Gough Whitlam open thread

I’m hoping ot write an appreciation of Gough Whitlam’s contributions to Australian society soon. But in the meantime, I’ll open this thread for general discussion. I’m happy to entertain discussion of failures as well as successes, but I don’t welcome personal attacks on the recently departed in general, and certainly not in Gough’s case, so please keep discussion respectful.

118 thoughts on “Gough Whitlam open thread

  1. @kevin1
    Its ok. Its just that I haven’t heard or read that sort of dialogue for a long time. My next door neighbour for a while was Jim Comerford, who had similar aspirations for the advancement of a class.

  2. @faust

    “the hagiography of him by the left (who have a bizarre “great man” theory of political leadership) is vomit-inducting.”

    Do you think that this vomit reflex you are experiencing is similar to that exhibited by Oscar Pistorious? Strong emotional responses such as this are an indication that you may be experiencing cognitive dissonance.

    And, the problem you have with Mr Whitlam being a great man…is this because you don’t believe in the great man theory or you don’t think that Mr Whitlam fits in the your category of great men?

  3. @John Brookes

    And John Brookes you are right about the significance of the introduction of the single parent benefit, or whatever it was called back then, by Mr Whitlam. This payment that allowed women to raise their own children rather than be forced to give them up for adoption, was one of the very good things he did for this country.

    Susan Ryan on RN Breakfast yesterday said some things that made sense about his attitude toward women and argued that in this area Mr Whitlam did some very fundamental things to make things better for women.

  4. @Fran Barlow
    Good luck finding any scholarship on this, I haven’t seen any. There might be some unpublished theses around, but the politically charged times did not support independent academic investigations. Those participants who were interested or knowledgeable were mostly too busy “doing”. So ephemera and unreliable memoirs might be as good as it gets, though Bob Hogg’s, if he chose to write them, would cover everything worth knowing.

  5. Gough gave us some good polices and gave us hope. It has taken the meanspirited and micro minded trog neolib tories forty years to peg back a potential new age, but looking at the Abbott government, you can see rust never sleeps.

  6. I’ve always been staggered by the revelation that after being sacked before lunch on Nov 11, Gough went back to the Lodge, I assume, and had a steak. Put yourself in Gough’s shoes I’d be lucky to grab a sandwich if I had the composure to eat anything!! Imagine the thought processes…that bastard has just sacked me… my next move… I’ll have the steak thanks chef/butler/waiter…

  7. A contested debate has become the progressive impact of Whitlam’s abolition of university fees, with the Right saying it made no impact on the demographics of the student group. The conservative subtext is that well-intentioned reforms are ineffective, with its large ideological conclusions against progressivism. I doubt that the fees claim is right, but Labor defenders of the policy seem to focus on personal anecdotes and the symbolism of it rather than the measured effects. I expect this has been studied to death, can’t they do better than that?

    Of course, rather than expecting a transformation in a couple of years, marginalist analysis is appropriate here: what was the rate of change and how much is due to this measure. Threshold access to desired university courses was still based on Year 12 results, with well-endowed schools and well-endowed students dominating the results. Other access measures such as expansion of the suburban universities and the student living allowance, available to those who could demonstrate they had lived and supported themselves outside it for 2 years would have tilted the scales significantly and may have been more important. Unlike nowadays, it was not a time when university students were comfortable in the parental home!

    Instead of a “feelings” based defence, why can’t Labor win the intellectual argument? Harking back to the Whitlam and Hawke times, there were many intellectuals and technocrats on board, mainly “modernisers” rather than ideologues; if they want them back they need to shift the argument. A robust defence of Bruce Chapman’s income contingent loans scheme is needed, including its bias towards classics and fine arts students who have low income outcomes.

    How can Minister Pyne get away with his perverted “averaging” of financial outcomes now driving policy, and repeated talking about hard-working tradies in the suburbs financing cheap courses for uni students, unless he is gettting some traction? Yet surely large numbers of working class families want their kids to go to university; so these are the same parents who will stump up the extra money; can’t Labor make more of this? As Barry Jones said recently when talking about its period of government, Labor has lost the ability to persuade. Without that, they can’t aspire to lead any reform movement or defend what we have.

