Former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam passed away today at the age of 98.
Whitlam came to power in 1972 under the Labor banner wresting power from the Liberal-Country coalition which had ruled the country for nearly a quarter century. Labor would earn a second term in 1974, but in November 1975 the Whitlam government was controversially dismissed by Australian Governor General John Kerr and made Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser caretaker Prime Minister and ordered an election. This would lead to a constitutional crisis. But instead of being angered at Kerr’s heavy handedness, Australians took out their anger out on Whitlam’s unpopular economic policies and elected Fraser’s Liberals to a large majority government. Fraser would defeat Whitlam again in the 1977 elections after which Whitlam stepped down as Labor Party leader.
Whitlam never forgave Kerr for his actions, but would have a rapprochement with Fraser. The two would campaign for the Yes forces during the 1999 referendum in favor of turning Australia into a republic although their efforts would not be realized.
Current Australian Prime Minister paid tribute to Whitlam in parliament today. Although Abbott made it clear he disagreed with many of Whitlam’s measure, he clearly liked him on a personal basis.