Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam died yesterday.

To begin with I will recount what I heard on 2UE on November 11 1975. Steve Liebman had an afternoon show and he was talking to Katherine West on the political situation when the Daily Telegraph Canberra correspondent came on the line ( Kevin somebody) and said breathlessly Gough has been sacked. Liebman said 'Shit' without knowing what he was saying. 

Gough Whitlam was a great Opposition Leader until winning in 1972.
He was a mediocre PM and then to be blunt a has been in parliament until he retired.

The reason he was a great Opposition Leader was because he reformed the ALP and went around and discovered what policies were needed to bring Australia into the twentieth Century.

In this he was heavily influenced by firstly the Vernon Committee and then Alf Rattigan of the Tariff board which he changed to the Industries Assistance Commission (IAC). Indeed on more than one occasion he declared himself to be a Rattigan man.

The policy program he adopted was highly impressive and would have helped Australia to improve its GDP per capita IF it were implemented cautiously  and successfully.

Whitlam's problem when he became PM was :

  • He had terrible people management skills and needs a good deputy to smooth things over. when Lance Barnard left he never had this
  • He allowed sentiment to overweigh good judgment in terms of cabinet. Thus he inherited a Cabinet of a poor calibre. Whereas he had a good one in his last days.
  • He needed a good treasurer, Treasury and economic advisors. Until Bill Hayden he did not have a good Treasurer. Treasury were not at their best which is why there was a 1974 recession and A lot of Ministers and back benchers lost faith in Treasury. He had no good economic advisors/
  • He thought he could adopt all his program at once and it would only have a positive affect on the economy. He was wrong.
  • In hindsight history would be a lot different if Whitlam had have won in 1969 like he should have.
Yes I agree his sacking was a travesty and Kerr's conduct absolutely disgraceful.However Whitlam's reaction was silly and never thought through.

Following the 1975 election Whitlam was never the same.

As a person he had a very quick and sharp wit. It could be destructive or self deprecating.

Two Four different views
Here are the figure from Budget papers.
Years     Outlays    Revenue      surplus/deficit
1972/3    18.8          19.5               0.7
1973/4    18.4          20.3               1.9
1974/5    21.7          22.3               0.3
1975/76  24.3          22.5              -1.8  

Net debt fell Under Whitlam as a % of GDP!!

Postscript

I forgot to add prior to Whitlam winning office only HALF of Sydney had proper sewerage!