Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gough has left the building

Former Australian Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam died on 21 October 2014 aged 98 years.

Back in 2006 I was at a function where I was privileged to sit at the same table as The Great Man (despite what my father in law thinks).  He would have been 90 then.

Most people recall that in 1975 the Governor General Sir John Kerr, as the representative of the Queen in Australia, controversially dismissed Whitlam and his government. Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser had blocked Supply, that is, denied the government money in the belief that Whitlam would dissolve Parliament and call en election. Whitlam did no such thing, knowing that they would be trounced in an election. He decided to tough it but Kerr took that option away.

At the luncheon I asked Mr Whitlam whether he recalled a Rigby cartoon in Sydney’s Daily Mirror. Following the dismissal and the resounding loss at the subsequent election, Whitlam travelled to England where he had an audience with Queen Elizabeth 11. There was much conjecture as to what he would say to the Queen about the Dismissal, whether he would use the occasion for a broadside and whether he would embarrass the nation. As it turned out, there was little discussion about it with Her Maj, as I recall.

I reminded Mr Whitlam that Paul Rigby, in his cartoon, had shown Mr Whitlam sitting on a foot stool in front of the Queen, who was sitting on her throne in Buckingham Palace. She was much higher than him and she was next to the Duke of Edinburgh. The cartoon showed Her Majesty asking Phillip behind her hand “What does getting the rough end of the pineapple mean?”

Mr Whitlam laughed so much at the remembrance of it that he had to wipe away laughter tears, stating in that distinctive voice of his “Yes, I had quite forgotten that.”

Here are some of the pics I took at that lunch. I sent them to him and he personally telephoned me to thank me for them, even dialing my number himself.

With Rale Rasic, also an honoured guest at the function.
Rasic, as coach, took the Australian team to its first World Cup in 1974.

Rale Rasic and Gough Whitlam with a photo of their younger selves back in 1974.

Rest in peace, comrade.

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