Former Australian PM Gough Whitlam dies at 98


FORMER Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam has died at the age of 98.

He was credited with transforming Australian society in the 1970s after 23 years of conservative government, introducing many far-reaching reforms.

But his government was plagued by resignations and the governor-general dismissed it in November 1975 after just three years.

In a statement, his family said he was an “inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Mr Whitlam as a “giant of his time” and said flags across Australia would fly at half-mast on Tuesday.

Mr Whitlam’s reforms included introducing free university education, abolishing the death penalty and allowing non-white immigrants into Australia.

He was also the first Australian leader to visit China, establishing diplomatic relations with what is now Australia’s largest trading partner. Mr Abbott said this was “an enduring legacy”.

“He united the Australian Labor Party, won two elections and seemed, in so many ways, larger than life,” Mr Abbott added.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten echoed Mr Abbott’s comments, saying: “I think it is fair to say, regardless of one’s politics, the nation has lost a legend.”

“Gough Whitlam redefined our country and in doing so he changed the lives of a generation,” Mr Shorten added.

He led Labor to its historic victory in December 1972 on the back of the famous “It’s Time” campaign to move on from a post-war period of social conservatism.

His dismissal was prompted by a refusal by parliament’s upper house, where Labor did not hold a majority, to pass a budget bill.

To end the crisis, Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Mr Whitlam and installed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as the caretaker prime minister.

He remains the country’s only prime minister to have been sacked.

After leaving politics, he served as a Unesco ambassador, academic and after-dinner speaker and regularly appeared at Labor Party functions.

He had four children with his wife, Margaret, during a marriage that lasted 70 years until her death in 2012 at the age of 92

His family said there would be a private cremation and a public memorial service.

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