Gough Whitlam

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Edward Gough Whitlam, AC, QC (born 11 July 1916), known as Gough Whitlam (pronounced /ˈɡɒf ˈhwɪtləm/ GOFF WHIT-ləm), served as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia from 1972 to 1975. He was dismissed as Prime Minister by Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the climax of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis; he is the only Prime Minister to have his commission terminated in that manner.

Whitlam entered Parliament in 1952, representing the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In 1960 he was elected deputy leader of the ALP and in 1967, after party leader Arthur Calwell retired, he assumed the leadership and became Leader of the Opposition. After narrowly losing the 1969 election, Whitlam led Labor to victory at the 1972 election after 23 years of Liberal-Country Coalition government.

In his time in office, Whitlam and his government implemented a large number of new programs and policy changes, including the elimination of military conscription and criminal execution, institution of universal health care and fee-free tertiary schooling (university), and the implementation of legal aid programs. He won the 1974 election with a reduced majority. Subsequently, the Opposition, which controlled the Senate, was emboldened by government scandals and a flagging economy to challenge Whitlam. In late 1975, there was a weeks-long deadlock over the passage of appropriation bills, which was resolved by Kerr's dismissal of Whitlam and commissioning of Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as caretaker Prime Minister. Labor lost the subsequent 1975 election in a landslide.

Whitlam resigned from the leadership after the ALP lost again at the 1977 election, and left Parliament in 1978. Over a third of a century after he left office, Whitlam continues to comment on political affairs. The circumstances of his dismissal, and the legacy of his government, remain part of Australian political discourse.


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