Random Friday memory 35 – 1975 of course, plus…

Any of us who were around forty years ago will know what this coming week is: the fortieth anniversary of the Dismissal. It is also one year today since Gough’s State Funeral: Gough Whitlam memorial service – in and out of Diggers. On the Dismissal I have posted, among others, Gough – a view from Wollongong.

Last night I posted on Facebook: “The entire Whitlam period coincided pretty much with my working at TIGS, with the denouement happening in my first year at Wollongong High. It’s like part of my own life has died today in a way…”  Also: “Great to see all Parliament rising to the occasion today in the Condolence Debate.”

Someone I taught at TIGS 1971-1974 posted: “It has just occurred to me that myself, [x] and many others like us would have accepted our scholarship and been teachers because our parents could not have afforded to pay Uni fees. I believe I owe my professional career for what it is worth to EGW.” He added: “And it has just occurred to me Neil James Whitfield, that I was sitting my HSC English exam when Gough was dismissed. I recall a teacher walked into the room and wrote this on the blackboard. He then turned and walked out. I recall looking up and thinking “what’s going to happen now”…”

I by then was at Wollongong High. I had forgotten that November 11 coincided with HSC English, but I do recall the shock of the Dismissal. There were significant Wollongong connections too. I see this in Whitlam’s first post-Dismissal press conference:

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’d probably agree that you enjoy a fight. Are you looking forward to the election campaign and when will you officially launch the campaign?

WHITLAM: I can’t be sure when I’ll be making my first Public speech but I think I will be having something of political relevance to say at the Liverpool town Hall on Thursday when I’m at the naturalisation and at  Wollongong on Saturday night when I’m at a social function then. Certainly I like a fight. I’ve won a fair number of fights and I expect to win this one. I’ve never known so clear cut an issue. It’s not just what happens to my Government, what’s been done to my Government, it’s what can happen to any Government which thereafter is given a majority in the House of Representatives by the electors and which retains that majority in the House of Representatives. Parliamentary democracy is at stake in Australia here….

That Saturday after the Dismissal which Whitlam refers to must have been when I and so many others – colleagues from Wollongong High among them – stood chanting “We want Gough!” at the top of our voices outside Wollongong Town Hall.

See also Whitlam Dismissal site.

Barely qualifying as a memory as it is just last year is a much more local matter: the completion of Wollongong’s GPT Centre. See Wollongong transformed – 18 – it’s open! and Wollongong transformed – 21 – the new centre again.

PA100954

PA100952

I mention it because in today’s Sydney Morning Herald I read that it received a national award from the Australian Institute of Architects.

Winners of the 2015 National Architecture Awards have been revealed by the Australian Institute of Architects at an awards ceremony in Brisbane, celebrating the very best of Australian architectural design for 2015.

A total of 42 projects shared the 46 honours offered by the AIA as part of the national awards program, which saw firms from every corner of the country come together to celebrate contributions from Australian architects to the built environment.

Twelve named awards were handed out across 14 categories on the night which included an even spread of architecture practices and representation from different parts of the country.

Advertisements

Malcolm Fraser: Australia’s 22nd prime minister dies aged 84

See ABC.

Fraser-cover-450x248

Recycle:

The Past We Need to Understand Presented by the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, August 24, 2000

30 MAY 2005

Well worth revisiting.

Margo Kingston was amazed at the time:

Looking at the old man last night on the ABC, as he gave the fifth annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, I was overwhelmed by how radically my feelings had changed towards Malcolm Fraser. Like many others of my generation, I hated Fraser with a passion when he overthrew the Whitlam government in 1975. I felt he had trampled on democracy to feed his “born to rule” mentality.

Decades later, Fraser has gradually become, like several other “elders” of white Australia, a figure respected by many Australians of Labor and Liberal hue. Looking back on his time in office, his achievements seem enormous on race issues, from passing Northern Territory lands rights legislation – still the most advantageous to Aborigines in the nation – to his steely commitment to abolishing apartheid in South Africa.

