The man who civilised Australia

Two prime ministers changed Australia’s attitude to culture and civilisation.

The first was the urbane, humane, hedonstic Gough Whitlam who ruled the country in the early 1970s until he was sacked in a constitutional putsch. Whitlam, who died last night aged 98, kick-started the Aussie film industry with substantial state investment while offering moral encouragement to every other art form. The country flowered under his aegis and never looked back.

The only other politician who matched his cultural vision was Paul Keating in the 1990s, a Parliamentary street-fighter who liked to say he prepared his budgets while listening to Mahler.

For the memory of such men, we love Australia.

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Keating, Whitlam, 1975

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  • Whitlam was a man with an extraordinary vision for Australia. As well as his support for the arts, he most importantly introduced a health system that became Medicare, as well as free university tuition and land rights for Indigenous Australians. I man of intellect, purpose, reform, strength, with a great sense of humor and a cracking bon mot. It is well worth reading the various obituaries to get a real sense of the breath of Whitlam’s life and achievements.

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