  8. I worked in the public service in Canberra during the whitlam years. The achievements of that govt still echo today to the extent that you can meaningfully say before and after Whitlam. The only other govt I think you can really say that about is Curtin. Society changed, basic changes to the law as well as economics, though the latter was mostly forced from outside.
    I think an element was society wanting to move on from 50s (notsure the 60s happened for the conservatives) but Whitlam managed to acheve a lot in a short time. One notable feature was that many of the initiatives were laid out in the campaign material, as opposed to the current fashion of presenting a small target.
    One of the changes was removing the appeals to the Privy Council. Thought experiment – would Abbott support that change?

  9. @kevin1

    Real research is interesting. I can offer no light on the changing demographic of our universities, but I can give some insight into the use of any research that is done.

    I look after a large first year university unit. They have online assignments, and I wanted to show to the students that doing the assignments was good for them. So I looked, and found that the actual boost to their exam mark from spending more time on the assignments was pretty small. Not impressive.

    However, I found that if you took the sizable cohort of students who were near the pass/fail boundary, then spending more time on exams had a dramatic effect on pushing students from a fail to a pass. Because 2% extra for someone on 48% really does matter.

    So based on the same research, you could truthfully say that it either, “made very little difference to your final mark”, or, “for a large number of students meant the difference between failing and passing”.

    And that is the trouble with winning intellectual arguments. If you are arguing with people of good will, you will make progress in developing a shared understanding. But if you are arguing with people who are committed to their traditional biases, they will take out of the research the results that back their existing views.

  10. @John Brookes

    2% extra for someone on 48% really does matter.

    Perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but you have shown that within its own terms, the assignments deliver results, which should provide encouragement to many students that they can get over the line.

    I hope universities will pick up more of the vocational “competency based” model of iterative learning rather than utilise assessment as a filter to access subsequent levels. Bridges rather than hurdles.

  11. Faust wrote @ #45:

    [the left’s] bizarre “great man” theory of political leadership) is vomit-inducting.

    Have you had watched the two hour tribute to Gough on Monday 21 October on ABC 1 television (aka ‘channel 2’?) If you had, you would understand that many of the crowning achievements of Gough’s government, particularly in the earlier years, were largely due to his own personal initiatives against the obstruction of much of the officialdom of the Labor Party, including from the ostensible ‘left’.

    Whilst much is also owed to Lance Barnard and Rex Connor, had Gough not been so seemingly dictatorial and had not manoevured in under-handed and secretive and ways, he most likely would have lost the 1972 elections and even if he had won, his achievements as Prime Minister, would have been far fewer.

    The same is also true of much of world history at least since 1900, for which we owe much to FDR and JFK, amongst others.

  12. Courage and high purpose leavened by a famous wit. We will never see his like again (not if what we’ve seen since is any indication)

    I wonder what Gough thought of the ‘small target strategy’.

  13. @faust
    Comrade, I’m pretty certain that I won’t get a state funeral or as many eulogies as Gough has received but I am damned sure that you won’t either. I think there’s your problem.

  14. @kevin1

    Gough Whitlam was committed — explicitly — to the idea that the Labor Party exists to implement Labor policies as a government, and in order to do that it is a necessary prerequisite to win elections.

    Some people — inside and outside the Labor Party — took (and some still take) a view, incompatible with Gough Whitlam’s, that Labor policies can never be successfully implemented through the existing parliamentary system and that the only really useful role for parliamentary Labor is to provide a strategic resource as an auxiliary for an extra-parliamentary movement (probably based on trade unions) with the aim of changing the system wholesale; winning elections is at best useless and probably a dangerous distraction.

    Gough Whitlam (along with others) saw it as being of major importance to the chances of winning elections to eliminate or drastically reduce the influence within the party of those who didn’t believe in winning elections as a goal. This was part of the background to the Federal intervention in the Victorian party in 1970.

    Any evaluation of Gough Whitlam’s record must be either on the one basis or on the other; there’s no possibility of an evaluation that’s compatible with both views.

  15. @jungney
    Jungney, to quote The Goon’s Major Bloodnok, “I don’t know who you are sir, or where you come from, but you’ve done me a power of good”.