His performance last night will be seen from at least two angles. To those who don’t see liberalism and indigenous issues his way, he will seem a forlorn, defeated, crumpled and emotional figure. He will seem a frail old man of the past describing core beliefs no longer relevant to modern Liberals, or even to modern Australia.

To me, Fraser was consciously making his last major address to the nation he once ruled, and the Party he once led. He delivered the finest defence of the need for Australia to take its international human rights obligations seriously that I have heard from a politician. I do not agree with all his remedies and suggestions on Aboriginal policy, but the intellectual muscle of his philosophical position cannot be doubted.

There were those who rained on Fraser’s parade that day, like Ron Brunton, one of those White Blindfold thinkers whom John Howard has before and since so cultivated, writing in this case, where else, on the Institute of Public Affairs site, “Australia’s leading free market think tank.” You may get the measure of Brunton from his last paragraph, which is, dare I say, bitchy in the extreme: “People foolish enough to honour a man as vain and destructive as Malcolm Fraser should not be surprised when he turns around and kicks them in the teeth.” Very noble, Ron. He has been rewarded, of course: he is now (as of March 2005) on the Board of the ABC. He is also a ferocious opponent of sustainable environmental policy. A clinical case of rampant reaction, in short. These are the thinkers who dominate what passes for discourse in the corridors of Canberra these days.

All this arises because I have been looking again at Malcolm Fraser’s excellent book Common Ground (savaged in the post-Manne Quadrant in January-February 2003 ) and because today the Reconciliation Australia Workshop began in Canberra.

At the opening of the Reconciliation Australia Workshop in Canberra, Mr Howard departed from his previous approach, saying reconciliation is about the past as well as the future, and about symbols as well as the practical.

“I sense there are new and real opportunities for progress,” he said.

He says the new opportunities have arisen because of a recognition of the need to accept that the Government and Indigenous Australians are not going to agree on everything but can achieve progress in some areas. He has given a commitment not to undermine native title and to work to improve access for Indigenous Australians to communal land. He says he wants to ensure practical benefits flow from the granting of land rights.

Well, we shall see.

Seized by teen terrorists in the age of Whitlam!

Yes, it happened to me! The evidence surfaced this morning on Facebook. Let me show you:

10923706_782895581796785_6302525711282793181_n

And the man on the podium in the background is the Principal, who seems quite oblivious to whatever fiendishness is happening before his very eyes!

10923706_782895581796785_6302525711282793181_n1

Pictures of me in the 70s are very rare! This did amuse me when I saw it this morning. It is actually A Year 12 prank from their last day of school, Wollongong 1972.

Gough Whitlam memorial service – in and out of Diggers

Look at this image of the crowd gathered outside Sydney Town Hall yesterday:

78765978_78765977

I found that on BBC News. I was here in Wollongong, watching on ABC until just after 11 when I took the bus into town to have lunch at City Diggers. The service was on the big screens there but with sound muted, unfortunately.

You may read all about the service at Gough Whitlam’s state memorial service celebratory rather than sad. See also Gough Whitlam memorial: The great man would have loved it.  By all accounts one of the best speeches of the day was by Noel Pearson.

It was a memorial service of powerful tributes – from political comrades, artists and family. Here Indigenous leader Noel Pearson salutes former prime minister Gough Whitlam, without whom “the land and human rights of our people would never have seen the light of day”.

Paul Keating said the reward for public life is public progress.

For one born estranged from the nation’s citizenship, into a humble family of a marginal people striving in the teeth of poverty and discrimination – today it is assuredly no longer the case: this because of the equalities of opportunities afforded by the Whitlam program.

Raised next to the woodheap of the nation’s democracy, bequeathed no allegiance to any political party, I speak to this old man’s legacy with no partisan brief.

Rather my signal honour today, on behalf of more people than I could ever know, is to express our immense gratitude for the public service of this old man…

Let me venture a perspective.

The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management. In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the machinery and programs of government. The country would change forever. The modern, cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a Technicolor butterfly from its long-dormant chrysalis.

Thirty-eight years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding “and what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?”

