The Leader pp 231-263 | Cite as

Achievement and Shortfall in the Narcissistic Leader

Gough Whitlam and Australian Politics
  • James A. Walter

Abstract

Conservative parties have dominated Australian federal politics since the Second World War. Coming to power in 1949 under Mr. (later Sir) Robert Menzies, the Liberal-Country party (L-CP) coalition held office continuously until 1972, when it was displaced by the reformist Australian Labor party (ALP) government of Mr. Gough Whitlam. Yet the Whitlam ALP government served for only three years before losing office in unusual and controversial circumstances in 1975, since which time the conservative coalition has again held sway. It is my purpose here to examine the leadership of Gough Whitlam and the effects he had upon the fortunes of the ALP government. But first, it is essential to sketch briefly the political history of the years before Whitlam came to power and the material conditions which the ALP administration encountered, for rarely can the success or failure of an administration be attributed solely to the qualities of an individual. In this case, the contingencies of situation and history were surely as relevant as the characteristics of leadership.

Keywords

Prime Minister Labor Government Labor Party Personal Staff Conservative Rule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    James Walter, The Leader: A Political Biography of Gough Whitlam (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1980), and see notes 6–8 below.Google Scholar
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    Every state has equal representation in the Senate, giving disproportionate influence to the electors of the least populous States, which are of course also the least industrialized, least urbanized and—some would argue—the least sophisticated. In addition, senators have six year terms, while members of Parliament have three, and only one half of the Senate goes to the polls in tandem with the House of Representatives each time. This can allow for the retention of majorities from a prior government in the upper house when—as happened in 1972—the complexion of the lower house has entirely changed through popular election.Google Scholar
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    The government’s legislative appropriation of the money necessary to carry out its functions is called “supply” in the Westminster system. Money bills are known as “supply bills.”Google Scholar
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    Frazer, The Golden Bough, pp. 7-8, points out that the homage the ancients paid their tribal king changed to hatred and contempt at the first sign of failure, and “he is dismissed ignominously, and may be thankful if he escapes with his life.” In my judgment, the L-NCP coalition had done so badly in the years after 1975, as to deserve to be returned only by the narrowest of margins in the 1977 elections. Yet the repetition of the anti-Labor landslide a second time suggests that the voters had an unfinished emotional score with Whitlam, who still had to be punished (unrealistically) for presuming so much, for raising hopes so high, and yet for still hanging on as Labor’s leader.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

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  • James A. Walter

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