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Noel Pearson remembers Gough Whitlam

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Thanks to the ABC for recording Noel Pearson’s powerful address at the state memorial service for Gough Whitlam in Sydney Town Hall today. The whole address is in the video below. Pearson spoke of Whitlam’s gov­ern­ment as the textbook case of reform trumping manage­ment. Here’s a taste:

In less than three years an astonishing reform agenda leapt off the policy platform and into legislation and the ma­chin­ery and programs of government. The country would change forever. The modern cosmopolitan Australia finally emerged like a technicolor butterfly from its long-dormant chrysalis.
        And thirty-eight years later we are like John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin’s Jewish insurgents, ranting against the despotic rule of Rome, defiantly demanding: And what did the Romans ever do for us anyway?​—​apart from Medibank, and the Trade Practices Act, cutting tariff protection, and no-fault divorce, and the Family Law Act, the Australia Council, the Federal Court, the Order of Australia, federal legal aid, the Racial Discrimination Act, needs-based schools funding, the recognition of China, the abolition of conscription, the Law Reform Commission, student financial assistance, the Heritage Commission, non-discriminatory immigration rules, community health clinics, Aboriginal land rights, paid maternity leave for public servants, lowering the minimum voting age to eighteen years, and fair electoral boundaries and senate representation for the territories​—​apart from all of this, what did this Roman ever do for us?
        And the Prime Minister, with that classical Roman mien, one who would have been as naturally garbed in a toga as a safari suit, stands imperiously with twinkling eyes, and that slight self-mocking smile playing around his mouth, in turn infuriating his enemies and delighting his followers.

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