THE death has taken place of Gough Whitlam who was credited with introducing sweeping changes to Australian society during his time as Prime Minister in the 1970s. He was 98.
Mr. Whitlam had led the Labour Party to an historic victory in 1972, replacing the Conservatives who had held power for 23 years.
His time in office was to divide opinion almost equally, but there was to be no doubt that he had a massive effect both on the domestic and international fronts.
Among the sweeping changes he introduced was free university education, allowing non-white immigrants into the country and the abolition of the death penalty. He also helped bring about reforms in family law, introduced equal pay for women and began the process of enshrining Aboriginal land rights in law.
Internationally he was among the first leaders to advocate closer ties with Communist China. He became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit China.
But his time in power was to be relatively short. His government was to be plagued by resignations and after only three years in office be was constroversially sacked by the country’s Governor-General Sir John Kerr, becoming the only leader of the country to have been dismissed from office (see below).
Mr. Whitlam went on to become a UNESCO ambassador and was also popular as an after dinner speaker.
In a statement, the Whitlam family said: “He was a loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australian.”
The Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott led tributes to Mr. Whitlam: “He was a giant of his time who united the Australian Labor Party. He recognised the journey that our country needed to take with indigenous Australians.”
Mr. Whitlam’s wife, Margaret, passed away in 2012. They had been married for 70 years. He is survived by his children Anthony, Nicholas, Stephen and Catherine.
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