Saint Gough’s Day

Not sure who the thoughtful person was who labeled today’s Almanac, ‘Gough Day, Comrades at the Footy Almanac’, but thank you.
I suspect it was a left-leaning, Eagle-avenged Almanacker from Western Australia.
I had got in early writing to a friend to wish him a happy St Gough’s day like I do every year. A fellow baby-boomer, he would have been in the last National Service intake before his ‘saviour’ arrived on 2nd December 1972 and decided not to send any more innocents to fight in an unwinnable war.
My friend had his bags packed ready to head for the hills before Gough arrived on the scene so he has been forever grateful for that piece of timing.
I received my call-up notice some years earlier indicating that they hadn’t drawn out my ‘birthday’ marble which meant I didn’t have to report to a barracks somewhere to line up and cough.
My father waited as I opened the letter hoping upon hope that I would soon be ready for one of those special Army haircuts and a chance for his wayward, carefree son to get his life sorted out.
I’m proud of my acting performance that morning as I held in my joy and gloomily said, ” Looks like they don’t want me Dad. Oh well, I’ll just have to stay in the Public Service job…with all my mates.”
There was never much communication before that letter arrived and there was definitely none afterwards.
A lot of people condemn Gough and his inexperienced team for stuffing up the economy etc but I appreciated a chance to go to uni as a mature-age student when I did finally settle down after disruptive teenage years.
Gough’s promotion of the Arts was his other great achievement and although a tenuous link, there could be a lot of old Almanackers from that era, including myself, that now have the confidence to submit our articles to the Knackery. BG (before Gough) there was the cultural-cringe and we all thought that the only good art and writing came from overseas. How wrong we were.

About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.


  1. Not me, Neil. I have already sent a protesting email to JT Harms. First thing in the morning I always check the Almanac over a cuppa to see what has popped up overnight, as you blokes have 3 hours start on me. I nearly choked when I saw the Almanac header thinking the great man may have passed. Had to hurriedly check the Age to calm myself.
    The terrific Keating interviews with Kerry OBrien over the last month put Gough in the right context. Great courage, strength and vision – to start the modernisation of both the ALP and Australia. But also great flaws. My view has always been that it was outrageous that he was sacked and did not get to finish his term, but he would have been humiliated at the next election because of his profligacy and poor administration.
    Medibank; opening up tertiary education; China visits; ending Vietnam involvement; promoting Australian culture – all gigantic contributions. But fundamentally couldn’t run a chook raffle. A lot of his cabinet ministers were old and past their time, just hanging around for high office, who had long since expired on the opposition benches under Menzies. You wouldn’t feed most of them, but ALP patronage required that they become cabinet ministers. The younger men who came in too late at the end to save Whitlam, like Hayden and Keating, were the bedrock of the much better Hawke governments of the 80’s.
    Whitlam was no great fan of sport, but he did have a fine line in self-deprecating humour, though many did not get the subtle irony and thought he was up himself. There is a great Whitlam story about rugby league in Queensland:

    “The early part of 1975 saw the electoral nadir of the Whitlam Labor Government. Queensland was the state where Labor was faring worst. Into this strode Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, invited to kick off for a representative rugby league match at Lang Park, now Suncorp Stadium.

    Whitlam had been invited by parliamentary colleague Senator Ron McAuliffe, a legendary figure in the Queensland Labor Party and nicknamed “Rugby Ron”. McAuliffe was chairman of the Queensland Rugby League.

    Almost every Australian knew that Whitlam was less than impressed by football, but dutifully he strode to the centre of the ground and ceremonially kicked off.

    The trouble started as he and McAuliffe left the field. A cacophony of boos, jeers and catcalls accompanied Whitlam’s departure and a shower of beer bottles and cans rained down.

    Whitlam was unfazed. Turning to McAuliffe, he declared: “Senator, if I had known that you were this unpopular in your home state I would never have accepted your invitation to be here.”

  2. Cowshedend says

    A great man whose country owes an undying debt.

    “The Caucus I joined in 1953 had as many Boer War veterans as men who had seen active service in World War II, three from each. The Ministry appointed on 5th December 1972 was composed entirely of ex-servicemen: Lance Barnard and me.”

