Can you believe that Gough Whitlam has his own funeral committee. Read this and weep.

Yet despite his three years of chaos in The Lodge and two subsequent thrashings at the polls, he somehow retains legendary status.

These things tend to run in the family because his son Nick has proved himself to be one of the most controversial and destructive professional directors in Australia.

Gough did the odd good thing with the three most notable in Crikey’s eye being the Family Law Act, the Trade Practices Act and university funding.

But the negatives of economic chaos, institutionalised welfare and unethical ministerial conduct dwarfed the pluses.

So it comes as some surprise to Crikey that Gough Whitlam appears to regard himself as some form of emperor who has even indulged himself to form a “Whitlam Funeral Committee” as Crikey’s subscribers explained in recent sealed sections:


April 12 sealed section

Gough Whitlam made a song and dance about donating his brain the other day but if you believe this next item from a subscriber, Australia’s most economically damaging post-war PM really does think he’s special, almost royal:

“A friend of mine had lunch with Barry Jones the other day and they got to yaffling about the Queen Mother’s funeral and suddenly – both of them thought it was sensational etc etc – frankly I think it is a case of good riddance, I thought Hitchens piece in the Guardian was fabulous

Anyway, middle yaffle Barry suddenly claps his hand to his head and says words to the effect of “damn and blast it I will have Gough on the phone tomorrow wanting all sorts of alterations and additions”.

Seems Barry and a few others are on the “Whitlam Funeral Committee” and that last time there was a royal extravaganza – Diana I assume – he was on the phone suggesting some alterations to proceedings

There are some nice elements to this because let’s face it, Gough’s passing will be a monumental event, and the above anecdote does ring true to his adopted imperial style.

Cheers, Subscriber 295


Sealed section April 15

A subscriber writes:

“Gough’s obsequies have been a long time in the planning and like the Queen Mum’s may have undergone some changes over the years. A Crikey readers remembers that some years ago it was reported in the CBD column of the Sydney Morning Herald that Nick Whitlam convened a small committee comprising himself, Kim Williams then with the ABC and, like Nick, involved with a support group of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Leo Schofield who subsequently assumed the Chairmanship of the Sydney Symphony when Keating corporatised all the ABC Orchestras.

The trio discussed musical choices and who might contribute the readings and those to whom the information was imparted reckoned it would be a show to rival Winston Churchill’s. However, given that the dear old Queen Mum went out in simpler fashion than usual, it can be reliably assumed that the original plans for Gough’s exit have also been simplified to accord with contemporary taste.

The hundred-piece orchestra has probably shrunk to a string quartet and the proposed Dead March from ‘Saul’ may have been ditched in favour of the ubiquitous Amazing Grace.


Sealed section April 16

A subscriber writes:

Gough Whitlam’s funeral has indeed been organised for years. I am sure son-in-law Kim Williams, the CEO of Foxtel, could give you an update. From memory Kim was involved with his mates at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in some of the planning – suspect the piece of music they play has already been commisssioned.



Sealed section April 18

Many years ago, when the world was young, Gough Whitlam appeared on my radio show in Sydney to appeal for any listener to send him a recording of the Grand March of the Imperial Guard at Marengo.

He wanted it played at his funeral. He had given his own recording to the bandmaster at Duntroon, for just that reason, but the dolt promptly lost it.

To my astonishment, some listener dug out a copy and sent it in. I can’t remember the composer, but the piece itself is of such towering Napoleonic grandeur that it makes the Dead March from Saul sound like a jig in an Irish pub.

Mike Carlton.


Dear Team,

Please can you enlighten me on something regarding Australian myth making? I arrived as a migrant in 87 having married an Australian so I did not live in Australia during Gough’s tenure.

From an outsiders perspective he was a single term PM who got the push from his own “mate”, whinged loudly (If I hear the God Save The Governor General speech again I’ll scream) took his case to the Australian people who promptly gave him the big thumbs down! What is bloody important about Gough? Is he the result of a self perpetuating myth?

Regards, Nick B



because you are only a callow youth I suppose we can forgive you your Gough jibe. But if you were around at the time you would know that after Menzies Holt Gorton (a bright spot if you, liked vaudeville) and then the extraordinary Billy McMahon the new look labor with policies such as free universities ( pretty radical that one) poliicies aimed at funding the burgeoning western suburbs of SYdney and a a few others it was exciting times. Then there was medicare and land rights legislation (honoured by Malcolm).

There has been a lot of crap written about the whitlam years much of by conservatives who are still ashamed of how they removed him. I am sure you will get a bit more if you run this note.

Sure there was some youthful economic exuberance at the start but Gough and the mob settled down pretty well in the last year. I suppose what made it great was that here was someone who wanted to lead who thought that Governments could still do worthwhile things.

These days we have snivelling pollies on both sides frightened of their own shadows and petrified that someone might think they have said something not in line with the latest poll. We have a bunch of scared sheep on both sides.The result is a lying PM who will do whatever it takes to stay in the job Look at his backing of heffernan in the pursuit of Kirb and how he added to the fire on the friday by reading out even more unsubstantiated allegations. The pursuit of the asylum seekers s one of the most odious disgraceful things I have ever seen in this country.

Look at this government and wonder about Mick Young (forced to quit over a Paddington Bear) and Michael McKellar forced to quit because he stuffed up a customs form and then think of GST scams Warren Entsch’s actitivies on the Cape and the role of Reith PM and Ruddock in the kids overboard stuff.

Really we are plumbing new depths here. And the ALP is probably at the bottom of the heap as a cheer squad for the Liberal Government.

It’s sad days indeed.

So don’t try to tell us Gough was the worst PM we have ever had. The one we have now wins that hands down.


All other feedback on Gough will be gratefully received and published so get into it. We’ll be having a big debate to mark the 30th anniversary of his election later this year so we may as well have it now.


Crikey has a special free subscription offer until the end of April for anyone with a email address. We’ve long neglected the university crowd and therefore provide this 14 day window for hard-up students to sign up for a free 12-month subscription. However, don’t expect a free tee-shirt. To join the Crikey army just go to our online subscription page here and fill in the necessary details with 0000 in the credit card number field. When Crikey’s old man sees the email address he’ll wave it through. No correspondence will be entered into as this could be an administrative nightmare which we don’t want. If you’re a student without a email address that’s too bad.