  16. @Ikonoclast

    The idea that the CIA has had a hand in sinister events around the world strikes me as reasonable, but the idea that the CIA has a hand in every sinister event around the world strikes me as unreasonable. To go from ‘the overthrow of governments is sometimes the work of the CIA’ to ‘the overthrow of governments is always the work of the CIA’ is faulty reasoning.

    Speculation, rumour, and gossip don’t add up to strong circumstantial evidence, no matter how great the quantity.

    You pose the question: why would the CIA gather information if not to use it as a basis for taking action? Maybe you can only see one possible explanation, but I see another: the CIA needs its information-gathering activities to justify its own existence: to itself, to its political masters (or theoretical masters), and to the public at large. If much of the information is never used, that doesn’t have to be admitted.

    Did you see the story Megan told above, about how the CIA operatives asked Laurie Oakes what would happen if Whitlam held out and he (Laurie Oakes) told them that Kerr would sack Whitlam? I’m sure a writer of suspense thrillers could devise an elaborate plot where that was just one component in a complex web of deceit; but that’s not the way it sounds in the real world.

  17. @J-D
    Oh mate, I saw the story of how Jenny Hocking, Gough’s two volume biographer, said to him that she had discovered, via her own research, how A Mason, CJ of the HC at the time, had been having ‘private discussions with Kerr for about three months prior to the sacking to which information, according to Hocking, Gough teared up and replied “well, what can you do?” or words to that affect.

    Discussions between the Chiel Justice of the High Court of Australia and the G-G, discussions not on the public record at the time. And you apparently want a smoking gun as evidence of US meddling?

    Mate, there’s smoke all over the place.

    Join freedom fighters or drop off.

  18. Its a shame that the main stream media and associated elites want Gough defined as a stumbling, incompetent, idiot. Abbott was fond of saying ‘worst govt since Whitlam’ – ironic given the current Governments performance. Public confidence in politicians and Government has plummeted over the last 10 years. I hope we dont end up with some kind of corporate libertarian future after the idea of good Government has been finally destroyed.

  19. Pr Q said:

    Gough Whitlam’s contributions to Australian society

    Himself! There never was, and never will be, such a compelling figure in Australian public life. My social studies project for year 10 in 1975 was a film of Gough’s election campaign. He truly was a messianic figure and it was a rare privilege to see him at the top of his game, thrashing the L/NP and training the Light on the Hill.

    His finest hour:

    “We Want Gough!” x 3

  20. @jungney

    I am aware that Mason gave advice to Kerr (as also did Barwick). That’s not evidence of CIA involvement. How could it be? You think that the idea of consultation between the Governor-General and a Justice (or Justices) of the High Court could only come from the CIA? It was and is a matter of historical record that the Governor-General took advice from the Chief Justice of the High Court about his constitutional powers in 1914, long before the CIA existed.

  21. @J-D

    To frame the Whitlam v Left struggle as between an electoralist and a semi-revolutionary (communist?) group without reference to how electoral tactics advanced issues of the day, is risibly abstract and unworldly. As if politics is contested by stick figures, rather than flesh and blood people who get involved in causes around concrete events and interests.

    DH Lawrence’s Kangaroo novel was an early description of the feverish fantasies arising from the deep-seated primal fears and ignorance which old-fashioned conservatives in deep blue institutions such as the military and the law hold – and in remote corners probably still do – towards the foreign land of Labor, seen as a pathological organisation.

    Far from being a group of crazies, the ALP Left of the time (resulting in the Socialist Left faction after federal intervention in 1970) defined itself around at least 2 issues which dominated political debate – conscription and the Vietnam War, and State Aid to private and Catholic schools. The DOGS (Defence of Govt Schools) lobby group was a high profile opponent of such funding, and the Catholic church, especially in Victoria, was not shy of marshalling its troops to join with DLP senators, in exacting tribute from Labor on both the above issues, or continuing its veto power on Labor winning government. Those who cheer the Gonski proposals and bemoan the current funding problems with a well-entrenched parallel education system, need to remember its origins in the late 1960s and who tried to resist it. http://www.abc.net.au/time/episodes/ep7.htm

    On the Vietnam war, the Labor Left had to fight internally to keep a strong position, as public opinion was supportive of the war and smashed Labor in 1966. George Crawford, ALP Chairman in Victoria, was vilified for calling on soldiers to lay down their arms, but his view was endorsed by a meeting of 200 union shop stewards, and promoted wider debate. Paul Strangio, an academic expert on Labor, reminded recently us of Whitlam’s manoeuvring on the issue, even before the 1966 election. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/whitlam-and-conscription-8211-an-end-to-the-lottery-of-death-20141021-119esl.html

    Events which may seem afterwards as “inevitable” or “self-evident” often displays a conservative functionalist position which decries human agency in fashioning the future: what is is what had to be. It’s not a position which progressives should take.

