Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Statement: The death of Gough Whitlam

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Gough Whitlam was a towering figure in Australian political life, who brought Labor back to power after a long period in the political wilderness and, despite his short tenure as PM, made many substantial and significant initiatives and reforms in areas such as education, the arts, the environment, immigration and multiculturalism.

The history books will certainly record the profound effects the Whitlam government had in shaping the Australia both of today and into the future.

He had what was at times a tumultuous, disappointing relationship with the Jewish community, with his somewhat cynical and indifferent "even handed " approach when the survival of Israel was at stake during the difficult period of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and his aggressive treatment of those who sought to engage with him rather than accept his judgement on all issues. But this does not mean we do not recognise his incredible overall impact on Australia in so many ways.

Gough Whitlam will be remembered for some remarkable policy achievements, and for his larger-than-life personality. Political, civil and cultural figures have paid him many deserved plaudits in the brief time since we learnt of his passing. Gough Whitlam was a unique Australian leader, and his passing is marked with deep sadness. We also wish to express our condolences to the Whitlam family.

 

Dr Colin Rubenstein
Executive Director
AIJAC

 

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