Whitlam Institute exhibition launched by Laurie Oakes

Date: 13/06/2002

What would a 29 year old flight lieutenant navigator be passionately writing to his beloved - the night before a military operation - on a hot Queensland night in 1944? The airman writing home was E.G. Whitlam, and even at this early stage in his life and before he joined the Labor Party, Gough's reformist zeal shines through. What Flying Officer Whitlam wrote about with passion to his young wife was a referendum campaign!

John Curtin was campaigning for greater powers for the Commonwealth in
post-war construction. Young Gough writes to Margaret "can we afford to have bureaucracies and committees of the size of the war effort in every state of the country?"

Laurie Oakes, Whitlam biographer, and the Nine Network's Political Editor, today described the letter as an insight into Gough's passion for constitutional change.

Mr Oakes gave the keynote address at today's opening of the Whitlam Institute exhibition on E.G Whitlam's war years.

Mr Oakes described Mr Whitlam as perhaps STILL the only passionate force for constitutional reform - and outlined Gough's "tireless agenda" involving four referenda;
# To appoint an Australian head of state and define the powers of the head of state.
# To have simultaneous elections for both Houses of federal parliament every four years;
# To remove Section 44 of the constitution with its irrelevant and archaic provisions on disqualification of members of federal parliament; and
# To remove the senate's powers to delay or reject appropriation bills.

"They're all desirable measures but the main interest nowadays is not changing the constitution by referendum, but in adopting the approach Gough used so successfully of surmounting the constitution," Mr Oakes said.

"And the (politicians) who seem most interested in that are - Tony Abbott and Wilson Tuckey . . I hasten to add that I'm not saying Tony Abbott and Wilson Tuckey are comparable with Gough. We all know that Gough is incomparable. But he did show them the way."


For more information or to obtain copies of the transcript, please contact:

Prof Peter Botsman
Founding Director of the Whitlam Institute
wk: 02 9685 9174
mob: 0416 157 182