  22. @Megan

    Yes. You appear to find something implausible about that. I don’t know why. Is it that you have bought into the image of itself that the CIA would like to project, or have I misread you?

  23. There has been some discussion in the Israeli press about Whitlam’s views on the Middle East. He annoyed the leadership of Australian Jewish commuinity organisations with his “even-handed” policy at the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and his prickly manner in dealing with them, which was seen as a departure from the warmly pro-Israel stance of previous Labor leaders (notably Evatt) and subsequent ones (notably Hawke and Gillard). However the last significant foreign policy act of the Whitlam Government, on 10 November 1975, was to vote against UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 that described Zionism as “a form of racism”.

  24. Troy Prideaux :
    I listened to a few excellent critiques of his time as PM last night on the ABC PM program. All those points were raised as important valid issues that hampered their time in government, however, there appeared to be universal acceptance (including those who served on his cabinet) that economics wasn’t his strong suit.

    You/they are probably right. He was after all a lawyer. On the other hand this begs the question as to who would have been any better, Economics being far from a science even more so now.

    I expect the people talking were neoliberal to a man/woman (were they any economic renegades?) talk in hindsight – so this is a bit of a self fullfiling prophecy.

    If you mean ‘balancing the books’ that is say like Costello? Costello inhabited the neoliberal la la land which was creating a monstrous bubble as was Keating. But you dont hear them being identified as not understanding economics. McMahon I think was a bean counter more than most but he got kicked out if I remember right because he couldnt handle the rising inflation (Vietnam related?) and was boring to boot. (Though I have to say when I saw him live here when as a student when he was in opposition he was actually a remarkably good speaker live – far better than many I have seen since. Which suggests movement to TV is partly to blame for a loss of intelligent political debate.

    As to Gough promoting inflation by printing money ? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm Quantitative Easing. Doh!

    So yes you are probably correct but I dont think its so simple. A possibility maybe not canvassed was that he may have thought if he changed Australia to a more equitable society the rest would flow – a bit like Marx believed I think. Sadly we failed his and arguably falsified Karl’s hypothesis too.

  25. Ikon’s comment was characterized as suggesting that the CIA collects information as a basis for taking action.

    The alternative explanation was that the CIA does it to appear busy.

    The former is more plausible than the latter in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

  26. @J-D
    Mason’s advice to Kerr was utterly improper; the only person from whom Kerr should have taken advice was the PM.

    Anyway, for succinctness, Wikipedia:

    During the crisis, Whitlam had alleged that Country Party Leader Anthony had close links to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[113] Subsequently, it was alleged that Kerr acted on behalf of the United States government in procuring Whitlam’s dismissal. The most common allegation is that the CIA influenced Kerr’s decision to dismiss Whitlam.[114] In 1966 Kerr had joined the Association for Cultural Freedom, a conservative group that was later revealed to have received CIA funding. Christopher Boyce, who was convicted for spying for the Soviet Union while an employee for a CIA contractor, claimed that the CIA wanted Whitlam removed from office because he threatened to close US military bases in Australia, including Pine Gap. Boyce said that Kerr was described by the CIA as “our man Kerr”.[115] Whitlam later wrote that Kerr did not need any encouragement from the CIA.[116] However, he also said that in 1977 United States Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher made a special trip to Sydney to meet with him and told him, on behalf of US President Jimmy Carter, of his willingness to work with whatever government Australians elected, and that the US would never again interfere with Australia’s democratic processes.[117]

  27. @jungney

    I did not write that Mason’s giving of advice to Kerr was proper. I wrote that it wasn’t evidence of CIA involvement. It has been known for instances of impropriety to occur without CIA involvement.

    Wikipedia records, correctly, that there were allegations of CIA influence on Kerr’s decision to dismiss Whitlam. I wrote above that speculation, rumour, and gossip don’t amount to strong circumstantial evidence, no matter the quantity.

