The Reason I Owe So Much To Gough Whitlam

This morning as I was driving to see a customer I heard on the radio that the former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam had died this morning.

About an hour later the presenter of the radio show I was listening to interviewed author Susan Mitchell who has recently completed the soon to be released book Margaret and Gough – The Love Story That Shaped a Nation. During the interview she mentioned many of the things that Mr Whitlam achieved during his time in politics, and even more so, when he became Prime Minister. It gave me goosebumps. I have always been a fan of Gough.

I gave my dad a call to talk to him about it. I know he was also a fan of Gough but I didn’t know the full extent of his admiration for the man until today.  And the reason why my dad was an admirer played an important part in my own life. It’s the reason why I can call myself a proud Australian. As my father told me the story I stopped him mid-sentence and asked him to put it in writing so that I could add his words to my blog. So whilst it’s not exactly a full guest blog per se, I present to you a little story about Gough Whitlam, my parents, and me…

I have only slightly edited this (mostly fixing up his punctuation) but other than that this is straight from an email that my dad sent to me earlier today so the words are his own. When he mentions ‘we’ he is referring to himself, my mother and my older brother who was born in Canada whilst my parents were living there.

In 1972 we were living in London UK, we had returned from Canada in 1971 after living there for 7 years. The reason we returned was for family reasons; my father was in bad health, he passed away in 1972. We did not like living in the UK, but could not return to Canada because of the 27% unemployment.

We were in the West End of London when the afternoon papers came out on the streets; the headlines were “GOUGH WHITLAM & LANCE BARNARD” run Australia single handed.  I purchased a paper and went into a café to read what was going on Down Under in Australia. It stated what he was about to do to move Australia into the 20th Century, and make it stand on its own feet and improve the lot for all Australians.

After we left the café, we walked down the street and noticed a branch of the Commonwealth Bank (of Australia), so I went in and opened a savings account with 25 pounds as the interest was quite good.

Six months later having read quite a bit about the new Whitlam Government we decided we would move to Australia and give it a go; so we landed in Sydney in March 1973, found employment, and because of the bank account I had set up with the Commonwealth Bank in 1972 they granted me a mortgage (and) within 6 months we had a new house built.

So if it had not been for the newspaper in London with that headline, we might not have come to Australia.”

Now I have to say that I’m grateful that my parents did see that headline and did move out to Australia because as I said, I am a very proud Australian and I truly think that this is the best country in the world.

“And it was you Gough, you Gough, you Gough, Edward Gough Whitlam” that made this country what it is today. So I applaud you mate and hope you rest in peace.

And it would be remiss of me to not include a dedication to the great man, so for your listening pleasure here is the local Aussie band The Whitlams whose name was inspired by Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (11 July 1916 – 21 October 2014) and their song dedicated to him.

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