Ipswich is a better place because of Gough Whitlam
THE nation lost a great man and Ipswich lost a dear friend.
Former prime minister Gough Whitlam died yesterday at the age of 98 but his legacy will live on for generations.
No Australian politician achieved more than Mr Whitlam in transforming the country for the better (see list below).
Tributes poured in for Mr Whitlam yesterday. Blair MP Shayne Neumann, who met Mr Whitlam on many occasions, fondly recalled how he habitually referred to everyone as "comrade".
He said the Whitlam government's provision of a free university education for all opened doors for many.
"I am one of Whitlam's grandchildren," Mr Neumann said.
"I told Gough that without him I wouldn't have got to university and studied law and arts.
"I wouldn't be the Federal Member for Blair without Gough Whitlam because he provided free university education. He was a great believer in the equality of opportunity and inspired a generation of young people like me to go to university."
Mr Neumann said the Labor Party legend was "a giant nationally and a giant locally".
"When Whitlam was elected in 1972 only about 50% of Ipswich city was sewered, and the Whitlam Government established the Department of Urban and Regional Development under Tom Uren," Mr Neumann said.
"That was crucial in facilitating the sewering of Ipswich. The Whitlam government was a big boost to Ipswich because they opened funding directly to local councils under the constitution.
"The Whitlam government provided the money for the building of the Ipswich Civic Centre, and Gough opened it.
"He saw the importance of regional cities like Ipswich. In 1974 Ipswich was devastated by floods and the Whitlam government was crucial locally in helping us rebuild in terms of flood assistance, community infrastructure, roads and a whole range of assistance provided through the states and council to the people locally."
Vast in stature, vast in intelligence and a visionary. Mr Whitlam was all those things.
"He had the great ability to think ahead about where the country needed to go," Mr Neumann said.
"They built Medibank. Without Gough and Bill we wouldn't have Medicare."
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale credits Mr Whitlam for inspiring him to try his hand in local politics back in the early 1990s.
"I was on a plane and thinking about going into politics when I looked over and Margaret Whitlam was on the plane too.
"I jotted out a note for Gough that said, 'Gough, I'd love to talk to you one day about what inspires you and whether I should go into politics'. At the end of the note I wrote down my number and gave it to Margaret.
"Then I was laying in bed in Raceview one Sunday morning and my wife came in and said, 'There is a bloke on the phone pretending to be Gough Whitlam, but the deep voice sounds like his'.
"I answered the phone and he said, 'Paul, Gough here'.
"We started talking and he said to me that if I went into politics I should focus on the people.
"That is what I have done all my life. Being elected is all about serving the people. I just thank Gough for inspiring me.
"He was a true gentleman. A lot of politicians in this country could learn from Gough and the way he conducted himself."
Cr Paul Tully said "Gough Whitlam was the leader of a new generation of Australians".
"He took us into the 20th century and was a remarkable parliamentary performer and intellectual prime minister.
"His achievements from 1972 to 1975 were legendary.
"He took Australia out of Vietnam, abolished conscription, removed university fees and scrapped the dreaded radio and television licence system. He provided a massive cash injection for regional Australia and provided direct financial support to local government across the nation."
GOUGH WHITLAM'S ACHIEVEMENTS
- Established Medibank (now Medicare)
- Equal pay for women
- Abolished conscription and took Australia out of Vietnam War
- Provided free university education
- Indigenous land rights
- Abolished death penalty
- Established Racial Discrimination Act and Trade Practices Act
- Expanded legal aid services
- Improved social security system
- Reformed the Labor Party
- Recognition of China
- Reduced tariffs and made economy more competitive