    The proposition that Whitlam’s removal was something the CIA favoured and the proposition that the CIA was responsible for bringing it about are not equivalent.

  28. Well, I think that by your standard of evidence as to what constitutes “involvement” would, if you applied it in daily life, would be hobbling.

    But I’ll quibble:

    The CIA is acknowledging for the first time the extent of its deep involvement in Chile, where it dealt with coup-plotters, false propagandists and assassins.”

    Now two out of three speaks to me of involvement. There were coup plotters (Kerr, Mason, Barwick it seems) on a very short roll call of the plotters, probably certain key officers within the Australian military and non-military establishment. Most notably, in Murdoch, a false propagandist but no assassins.

    Then there’s the US spooks who were gathered and have been named all over the place. The history is readily available, so I don’t need to cite sources.

    So, Chile in ’73 and Australia in ’75. History has no coincidences. One comment I read that I will relay is that coup in Chile was still very much a cold war strategy. We shouldn’t underestimate how Whitlam’s policies were viewed in such an atmosphere.

    Anyway, they won. We are what they wanted, a client state.

  29. @hc

    Associative mating Harry? Sorry for that but I think you would agree that many middle class & respectable people said, At last we have someone like us leading the reform charge. Arguably Cairns could’ve won against Billy Bigears as Jimmy Jesus had great respect with the electorate, except…no way would the media and ruling class have taken a chance on him. Gough was the fallback position if the Libs couldn’t get the popular vote.

    Another plug for the Socialist Left of which I was a peripheral member: they actively and bravely campaigned against ASIO and its pernicious behaviour following the Lionel Murphy raid. This was no laughing matter: bombings & shootings were about, and there was evidence of ASIO softness towards the extreme Right Croatian Ustashi. These people have names: Gerry Harant, Joan Coxsedge, Jean McLean, and they fought the good fight before the days of NGOs with govt. funding. While you celebrate the Emperor, don’t forget the foot soldiers. It was ever thus.

  30. @jungney

    In my daily life I strive to proportion belief to evidence, that being the course of wisdom. I do not find myself hobbled.

    As I wrote earlier, it is faulty reasoning to proceed from ‘the overthrow of governments is sometimes the work of the CIA’ to ‘the overthrow of governments is always the work of the CIA’; likewise it is faulty reasoning to proceed from ‘the CIA had a hand in the ousting of the Allende government’ to ‘the CIA had a hand in the ousting of the Whitlam government’. Also, it is faulty reasoning to proceed from ‘people plotted to oust the Whitlam government’ to ‘the CIA plotted to oust the Whitlam government’.

  31. @J-D

    Yeah. Look, I think that we’re on a hiding to nothing here. You are reasserting what you previously said, which I find unconvincing, and I am in danger of advancing further futile argument to you. I don’t suppose that you are an historian, are you? Are you aware of the debate between historians and novelists about whose turf is the truth of what went on. Inga Clendinnen is an easy way in to the whole argument.

    What you ignore, I think, is the lived experience of the period. I wrote elsewhere that Pilger’s account pretty much accords with my memory of the disclosures through documentary, newspaper articles, research and so on, as they were turned up. I reckon that the unfolding of the assassination of JFK is the model for the way that the disclosures have happened, over time, about ‘the sacking’.

    So, if you are suggesting that I’ve spent my time over the last 30+ years barking up the wrong tree then I also reckon that you must have a pretty dim view of the intelligence of others.

  32. And to proportion ‘belief to evidence’ you must have some evidence that the CIA collect information to appear busy.

    Also, as far as I recall nobody equated “[despite denials and propaganda to the contrary, we now know for a fact that] the CIA sometimes overthrows governments” with “[therefore] the overthrow of governments is always the work of the CIA”.

    Mind you, I’m hard pressed to come up with an example where it is proven that the overthrow of a government wasn’t to some extent the work of the CIA in, say, the last sixty years or so.

    As previously stated: I use “CIA” as a shorthand ‘catch-all’ phrase to encompass the US military-industrial-security-complex and all its tentacles.

  33. @kevin1

    I did not write ‘The Left took the view that …’ or ‘The Left takes the view that …’. I made no generalisations about the Left at all.

