Gough Whitlam may not have been one of the Australian Labor Party’s greatest prime ministers, but, since his defenestration by Governor-General John Kerr in 1975, he has been embraced as one of the ALP’s great martyrs. Kerr’s dismissal of the Whitlam Government galvanised the Labor movement. To Labor eyes, Kerr was Pontius Pilate and Whitlam the slain Messiah. New followers – many of them, like Whitlam, university-educated progressives – joined the ALP. New ideas were aired through policy think-tanks such as the Labor Resource Centre, headed by Jenny Macklin, a future federal deputy leader. Out of that angst and rage, a new ALP was forged. Labor was no longer a troglodyte party ruled by factional warlords and sectarian hatreds. It was a modern progressive movement hell-bent on winning and wielding power. After all, as Whitlam famously said to an ALP State Conference in Melbourne in 1967, ‘Only the impotent are pure.’
The making of a new Labor martyr
GRAVITY: INSIDE THE PM’S OFFICE DURING HER LAST YEAR AND FINAL DAYS
by Mary Delahunty
Hardie Grant Books, $29.95 pb, 270 pp, 9781742707631
RUDD, GILLARD AND BEYOND
by Troy Bramston
Penguin, $9.99 pb, 165 pp, 9780143571797
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Joel Deane is a speechwriter, novelist, and poet. He has worked in Australia and the United States as a journalist and political staffer – covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention, serving as principal speechwriter to Labor Premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby, and lecturing widely on politics and public language. In 2009, he was a finalist for the Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award. His new non-fiction book, Catch and Kill: The Politics of Power, will be published by the University of Queensland Press in July 2015.
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