Apart from Medibank?

and the Trade Practices Act 1974?

cutting tariff protections?

and no-fault divorce and the Family Law Act 1975?

the Australia Council?

the Federal Court?

the Order of Australia?

federal legal aid?

the Racial Discrimination Act 1975?

needs-based schools funding?

the recognition of China?

the Law Reform Commission?

the abolition of conscription?

student financial assistance?

FM radio and the Heritage Commission?

non-discriminatory immigration rules?

community health clinics?

Aboriginal land rights?

paid maternity leave for public servants?

lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years?

fair electoral boundaries and Senate representation for the Territories?

Apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?

And the prime minister with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth – in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers…

One aspect that surprised some, causing the Sydney Daily Telegraph to deploy its favourite word “OUTRAGE!!!”, was this: Boos at a funeral: Aussies treat Prime Minister’s memorial like football match. I see blogs and news scrapers all over the world have gone viral with that.

SYDNEY — There were some unexpected sounds at former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam’s memorial service Wednesday: howling, booing, cheering and standing ovations. Not for the man himself, but for some of the VIP guests.

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd got muted applause from the thousands gathered outside Sydney’s Town Hall on Wednesday. The same crowd offered loud cheers for former Labor leaders Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Former Liberal leader John Howard received boos on arrival, while ousted Labor prime minister Julia Gillard received a standing ovation.

But the loudest boos were reserved for the arrival of current Prime Minister Tony Abbott — who was booed both outside and inside the Town Hall…

I was neither surprised nor all that outraged, as the total feel of the day rather set this in context as a comparatively minor irritation – and frankly I was amused to see Julia Gillard scoring louder cheers than Kevin Rudd.

Back at Diggers afterwards

PB051006

These delightful Japanese students from University College Wollongong were part of a class group visiting the club. I felt nostalgic about my time at Wessex College in Sydney in 1990-91. Our friend B, whose daughter happens to be in Japan, bought them their drinks. These four have been in Australia for one to three months. A nice token too of how in many ways the world has changed for the better after all when you reflect on the club they were actually in!

Gough – a view from Wollongong

But first Leunig’s take on the passing of EGW:

10710867_311319592387600_7868366763230554082_n

If that were an HSC question I guess we would add: DISCUSS.

Last night I posted on Facebook: “The entire Whitlam period coincided pretty much with my working at TIGS, with the denouement happening in my first year at Wollongong High. It’s like part of my own life has died today in a way…”  Also: “Great to see all Parliament rising to the occasion today in the Condolence Debate.”

Someone I taught at TIGS 1971-1974 posted: “It has just occurred to me that myself, [x] and many others like us would have accepted our scholarship and been teachers because our parents could not have afforded to pay Uni fees. I believe I owe my professional career for what it is worth to EGW.” He added: “And it has just occurred to me Neil James Whitfield, that I was sitting my HSC English exam when Gough was dismissed. I recall a teacher walked into the room and wrote this on the blackboard. He then turned and walked out. I recall looking up and thinking “what’s going to happen now”…”

I by then was at Wollongong High. I had forgotten that November 11 coincided with HSC English, but I do recall the shock of the Dismissal. There were significant Wollongong connections too. I see this in Whitlam’s first post-Dismissal press conference:

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’d probably agree that you enjoy a fight. Are you looking forward to the election campaign and when will you officially launch the campaign?

WHITLAM: I can’t be sure when I’ll be making my first Public speech but I think I will be having something of political relevance to say at the Liverpool town Hall on Thursday when I’m at the naturalisation and at  Wollongong on Saturday night when I’m at a social function then. Certainly I like a fight. I’ve won a fair number of fights and I expect to win this one. I’ve never known so clear cut an issue. It’s not just what happens to my Government, what’s been done to my Government, it’s what can happen to any Government which thereafter is given a majority in the House of Representatives by the electors and which retains that majority in the House of Representatives. Parliamentary democracy is at stake in Australia here….

I didn’t actually watch the special repeat of “Whitlam: The Power and the Passion” on ABC last night – that links to my 2013 post the first time it was shown.