    I did write ‘Some people — inside and outside the Labor Party — took (and some still take) a view …’

    Is the difference not clear?

  34. @jungney

    I am neither a historian nor a novelist, and I am opposed to the idea that truth is anybody’s turf. I don’t understand why you bring this up.

    Likewise, I don’t understand why you bring up the Kennedy assassination. I don’t know what disclosures about that you’re referring to or how you think they’re relevant to this discussion.

    As I noted above, John Pilger reports a deputy director of the CIA as saying that Kerr did what he was told to do. John Pilger doesn’t explain why he’s inclined to accept this statement as true, and neither do you. On this subject I am not ready to accept the word of a deputy director of the CIA.

    I don’t see why the fact that two people disagree about something requires them to take a dim view of each other’s intelligence. In my experience of people, specifically including myself, they’re capable of being intelligent about some things and unintelligent about others. I continue to disagree with your views on this particular subject, and also to regard the reasoning you’ve given in support of them as faulty, but I draw no conclusions about your intelligence in general.

  35. @Megan

    It is my personal experience of humans in general that they sometimes engage in activity to make themselves feel and look busy. The evidence satisfies me that the CIA is made up of humans, and that so also is the entire US military-industrial-security complex.

    Nobody explicitly asserted that the overthrow of governments is always the work of the CIA, but references were made to evidence of CIA involvement in the ousting of other governments as if that translated directly into evidence of CIA involvement in the ousting of the Whitlam government. It doesn’t.

    You write that you’re hard-pressed to come up with an example in the last sixty years where the overthrow of a government was not at least partly the work of the CIA. But how many examples of overthrown governments have you considered? Wikipedia has one page with a long (although probably incomplete) list of coups and another with a long (although probably incomplete) list of revolutions. Take a look at those and then tell me you think the CIA (or the US military-industrial-security complex) had a hand in every one of them (restricting ourselves, as you suggest, to the last sixty years).

  36. @J-D

    I’d be very surprised if every coup of the last 60 years were the work of the CIA, even with a fairly loose definition of the benchmark of ‘work of the CIA’ were used. Some of these coups wouldn’t have helped US diplomacy at all and if anything would have been irritating to them. It’s possible that rogue elements in the CIA might have been involved for reasons that have nothing to do with US aims or simply have started some operation that got out of control, but I doubt we will live long enough to see full disclosure.

    Confining the sweep of the claim to Central and South America and throwing in Indochina pre-Pol Pot, would be better of course. The case can be made for Uganda and The Congo in the 1960s, and of course there’s Iraq and Saddam Hussein from about 1958-1978. Iran and Mossadegh would be a further example. Pakistan from 1971 onwards is plausible.

    So I can see where Megan is coming from.

  37. I have heard it said that religion is the root of all evil – although the CIA must be up there in the top 10 – and here is someone blaming a “provocative” comment Whitlam made about religion for his downfall.

    Roy Williams, the author of “God Actually; In God They Trust: The Religious Beliefs of Australia’s Prime Ministers” on RN’s Religion Report speculates that:

    “an angry, throw-away comment from Whitlam may have contributed to the decision by Governor General John Kerr to dismiss Whitlam’s government.”

    He says:

    “In 1974, Whitlam had called then-Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen ‘an ostentatiously religious man who has taken a vow of poverty for Queensland’ (Whitlam’s infamous ‘Bible-bashing bastard’ comment came a year later). This may have been Whitlam the sophisticate mocking Bjelke-Petersen’s conservative brand of Lutheranism, although Williams believes it was more frustration at the premier’s repeated frustrating of Labor’s agenda.

    “Whatever his motivation, the comment had consequences. In 1975, Bjelke-Petersen nominated a religiously conservative ALP member, Albert Field, to fill a vacancy caused by the death of a Queensland Labor senator. ”

    So, the conclusion Williams draws is that “Bjelke-Petersen really brought about the downfall of the Whitlam government in a very practical way by appointing … a senator who would reliably vote with the Coalition,’ says Williams, whose own father, Evan, was a Whitlam staffer and confidante.”