  3. Neil Anderson says

    It was because of that wit of Whitlam that enthralled us baby-boomers. 1949-72 we had Menzies and a couple of his cronies the whole time we were growing up.
    The best Menzies could come up with to a booing crowd was…’Get a haircut!’
    Really enjoying the Keating interview at the moment where he reminds us how pale and insipid the present bunch are.
    I just remembered the other reason I wasn’t a Ming fan. He was a Carlton supporter and used to park the Roller? right up to the fence line to watch the Blues.
    Over to you Peter Fuller for more details about that one.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    Happy to oblige: It’s photograph 12/30 in this gallery from the excellent Blueseum site.
    (I hope the link defies my computer incompetence.)

    I won’t labor the point by stating the obvious, that 2nd December 1972 was one of the grand days in my life. I think Peter B’s assessment is pretty close to the mark, much good, some bad, although inevitably, I will offer an important extenuating circumstance to the “stuffed the economy” charge.
    A confluence of international events during the life of the Whitlam Government saw the prevailing conventional wisdom of economics completely over-turned. Virtually every country in the developed world was struck by the disease of stagflation, low or zero economic growth, coupled with high inflation (not entirely explained by wage pressures). Keynesian economics purported to apply remedies for inflation or unemployment, but its weapons were impotent when both problems occurred simultaneously. While the Whitlam Government certainly floundered in these circumstances, they weren’t on their Pat Malone, in failing to cope with this new environment. The US and UK were notable non-successes.

    So my report card would say “not altogether successful during these three tumultuous years, but achieved much in testing circumstances.”

  5. Neil Anderson says

    Wow! All I was wondering about was the make of Menzie’s car.
    I forgot I was calling on an Economic’s professor for advice. I was really referring to what other people say about Gough’s flaws whenever his name crops up. I’m really pleased the 2nd December was one of ‘the grand day’s of your life’ as it was mine. It took me a while for the tremendous changes to Australian society to sink in because I was politically unaware at that stage.
    Sorry I missed you at the Almanac launch. I did spot the tall gentleman in the Carlton jumper from afar but you must have left early before I had a chance to catch up. I’m guessing it was something to do with the noise factor as you have explained to me before.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Pretty crappy day for me. Elizabeth South Primary baseball team got walloped 7-0 in the final of the Chrysler Cup by Westbourne Park, it even made it onto the ABC news that night.

  7. Peter Fuller says

    I’m also sorry I missed you (and others). Unfortunately for a bloke who usually goes out about twice a month, I was double booked on Thursday night and I left early for a dinner. I hope that when you next point the deLorean in an easterly direction, we will have some more time to chew the fat, perhaps even the Bulldogs-Blues encounter(s) in 2014.

  8. Peter B’s grudging list of Labor’s achievements misses some of his most important. Whitlam and his Minister for Urban and Regional Development Tom Uren (who was competent) sewered and paved the outer suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney, One of the reasons the Libs hated them so much is that Uren worked with local councils and bypassed the (mostly Liberal) State Governments.

    Whitlam brought in policies of multiculturalism and took the first steps towards Aboriginal Land Rights and empowerment of women. To Fraser’s credit he maintained Whitlam’s policies in these three areas. If you wanted to summarise Whitlam’s achievements you could say that he governed for more of Australia than his predecessors. Menzies may have encouraged mass immigration but his policies were very much skewed towards “British” Australians in male headed nuclear families (and for the most part living East of the Yarra or North of the Harbour)

    As Peter Fuller said, Whitlam didn’t handle the 70s economic crisis very well, but neither did Ted Heath (UK), Richard Nixon or Georges Pompidou (France). He also took a terrible position on East Timor but despite his faults Whitlam was the most important Prime Minister in my (reasonably long) lifetime. His Government made more improvements to Australian life in two years than Menzies and Hawke did in much longer terms in power. (The other long serving Prime minister, John Howard, made no improvements to Australian life in his nearly 12 years in office)

  9. Hear, hear Mr Nadel. Thank you (and others) for enumerating many of the Whitlam government’s achievements. In the scheme of politics in Australia he is indeed a saint. Keating is the only PM in modern times to come close to Gough’s capability to lift the Australian experience above the level it had settled for.

    Having said that I would have expected the Almanac to continue flying the flag of progressive political recognition and call today Eureka Day. Today marks the anniversary of the rebellion that set the wheels of Australian democratic principles in motion.


  10. Neil Anderson says

    I should have listed the three most important dates on the calendar.
    December 2nd 1972 : Canonization of Gough.

    December 3rd 1854: Eureka and the democratic movement.

    December 4th 1971: The start of an arbitration and occasional conciliation system that has somehow lasted forty-two years. My wedding anniversary.

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