LETTERS News Weekly
, November 22, 2014
Gough Whitlam ‘narrow-minded and short-sighted’
I read with interest the editorial column written by Mr Peter Westmore on Gough Whitlam (“Gough Whitlam’s tainted legacy”, News Weekly, November 8, 2014).
While I agree that it is right to speak respectfully of the recently dead, and I share the opinion that Whitlam had an enormous impact on Australia, I must say that Whitlam was narrow-minded and short-sighted when he dealt with the Vietnamese boat people.
He supported the communist side in the Vietnam War. He abandoned the Vietnamese people who had worked with the Australian military forces. On the day Saigon fell in 1975, he recognised the new communist government.
Certainly, as the Prime Minister of a former allied country, he did not need to swear at his Cabinet colleague, Don Willesee, when the latter suggested that Australia should accept Vietnamese refugees, the unfortunate people who had chosen to flee their country for freedom.
Vietnam, after nearly 40 years under communist rule, has now become poorer. Corruption is getting worse, and violations of human rights still occur.
No politician is perfect; but we can only forgive, not forget.
Dr Cuong Tran Bui OAM,
Vietnamese Community in Australia,
Mt Gravatt, Qld
Gough Whitlam was not my favourite politician.
He came to power in 1972 with the slogan “It’s Time”, and swept a lacklustre Coalition from office. After 23 years of a tired Liberal/Country Party coalition government, the electorate agreed it was “time”, too.
Whitlam as Prime Minister was an egotistical man with a vision, and what a vision it was. He straight away set about socialising Australia, recognising every little two-bit communist regime to bring this country into their orbit.
Before the election he said he would end Australia’s involvement in Vietnam.
This was commendable, but he also said, “Australian troops would come home unheralded and unsung” (emphasis is mine). In my opinion, this was an unforgivable and despicable way of treating our loyal defence forces. Involvement in Vietnam was not of their making.
In 1975, Prime Minister Whitlam described the then Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, as “a Bible-bashing bastard”. Not exactly the words of a gentleman … but whoever said he was?
Whitlam’s government, originally elected on December 2, 1972, in a national mood of hope and anticipation, became steeped in controversy from the outset. Re-elected 18 months later, it was gone in just under three years. It was a government frustrated by the Senate, dismissed by the Governor-General, and then massively repudiated by the electorate.
The “dismissal” (although the term is not strictly true) raised a number of important constitutional, parliamentary and political issues, most of which remain unrecognised by leftist elements of the mainstream media to this day.
Should the Senate have the right to block money bills? How should a government respond when this happens? Should the Governor-General intervene in conflicts between the houses? When should the Governor-General intervene?
We could spend much time discussing these questions; but it should always be kept in mind that, if you cannot in some way check a politician or government, then you have created a despot.
What Whitlam started did not end with his death and reminds me of Mark Anthony’s famous words in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”