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Gough Whitlam

Prime Minister of Australia

Died when: 98 years 102 days (1179 months)
Star Sign: Cancer

 

Gough Whitlam

Edward Gough Whitlam (; 11 July 1916 – 21 October 2014) was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia, in which capacity he served from 1972 to 1975.

He led the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to power for the first time in 23 years at the 1972 election.He won the 1974 election before being controversially dismissed by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, at the climax of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.

Whitlam remains the only Australian prime minister to have been removed from office in this manner.Whitlam served as an air navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force for four years during World War II, and worked as a barrister following the war.

He was first elected to Parliament in 1952, representing Werriwa in the House of Representatives.Whitlam became Deputy Leader of the Labor Party in 1960, and in 1967, after the retirement of Arthur Calwell, was elected Leader and became the Leader of the Opposition.

After narrowly losing the 1969 election, Whitlam led Labor to victory at the 1972 election after 23 years of continuous Liberal-Country Coalition Government.

The Whitlam Government implemented a large number of new programmes and policy changes, including the termination of military conscription, institution of universal health care and free university education, and the implementation of legal aid programmes.

With the opposition-controlled Senate delaying passage of bills, Whitlam called a double dissolution election in 1974 in which he won a slightly reduced majority in the House of Representatives, and picked up three Senate seats.

The Whitlam government then instituted the first and only joint sitting enabled under s. 57 of the Constitution as part of the double dissolution process.

Despite the government's second election victory, the opposition, reacting to government scandals and a flagging economy suffering from the 1973 oil crisis and the 1973–75 recession, continued to obstruct the government's programme in the Senate.

In late 1975, the Opposition Senators refused to allow a vote on the government's appropriation bills, returning them to the House of Representatives with a demand that the government go to an election, thus denying the government supply.

Whitlam refused to back down, arguing that his government, which held a clear majority in the House of Representatives, was being held to ransom by the Senate.

The crisis ended on 11 November, when Whitlam arrived at a pre-arranged meeting with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at Government House to call a half-Senate election.

Kerr dismissed him from office and commissioned the opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, as caretaker prime minister.Labor lost the subsequent election by a landslide.

Whitlam stepped down after losing again at the 1977 election, and retired from parliament in 1978.Upon the election of the Hawke Government in 1983, he was appointed as Ambassador to UNESCO, a position he filled with distinction, and was elected a member of the UNESCO Executive Board.

He remained active into his nineties.The propriety and circumstances of his dismissal and the legacy of his government have been frequently debated in the decades since he left office.


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Bob Hawke
Prime Minister of Australia
Malcolm Fraser
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Robert Menzies
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