‘Well may we say “God Save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General.’
Gough Whitlam’s famous words during his impromptu speech after the Dismissal in 1975 remain a potent symbol of the excitements and turbulence of the Whitlam era. As Troy Bramston’s collection of ALP speeches since 1891 reminds us, political speeches can capture a national mood or sentiment at a particular time in history. Indeed, a carefully crafted set of words can become a treasured part of our national self-image. They can also boost or destroy a politician’s reputation. In an age when the media has become uncritically obsessed with gaffes, Twitter banalities, polls, and sound bites, it is worth remembering that a good speech can elevate the national conversation and appeal to our better instincts.