I cannot imagine a person of my Boomer generation who has not benefited from the life of Gough Whitlam. I saw Arthur Calwell talk at Melbourne University. I admired aspects of him, but he was not impressive: I could not imagine Labor returning to power after 20 years with him as leader. Frances and I were at an election party in a big mud brick house in Eltham when Philip Adams' 'Its time!' campaign succeeded and Whitlam was elected.
I had already benefitted from at least 2 of his immediate reforms: I had completed 6 years of free (on a scholarship) university education and I escaped my compulsory call-up for military service (as unfit for an unknown reason). But his establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission provided me with generous fee income for 23 years, my cultural life was immeasurably enriched by his munificence, there were no wars while he was in power, and Medicare paid my medical bills, to name a few.
I left Australia after Whitlam had been in power for 6 months: the colourful politics came in my absence, so I have only a positive, if not glowing, view of his administration. I was astounded when walking into Charing Cross Station, on my way home one day I saw the London Evening Standard poster proclaim: 'Queen's man sacks PM.' I had no idea what it meant until I bought the paper on the station new-stall.
My copy of Barry Jones's, Dictionary of World Biography, 1998 is signed by both Malciolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam, at the launch in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria. This was the first time that Fraser and Whitlam had appeared on the same platform together since The Dismissal, clearly engineered by Jones.
i designed and built a house for a minister in Whitlam's government: Dr Moss Cass, Minister for the Environment, who succeeded in placing the Great Barrier Reef, as Australia's first place on the World Heritage List. Such was my political naivety that I was shocked with the brutality with which he criticised Whitlam, his former leader.
But, I assess political leaders by their achievements, Most leaders are happy to have achieved one thing in their time: so far Abbott has achieved nothing positive, Menzies achieved only 2 things (Commonwealth Scholarships and the Columbo Plan) in 23 years. Whitlam's achievements are greater than any other Australian leader, and despite the attempts of both subsequent Labor and Liberal governments to dismantle them, many still survive.