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The Making of an Australian Prime Minister - Laurie Oakes, David Solomon

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The Making of an Australian Prime Minister - Laurie Oakes, David Solomon

The Making of an Australian Prime Minister - Laurie Oakes, David Solomon

The Making of an Australian Prime Minister - Laurie Oakes and David Solomon

Used paperback: .1973 edition paperback in average condition

Gough Whitlams rise to power. The authors relate the Gough Whitlam story until his election in 1972. 317 pages including 8 pages of photographs.

About the Author Gough Whitlam

Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC known as Gough Whitlam  is an Australian former politician and 21st Prime Minister of Australia.

After initially falling short of gaining enough seats to win government at the 1969 election, Whitlam led the Labor Party in to government at the 1972 election after 23 years of conservative government in Australia. After winning the 1974 election, he was dismissed in 1975 by Governor-General Sir John Kerr following a protracted constitutional crisis caused by a refusal of opposition Coalition members to pass Supply Bills in the Australian Senate, and lost the subsequent 1975 election. He is the only Australian Prime Minister to be dismissed by the Governor-General, using reserve powers. Although his government spent a relatively short time in office, many of the policies and institutions set up under it are still evident today, such as Medicare. His 'presidential' style of politics, the socially progressive policies he pursued, and the dramatic dismissal and subsequent election loss still arouse intense passion and debate.


Gough Whitlam was born in Kew, a suburb of Melbourne. His father, Fred Whitlam, was a federal public servant who served as Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. Whitlam senior's involvement in human rights issues was a powerful influence on his son. Whitlam was educated at Sydney's Knox Grammar School and at Canberra Grammar School, where he became friends with Francis James. Whitlam then studied law at the University of Sydney. During the Second World War he served overseas as a navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force's No. 13 Squadron, reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. He completed his studies after the war and was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1947.

On 22 April 1942 Whitlam married Margaret Dovey, daughter of Judge Bill Dovey, and had three sons and a daughter. Margaret Whitlam is known for having a sardonic wit equal to that of her husband and is a published author as well as a former champion swimmer. On the 60th anniversary of their marriage in 2002, he claimed a record for �matrimonial endurance� amongst politicians.

One of their sons, Nicholas Whitlam, became a prominent banker and a controversial figure in his own right. Another, Tony Whitlam, was briefly a federal MP and was appointed as a judge in 1993 to the Federal Court of Australia, and later in 1994 a judge of the ACT Supreme Court. A third son, Stephen Whitlam (b. 1950), is a former diplomat. Daughter Catherine Dovey (b. 1954) formerly served on the New South Wales Parole Board.


Whitlam's impetus to become involved in politics was the Chifley government's post-war referendum to gain increased powers for the federal government. He joined the Australian Labor Party in 1945 and in 1950 was a Labor candidate for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly: a contest he was later grateful to have lost. When Hubert Lazzarini, the sitting member for the safe Federal electorate of Werriwa, died in 1952, Whitlam was elected to the House of Representatives at the by-election on 29 November 1952.

Noted since his school-days for his erudition, eloquence and incisive wit, Whitlam soon became one of the ALP's star performers. Widely acknowledged as one of the best political speakers and parliamentary debaters of his time, he was also one of the few in the ALP who could hold his own against Robert Menzies on the floor of the House.

After the electoral success of the Curtin and Chifley years, the 1950s were a grim and divisive time for Labor. The Liberal-Country Party coalition government of Robert Menzies gained power in the election of 1949 and governed for a record 23 years. Chifley died in June 1951. His replacement, Dr H.V. Evatt, lacked Chifley's conciliatory skills.

Whitlam admired Evatt greatly, and was a loyal supporter of his leadership, through a period dominated by the Labor split of 1955, which resulted in the Catholic right wing of the party breaking off to form the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). In 1960, having lost three elections, Evatt resigned, to be replaced by Arthur Calwell, with Whitlam winning the election for deputy over veteran Labor MP Eddie Ward. Calwell came within a handful of votes of winning the 1961 election, but progressively lost ground from that time onward.

The ALP, having been founded as a party to represent the working classes, still regarded its parliamentary representatives as servants of the party as a whole, and required them to comply with official party policy. This led to the celebrated Faceless Men picture of 1963, which showed Calwell and Whitlam waiting outside a Canberra hotel for the decision of an ALP Federal Conference. Prime Minister Menzies used it to great advantage in the November 1963 election campaign, drawing attention to "the famous outside body, thirty-six 'faceless men' whose qualifications are unknown, who have no electoral responsibility."

Whitlam was quick to respond, and spent years struggling for party reform�at one stage, dubbing his opponents "the 12 witless men"�and eventually succeeded in having the secretive Labor Party National Conference turned into an open public forum, with state representatives elected in proportion to their membership, and with both state and federal parliamentary leaders being automatic members.

Through the 1960s, Whitlam's relationship with Calwell and the right wing of the party remained uneasy. Whitlam opposed several key Labor policies, including nationalisation of industry, refusal of state aid to religious schools, and Calwell's continued support for the White Australia Policy. His stances brought him into direct conflict with the ALP leadership on several occasions and he was almost expelled from the party in 1966 because of his vocal support for government aid to private schools, which the ALP opposed.

In January 1966, Menzies finally retired after a record term in office. His successor as Liberal Party leader, Harold Holt, led the coalition to a landslide election victory in November on a pro-American, pro-Vietnam War policy. This crushing defeat prompted Calwell to step down in early 1967. Gough Whitlam then became Leader of the Opposition, narrowly defeating his rival, Jim Cairns.


Whitlam swiftly made his mark on the ALP, bringing his campaign for internal reform to fruition, and overhauling or discarding a series of Labor policies that had been enshrined for decades. Economic rationalism was pioneered, the White Australia policy was dropped, Labor no longer opposed state aid, and the air of grim working-class puritanism that attended the Labor Party of the 1950s gave way to one that was younger, more optimistic, more socially liberal, more intellectual, and decidedly middle-class.

Meanwhile, after Holt's disappearance in December 1967, the Liberal Party began to succumb to internal dissent. They first elected Senator John Gorton as leader. However, Whitlam quickly gained the upper hand on Gorton, in large part because he was one of the first Australian politicians to realise and fully exploit the power of television as a political tool. Whitlam won two by-elections, then an 18-seat swing in the 1969 election. He actually won a bare majority of the two-party preferred vote, but the Democratic Labor Party's longstanding practice of preferencing against Labor left him four seats short of bringing the Coalition down. In 1971, the Liberals dumped Gorton in favour of William McMahon. However, McMahon was considered well past his political prime, and was never able to get the better of the more charismatic Whitlam.

Outside parliament, Whitlam concentrated on party reform and new policy development. He advocated the abolition of conscription and Australian withdrawal from the Vietnam War, and in 1971 visited the People's Republic of China (PRC), promising to establish diplomatic relations�much to the chagrin of McMahon, who attacked Whitlam for this policy, only to discover that President Richard Nixon was also working toward recognising the PRC. The 1972 federal election saw Whitlam lead the ALP to its first electoral victory since 1946.


 
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