. enjoy your Karma !

  4. stephentardrew

    Trish you never know. The leader needed may well be in the dress circle while circumstance may bring change to the forefront. The general trend is improvement though there are local fluctuations along the way. Exponential growth in technology is inevitable and dramatic changes are in the pipeline. We cannot be absolutely certain what direction it will take yet it most certainly will happen. In the sense of deep time and knowledge growth conservatives and their supporting magical and mythical ideologies are on the way out for both left and right. They will be replaced but we, as yet, cannot be certain which changes will endure. I would say that it is becoming statistically significant that a revisionary progressive capable of uniting leftist forces is overdue and will come given time.

    Conservatives time is nearly up.

    One more GFC and they will be toast.

    Unfortunately there may be some suffering along the way.

    Cycles within cycles – wheels within wheels.

  5. Carol Taylor

    Whitlam epitomised optimism. Abbott thrives on elitism, negativity and scandal.

    Yes of course the tactic of repeat, repeat and repeat the same ‘talking points’ – dysfunctional/waste/scandal/rorts – played on the minds of voters. Many a right winger was asked ‘why vote for Abbott’, and the answer was always the same, ‘because he’s not Gillard’. Why the hate, why the venom. People hate because they are told to hate.

    How many times did we have to listen to Abbott drone on in his habitual monotone – this is a dysfunctional government. And the press did their noddies.

    As to whether Australian politics can “shift to a progressive left”, my belief is yes we can. Abbott is the example of extreme right-wing power corrupted, and with such extremism (or any extremism) there is always a shift back to something more moderate. Perhaps we in Australia needed this sort of extremism to make us aware of the direction in which the state of politics has been often subtly, sometimes less subtly shifting.

  6. mars08

    Carol Taylor:

    As to whether Australian politics can “shift to a progressive left”, my belief is yes we can. Abbott is the example of extreme right-wing power corrupted, and with such extremism (or any extremism) there is always a shift back to something more moderate. Perhaps we in Australia needed this sort of extremism to make us aware…

    That’s a nice positive sentiment.

    But my fear is that the Coalition is executing a “scorched earth” campaign. Should those maniacs be booted from office, it’s going to take decades of unbroken progressive governments to reverse the damage done. And, as we know, the Australian voter can be a fickle, easily distracted, self-absorbed and impatient creature. I believe this rotten mob have smashed the pendulum so far to the right… that they’ve permanently shifted the pivot point off-centre.

  7. DanDark

    I second that Mars, I hold no hope out at all for this country if you push something far enough one way with enough force it will stay there, I am quite frightened for my 9 yr old daughters future in this country and my young grandchildren, we have an unemployment crisis in young people that this gov and the past gov has ignored and will continue to, they have put that in the too hard basket, education will only be for the rich, health care the same, food will be considered a luxury for the unemployed, there is not a lot of light shining from the hill these days, it’s gone out and permanently and I cannot see any party switching it on in the future, as we know it’s all about them, jobs for their mates, big business, mining companies and big coal….” Coal is good for humanity” yep Australia is stuffed…

  8. trishcorry

    Thanks everyone.
    Carol, Mars and Dan – yes, that is why my focus has been on the IPA’s agenda. It isn’t discussed and Abbott has agreed to it. Where they want to move us to, is so important. Yes, it will take years of unbroken progressive Governments. In saying that; the only way we get great ideas in Government is for people to join parties and actively be part of parties. If you have not joined a progressive party yet, please do so! It is so important to get this support from the grassroots in each and every community.

  9. trishcorry

    and Stephen – yes! We need to move out of the coal mindset and into progressive energy/scientific ideas.

  10. olive

    what hope is there when the current leader of the Federal Labor Party is best mates with John Roskam of the IPA . This is surely of great concern

  11. Jason

    Good article.

    I’ve spent the last few days wondering about the mediocrity of George Brandis. That guy really has been promoted beyond his capability. (And it really does hurt my brain thinking about it).

    I actually tend to agree with what @steventardrew said about cycles within cycles etc,. @carol taylor also makes a good point. I personally think Abbott is an aberration and in time will be corrected. This probably won’t be without pain. But he leads a government of mendacity that will rely increasingly on obfuscation to cling to power. People will tire of his relentless negativity and climate of fear, paranoia, and pervasive dread.

    What Trish said about supporting change at the grassroots community level is very important. Getting involved and having conversations with people can make a difference.

  12. trishcorry

    Jason, it hurts my brain thinking about all of them. One of the scary things is, no matter who I look at, there is no suitable talent in the party to replace Abbott; which is a concern if the entire party has such a low level of talent and it is not just a case of a poorly chosen leader.

  13. lunalava

    Thanks Trish, this is a good summary of my own thinking on these issues, history will be kinder to both Whitlam and Gillard. The conservative side of politics and their supporters first response to progressive policies is to rip them down.
    At least by the time Gillard was in power there was an alternate “voice” available on the internet.

    If Labor had any guts they would suggest a Royal Commission into the role of journalists in this disgusting political witch hunt. This is unlikely as many current Federal Labor politicians also play a role in bringing Gillard down.

    The truth is bitter to the betrayer.

  14. mars08

    I personally think Abbott is an aberration and in time will be corrected. This probably won’t be without pain. But he leads a government of mendacity that will rely increasingly on obfuscation to cling to power…

    My main concern isn’t whether or not Abbott is merely a hard-right aberration. I’m more worried about finding a party willing to enthusiastically challenge this government’s lurch to the right.