    There are though, some interesting insights into Gough’s attitude toward relgion that Williams notes, such as, “Gough Whitlam once joked that if he ever met God, he would ‘treat Him as an equal’.”

    and that Gough described himself as a ‘fellow traveller with Christianity’ who “was seemingly comfortable with a Christian tendency that embraced social justice, reason and science, and which complemented—even bolstered—his own social democratic philosophy. ”

    Gough just gets better and better, the more one learns about him, his character and his intellect.

    Williams also says that Whitlam alienated other religiously minded voters, however, by introducing ‘no-fault’ divorce in the 1975 Family Law Act.

    There must be some reason that some people considered this a bad thing but what I recollect from my parents divorce experience in the ’60’s , was that my father had to lie and say he had deserted the family so as to have a reason for divorcing that was ‘acceptable’. I suspect that this was another of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that he experienced in his life, and that contributed to his depression and his suicide several years later, 6 months before Gough was elected actually.

  38. @Fran Barlow

    It is still faulty reasoning to proceed from

    ‘There is a list of instances in which the CIA had a hand in the ousting of a government’


    ‘The CIA had a hand in the ousting of the Whitlam government’

    Evidence for the first is not evidence for the second.

  39. That’s a strawman.

    There is some evidence of the involvement of the CIA in the overthrow of the Whitlam government.

    Also, the CIA does that sort of thing. At law that is called “propensity”, “tendency” or “bad character” evidence. For public discussion about the CIA it is absolutely admissible.

  40. @Megan

    The common law defines the category of ‘bad character evidence’ in order to establish that it is generally not admissible. The leading modern case is a Privy Council decision arising, as it happens, from an Australian case (Makin v Attorney-General of New South Wales): the Lord Chancellor’s judgement said ‘It is undoubtedly not competent for the prosecution to adduce evidence tending to shew that the accused has been guilty of criminal acts other than those covered by the indictment, for the purpose of leading to the conclusion that the accused is a person likely from his criminal conduct or character to have committed the offence for which he is being tried.’

    I don’t know why you bring this up, though, because we’re not holding a criminal trial here. Insofar as there are rules of ‘admissibility’ here, they are only the ones determined by John Quiggin: anything he permits can be posted here. I did not write that it is ‘inadmissible’ to proceed from the proposition that the CIA has had a hand in the ousting of governments to the proposition that the CIA had a hand in the ousting of the Whitlam government; I wrote that it was faulty reasoning to do so.

    On the other hand, if a deputy director of the CIA said that Kerr did what he was told to do, that would be evidence bearing directly on the question of what happened in 1975. Personally I don’t regard as credible the testimony of a deputy director of the CIA on this subject, but perhaps you take a different view.

  41. @J-D
    Yet you constantly assert that any evidence that doesn’t pass your required standard of evidence is inadmissible as evidence at all.

    Your legalism needs to be exposed to the light of day because it is corrosive of what appears to me to be something of an exercise of ‘people’s history’. By this I mean a conversation about the nature of shared histroy. One of the great things about the netz.

    The issue of Whitlam’s dismissal is under discussion. Significant public commentary has exposed evidence, of which there is plenty but I notice that you never address it, of CIA involvement. In the midst of this you keep raising quite spurious arguments about not arguing from the general to the specific such that a general tendency of the CIA doesn’t to overthrow or meddle in the internal political affairs of other nations doesn’t go to the likelihood of the CIA being involved in the dismissal.

    In many areas arguing from the general to the specific is ill advised but neither we nor the events themselves are bound to conform to logical principles. The evidence as it exists, to which I’ve drawn your attention, may fit uncomfortably with whatever principles inform your argument, but they do conform to a narrative that takes into account the global political economy at the time, in which the CIA had and track record of intervention.

    There is also the matter of the actually existing evidence, to which you never refer. I think the wikipedia page is a fair enough account. Now, which of the facts in that account do you refute?

    Quite why you would doubt the evidence “a deputy director of the CIA on this subject” as not comprehensible. Historians, even community historians, rely on authoritative disclosure.
    On the matter of direct evidence the wiki page states:

    However, he also said that in 1977 United States Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher made a special trip to Sydney to meet with him and told him, on behalf of US President Jimmy Carter, of his willingness to work with whatever government Australians elected, and that the US would never again interfere with Australia’s democratic processes.[117]

    Whitlam is the source.

    What weight do you give to this? Is it inadmissible because you haven’t heard Gough’s secret tapes of the conversation?

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