Australia’s worst-ever Prime Minister, Edward Gough Whitlam, died on Monday, aged 98.
Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party came to power at the end of 1972, inheriting from the previous Liberal (i.e. conservative) Government a stable, prosperous country which they proceeded to run into the ground. Australia was a long time recovering from their legacy of folly and criminality.
Whitlam’s very first action as Prime Minister was to restore the passport of Wilfrid Burchett, the Australian traitor and KGB operative who had helped interrogate allied prisoners of war in North Korea and helped fabricate fake germ-warfare confessions.
To gain credence in the Third World, Whitlam granted Papua New Guinea independence long before it had a trained and educated class capable of running it. Despite mineral wealth, it is now a typical corrupt broken-backed third world state, kept barely afloat by Australian aid.
When Saigon fell in April 1975, Whitlam directed the Royal Australian Air Force not to evacuate Vietnamese who had worked for the Australians and whose lives were at risk. Huge Hercules transport aircraft flew out of Saigon and Da Nang empty. He even frustrated U.S. attempts to get them out. The blood of the Australian-associated Vietnamese who died in jungle re-education camps is on Whitlam’s hands.
Later, in opposition, Whitlam and his cohorts would lead an unsuccessful campaign to refuse sanctuary to Vietnamese boat-people, and demanded their forcible repatriation, à la Yalta. His minister for immigration, Clyde Cameron, spread false statements that they were prostitutes and black-marketeers who were riddled with an incurable venereal disease.
Whitlam’s government was the first in the Western World to recognize the psychopaths who took over Cambodia (an event Labor spokesmen hailed) and proceeded to murder about a third of the population.
He connived at the Indonesian takeover of East Timor and the brutal repression that followed.
The Whitlam Government was also the first in the Western world to ratify the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by extending recognition to the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States, Whitlam claiming this was simply recognizing reality as they would be part of Russia forever. Furious Baltic refugees followed him round Australia demonstrating, and it has been suggested this sparked his hatred of refugees from Communist countries.
At least one would-defector, the young Russian violinist Georgi Ermolenko, was seized and forcibly repatriated with the aid of a KGB man from Canberra and the Royal Australian Air Force. Naturally, Whitlam adored Mao Tse-tung and severed relations with Taiwan.
A subsequent Labor Finance Minister, Peter Walsh, said a majority of Whitlam’s cabinet were economic cranks. Fiscal discipline was cast to the winds. Free University places were given to anyone that wanted them at the taxpayers’ expense, and to further buy popularity money was showered on “the arts,” giving rise to a tsunami of dreadful poetry.
As a small example of this craziness a 10-year-old boy was given, at taxpayers’ expense, a set of film-making equipment. Attempts to set up Aboriginal turtle farms (the Aborigines concerned having been taught nothing about turtle-farming) collapsed in farce. (A cartoon showed two small businesses side-by-side: “Toby’s Turtle Farm” and “Toby’s crunchy meat pies.”) These were only vignettes against an overarching factor of fiscal policy completely out to control. Inflation, which had been about 4 percent under the Liberals, reached towards 20 percent and unemployment followed in lockstep.
With fixed-income earners suffering, his wife Margaret advised them to “shop competitively.” Asked about the Prime Minister’s domestic arrangements, she claimed, “We control things together, like a King and Queen.”
An “Australian Assistance Plan” was set up to create “regions” that would allow Canberra to bypass the State Governments for purposes of social engineering, as in Nazi Germany Hitler had set up regions or Gaus, under Gauleiters to directly transmit Berlin’s orders to every part of the Reich.
Whitlam’s sometime deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Jim Cairns (even Whitlam had to sack him eventually for serial lying), had a long and prominent record of association with Soviet “Peace” fronts, and the Americans warned Whitlam he was a security risk. He attempted, through a shady Pakistani, to borrow $4 billion (in 1974 dollars), for purposes that were not stated but which could only have been to enable the Government to function without the consent of Parliament. How the Australian Treasurer could have done such a thing strains credulity. Cairns printed money, and made large grants to favored companies who were big employers, in a crude attempt at vote-buying and “picking winners.” On April 15, 1975, anti-tariff campaigner Bert Kelly sarcastically asked Cairns in Parliament: “If printing money is a good solution to the unemployment problem, why not print more of the stuff and get rid of unemployment altogether?”
Cairns replied: “We might do precisely that. There are still about 250,000 persons unemployed in Australia. I assure the honourable Member, and every other honourable Member, that if by government expenditure I can ensure that every one of those men is put to work, productively, I will make sure that he is.”
Believe it or not, Cairns was serious. The Australian economy was in the hands of a crack-pot and wrecker.
Of the rest of Whitlam’s cabinet, two, Al Grassby and Lionel Murphy, were thought on very strong evidence to have links with organized crime. (Murphy was made a High Court judge.) After Grassby’s death, a number of revelations were made in the media, particularly in relation to his alleged links with the Calabrian mafia, and the disappearance and probable murder of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay. The Melbourne Herald Sun ran a series of articles alleging Grassby used his influence to thwart a National Crime Authority investigation into the mafia, and to let mafia criminals into Australia, and that he was “paid to do the mafia’s bidding,” including receiving a $40,000 payment from the Griffith mafia to smear Mackay’ widow Barbara.
Another, Rex Connor, had a crazy and bizarre plan to cover Australia with a network of gas pipelines, for what purpose nobody knew, and which had not been costed. In various ways Whitlam and his colleagues tested the Australian Constitution to its limits. For the first time since Australia became a nation, there were mutterings of rebellion.
Finally, late in 1975 Parliament refused to vote the Government money to continue, and the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Whitlam and called an election. Kerr’s action, taken with the advice of Australia’s senior judge, was impeccably correct, but Whitlam did not accept dismissal gracefully, or do anything to calm what was at the time a fraught situation, with political violence possible, threatening “Well may we say ‘God save the Queen’ for nothing will save the Governor-General!” and “Take your rage to the streets!”
In the event, Whitlam and Labor were rejected by the biggest landslide in Australian history, repeated when another election was called two years later. The rest of Whitlam’s career was a long-drawn anti-climax, fulminating against Vietnamese boat-refugees, and campaigning futilely for a republic.
Ironically, it was a later Labor Government, under R. J. Hawke, that began sensible and needed economic reforms such as Whitlam had had a chance to enact. His one uncharacteristically positive legacy was a 25 percent across-the-board tariff cut. It was unpopular, but right.