  15. Carol Taylor

    Jason my concern about Brandis is that a 1st year law student could pick holes in a number of his plans..and that the msm seems to have few people on board prepared to tackle him over issues. (An example might be his original intention over 18C Racial Discrimination Act. As sections of Acts plus state legislation has a tendency to mirror the federal, had it been thought through that making it ok to offend or humiliate on the grounds of race, ethnic origin would have a flow-on effect to different HREOC legislation – ok to offend and humiliate on the grounds of disability, ok to offend and humiliate on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ah well, I’m sure that the whole thing kept 1st year law lecturers busy for a while).

    Trish, I agree about ‘no suitable talent’ – straight out of the JW Howard Handbook to never promote anyone with any talent lest they undermine one’s own position. Abbott told the media after losing to Gillard that this was the team that he would take to the next election. I thought What? no changes..ever. And of course he meant it, that he likewise would never get rid of dead wood and especially never promote anyone with any talent. Life’s sad for a Liberal backbencher. Perhaps a few such as one of my favourites good old Petro Georgiou might start offering dissenting oppinions once they realise that no matter how hard they try, no matter what effort they put in..the likelihood of promotion is less than optimistic.

  16. Kaye Lee

    “George Brandis has insisted the conclusions about Julia Gillard from the counsel assisting the royal commission into union corruption are “very serious”, “very damning indeed” and prove that the Coalition’s pursuit of the former prime minister was “certainly justified”.

    I think it’s just about time for a slander case against Brandis.

  17. DanDark

    Trish Corey, I don’t think joining a political party will help me and my 9 yr old, she hasn’t been to school for months just the petrol a week to get her there is 40 bucks a week, add up lunches excursions etc etc i am paying a mortgage, I have 3 kids I support ranging from 21 who is in Uni down to 9, and I do all this living on 400 bucks a week, I was just surviving till Julia pulled the rug from out under my family last year since then it’s been a slow slide down the hill, join a political party that’s funny lol lol lol which one there all effing useless 🙂

  18. townsvilleblog

    Trish while I agree wholeheartedly on an overwhelming majority of you work, I don’t see “mediocrity” as the result of conservative policies. I see it as an all out attack on the poor. I suppose that you have to be in the poor bracket to be able to appreciate the difference. I can assure you first hand that their policies are to people in my category the whole 2.5 million of us earth shattering and family destroying which is precise why the silence of the ALP is so disturbing to we 2 and a half million Aussies living below the poverty line.

  19. DanDark

    Townsville if they havnt walked a mile in the moccasins they have no idea, not a clue what it is like to just survive, I work but the more I work the less I earn now, since Labor screwed over 100 000 single mothers just before they got booted out of office knowing already that single mothers were suffering as their children, join a political party, I will never vote again, it’s a waste of time, labor spun to the right years ago…

  20. stephentardrew


    I utterly and thoroughly concur having worked in the welfare system for decades. What you don’t see doesn’t hurt you. Minorities are of little political interest and consequence. Labor, to be relevant, must return to social justice.

  21. Olivia Manor

    Sadly the voters are now looking favourably to the lurch to the right. Latest polls have Abbott regaining ground due to his tough stance on asylum seekers, Putin and those terrorists under the bed. Even more sad is that a large number of the older voters who grew up with Gough and Bob are terrified of the sharia law coming in your neighbourhood soon. Don’t understand why these people who were in their prime,when compassion and true liberalism was alive and well, have turned into such narrow minded bigots. But I guess you have to be radical in your youth to be a conservative in your old age. Murdoch has a lot to answer. Will be interesting to see what happens to America if the Republicans take over control of both houses as they are predicted. Looks like the world will be revisiting the 1930s all over again: fascism, Depresssion, civil wars! And Australia will only be part of the trend.

  22. trishcorry

    Townsville blog, ironically, the impetus for this blog was actually your blog last week stating that the ALP since Gough have done nothing for the people…….

  23. Zathras

    It was the Whitlam era that created the beginning of the modern Liberal Party, with it’s passion for the personal smear and the use of media controlled public opinion.

    Murdoch certainly helped Whitlam into power but later used his influence to have him removed and he has seen himself as a “Kingmaker” ever since.

    At least the Fraser crowd didn’t descend into the viscious personal attacks and innuendo as rabidly as his successors but certainly used vague assertions and half-truths in other areas.

    Keating was pursued for allegations over his “piggeries” interests for many years after he left the political arena and the use of family as an attack weapon was reputedly one of the reasons Latham also left.

    Brandis almost certainly had a role in the Craig Thomson arrest stunt as did Pyne with Slipper and the Abbott vs Hanson encounter is historical fact (albeit with detail hidden).

    This strategy is directly from the Tea Party handbook, as studied by Cori Bernardi on one of his pilgimages to that organisation.

    They are a “nasty piece of work” and offensive fundraising menus and talk of putting people in a bag and dumping them at sea or just kicking them to death is now second nature to them.

    This is the new face of politics in this country.

  24. trishcorry

    Well said Zathras

  25. iggy648

    What I found really upsetting Zathras, was that the Victoria and NSW police were complicit in the Craig Thompson arrest stunt, making them at least appear to be just a political tool of the Liberals. Very sad for once proud forces.

  26. Sam

    It’s weird that these Conservatives are so mean. I had sex with Andrew Bolt once who by the way was a great lover may I add.But his political views are vile.

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