No wonder the old fellow refuses to fade away. Gough Whitlam’s dedication to reforming Australia’s system of government to make the states largely redundant has never had such support. The nation’s rulers seem to want to get their hands on everything - from industrial relations, to secondary school examinations, to running public hospitals, to reforming the Senate. It is like Canberra in 1972 all over again.
So there was the revered Labor Leader yesterday endorsing the proposals for a federal takeover of industrial relations. "Liberal Prime Minister John Howard correctly wishes our national parliament to have jurisdiction to make laws with respect to the terms and conditions of industrial employment," Mr Whitlam said in a statement which will be studiously ignored by his successors in the Labor Leadership.
These days it is the so-called conservative side of Australian politics that is the advocate of change and the so-called progressive Left that advocates the status quo. When Whitlam became leader of his Party 40 years ago the Liberal and National Parties were the states rights parties and Labor the centralist reformer. The roles are now reversed.