The ultimate dad joke compilation
I’m not going to reblog the post because I don’t want to contribute to hijacking what was meant to be a moment of solidarity for a victim but jesus christ if your politics cause you to believe it’s important to put “friendly reminders that radfems are evil!” on posts about a radical feminist who was raped then you are a garbage person, your politics are absolutely worthless, and you need to fuck off to a mountain where no one but the rocks and lizards will be bothered by your horribleness.
Gough Whitlam, the 21st prime minister of Australia, died this morning at the age of 98. The manner in which he lost office, which was the culmination of the greatest political crisis in the history of this country, partly overshadows the rest of his legacy, but if you want to see what a truly progressive government looks like you only need to take a look at the list of his achievements.
Gough (pronounced “Goff”) was a towering figure, both intellectually and physically. He shook up this nation from decades of complacency, and our society still benefits from some of the changes that he made. One of his very first acts as prime minister, within the first day or so of winning the 1972 election and before the rest of his cabinet had been sworn in, was to recall all Australian troops from Vietnam. His was the first government to introduce universal health care in this country, and the first government in the world to introduce no fault divorce. He went to China before Nixon did, and recognised mainland China while most of the rest of the western world was still calling Taiwan “China”. He introduced the Racial Discrimination Act, and the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act. This is a famous picture of him symbolically returning the land of Wave Hill station to Vincent Lingiari of the Gurindji people:
Gough funded the arts, including the rebirth of the Australian film industry, which had been all but dead since the 1940s. He abolished university fees in the 1970s, and I benefited personally from that. I got a free university education, until fees were reintroduced in my last year at university in the late 80s. A whole generation of people, including most of the conservative politicians currently trying to hike up the cost of a university education to the levels of what we see in the United States, benefited from the free university education that Gough gave them. A lot of those people - not the politicians, obviously - are still grateful for the education that many of them otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.
The conservative establishment, not surprisingly, was incredibly hostile to Whitlam’s reforms, and in 1975 they seized their chance to do something about it when a government senator from Queensland died. The vacant senate position was filled by the nominee of the Queensland premier, the arch-conservative Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Joh’s (Gough and Joh are the only two Australian politicians I can think of who are routinely referred to by their first names. Probably because, like Gough, there was only one Joh. And I don’t just mean because their names were unique.) Joh’s nominee, Albert Field, was hostile to the government, which meant that the government lost their majority in the senate. The opposition then used its numbers in the senate to block the passage of supply bills (ie. money) and the government was on the verge of coming to a standstill.
The situation was broken by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, the official representative of the Queen as head of state. (Yes, she’s still our queen, more than a hundred years after we ceased to be a collection of British colonies. Don’t get me stated on that.) Kerr dismissed the Whitlam government from office and appointed the opposition leader as caretaker prime minister, using reserve powers in the Constitution that the queen herself would never have used. It remains one of the most controversial actions in the history of Australian politics, and the subject of many conspiracy theories, including that the CIA was somehow involved.
This was a shocking move. My father is old enough to remember the assassination of JFK. Like many people, he remembers where he was when he heard that JFK had been shot. He also remembers exactly where he was when he heard that the Whitlam government had been dismissed. That’s how shocking and unbelievable the news was at the time.
Gough was a great orator, and quick with a line. That day, he stood on the steps outside what was then parliament house and addressed the media and the nation, saying: “Well may we say God Save the Queen, because nothing will save the governor-general!”
But Gough didn’t win the election that followed a month later. He stayed on as opposition leader for two more years but didn’t serve in government again. He went on to be ambassador to UNESCO, to write books including books about his government and the dismissal, to be an elder statesman and to be… Gough.
His government was far from perfect, particularly when it came to financial management, which made him a very divisive figure, but also in other areas. My partner D still doesn’t like him because he condoned the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. But many of his achievements have long out-lasted the effects of those poorer decisions. Not many politicians leave such a positive legacy on their country. Even fewer politicians can claim to have transformed their country. Gough did that.
RIP Gough Whitlam.
He brought in the beginning of land rights, the Racial Discrimination Act, ended the White Australia policy, promoted multiculturalism, introduced free tertiary education, brought in Medicare (Medibank), fought for equal pay for women, fought for greater environmental protection, created Legal Aid and so much more. He was a man who believed in a Australia that had compassion and a vision.
Seeing people having fun without u.