I enjoyed last night’s episode and look forward to next Sunday’s account of the subsequent collapse. It is a dramatic story, no doubt about it. And it was a an exciting time to be young, or young-ish in my case. I was 32 when Gough crashed and burned, and I still remember Rex Connor appearing dramatically at the Wollongong High speech night in, I think, October 1975, rather late — having been held up by events.

If I am correct in that memory then Rex Connor would have been held up because he was being sacked.

During 1974 Connor sought to bypass the usual loan raising processes and raise money in the Middle East through an intermediary, a mysterious Pakistani banker called Tirath Khemlani. Because of strong opposition from the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department about the legality of the loan (and about Khemlani’s general bona fides), Cabinet decided in May 1975 that only the Treasurer, not Connor, was authorised to negotiate foreign loans in the name of the Australian government. Nevertheless, Connor went on negotiating through Khemlani for a huge petrodollar loan for his various development projects, confident that if he succeeded no-one would blame him, and if he failed no-one would know.

Unfortunately for Connor, Khemlani proved to be a false friend and sold the story of Connor’s activities to the Liberal Opposition for a sum which has never been disclosed. Connor denied the Liberals’ accusations, both to Whitlam personally and to Parliament. When the Liberal Deputy Leader, Phillip Lynch tabled letters from Connor to Khemlani, Connor was forced in October to resign in disgrace. The Opposition proclaimed the Loans Affair a “reprehensible circumstance”, which justified the blocking of supply in the Senate, leading to the dismissal of the Whitlam government a few weeks later by Governor-General, Sir John Kerr.

Rex Connor was our local member of parliament.

That Saturday after the Dismissal which Whitlam refers to must have been when I and so many others – colleagues from Wollongong High among them – stood chanting “We want Gough!” at the top of our voices outside Wollongong Town Hall.

See also Whitlam Dismissal site.

Back to the documentary repeated last night:

Troy Brampston does rightly nail a few errors in the documentary, but none of them all that significant aside from the not uncommon trope of exaggerating the benighted state of the country in the late 60s and early 70s when, in fact, quite a few of the changes people attribute to Whitlam had already begun. (One thinks of the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal citizenship just for  starters.)  Hence the headline Hyperbole for true believers, which  is somewhat harsher than Brampston’s overall assessment:

Putting aside these flaws for now, it is a rollercoaster ride as viewers relive the razzle and dazzle of Whitlam’s ascendancy and early days of governing followed by the inevitable crash, as dreams collide with inexperience, economic turmoil and political ruthlessness given vice-regal sanction…

The documentary effectively captures Whitlam as a change agent who not only embodied the mood for change in the electorate but also had a plan for where he wanted to take the country in the tumultuous 1960s and 70s.

Howard praises Whitlam’s skills as opposition leader. “I thought he did a tremendous job as the opposition leader and the way in which he welded the party together and repaired a lot of the rifts and campaigned and developed what he called his ‘program’,” Howard says.

After Labor was elected in 1972, Whitlam had himself and his deputy, Lance Barnard, sworn in holding all ministries between them. Whitlam told Hayden, “It was the best government (I) ever had, except it was twice as large as it needed to be.”

The economy would prove to be Whitlam’s Achilles heel. “You will do great things,” Hawke recalls telling Whitlam, “(but) this government will live or die on your economic performance.”

The documentary spans Whitlam’s life. All the core elements are included, from his experience living in the outer suburbs of Sydney to his rise through the Labor Party and term as prime minister…

There are wonderful stories. Howard remembers telling one of his legal partners he was going to work on Billy McMahon’s 1972 campaign. “I don’t mind you doing it,” the partner said, “but you do realise, John, It’s Time.”

Phillip Adams recalls Treasurer Jim Cairns and Junie Morosi rolling around naked on the lawns of Kirribilli House. It is one of several strange scenes dramatised by actors who bear little resemblance to the people they are portraying. Nobody can portray Whitlam on the screen; he is already larger than life….

The documentary is a reminder of a Labor Party that once “dreamed the big dreams”, as Paul Keating used to say, and an inspirational prime minister with the conviction and courage to pursue them, however fatal his blind spots inevitably were.