The Maritime Union of Australia has paid its respects to Australia’s greatest reformer in remembering former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, 98, who passed away this morning.
Whitlam’s legacy of universal health care, free higher education, Aboriginal land rights, scrapping of the death penalty, withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and the ending of conscription paved the way for a more equitable Australian society.
National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said despite Whitlam’s leadership being undermined after just three years, he would go down in history as one of Australia’s greatest leaders.
“Whitlam essentially became a martyr for progressive causes,” Crumlin said.
“He brought about policies which were revolutionary for the time. Huge changes, of which many Australians are still reaping the benefits of today.”
“Unfortunately, in recent times, there has been a slide back as Australia hurls it self into a more neo-liberal era, whereby free higher education has already been wound back and further deregulation of the industry is on the table.
“Universal healthcare faces an uncertain future with the introduction of the co-payment.
“I urge Australians to not let Whitlam’s legacy be consigned to the history books: Defend the gains we made as a society as a result of Gough’s courage.”
The clip below is of the speech Whitlam made at Wave Hill just before the symbolic moment of pouring sand into Vincent Lingiari's hand:
A comprehensive obituary for the former PM has been compiled by Fairfax, available to view here.
The ACTU has also paid tribute to the great Labor leader.
"Gough Whitlam was a once in a generation leader", ACTU President Ged Kearney said.
“His commitment to equality and opportunity, driven by a vision for a greater Australia helped shape the society we live in today.
"Gough Whitlam sensed that Australians wanted something different and he harnessed that and ushered in a period of great social, cultural and economic change in Australia.
"He paved the way for a new era of modern progressive policies that had an enormous impact on the lives of millions of Australians.
“The first national health insurance system, universal education, a commitment to a multicultural Australia, the Racial Discrimination Act and the first steps towards reconciliation with Indigenous Australians were all driven by Gough Whitlam.
"From recognising China's significance to our region through to recognising equality for women and the first peoples Gough had courage in his convictions and the ability to make them happen."
Kearney said Australians will always remember the terrific partnership of Gough and Margaret Whitlam.
"Gough and Margaret were a terrific team and together they made an enormous difference to generations of Australians.”
Ms Kearney said that as a nation we can be proud of what Gough Whitlam achieved in three short years as Prime Minister but also for what he contributed to our nation over a lifetime.
"Gough Whitlam's legacy is one of a fairer and more just society and it is our responsibility to instil this in generations of Australians to come."
ABC's take on the life and times of Whitlam:
Flags were flown at half mast on ships around the country as a sign of respect. Below is a photo of the Svitzer Swift tugboat at Botany Bay today:
The ALP has set up an online condolence book that can be found here.