Edward Gough Whitlam’s Condolences Motions at the Australian Parliament

Because I do not have a television at home, I spent an extra 45 minutes on the treadmill today in order to watch Gough Whitlam’s condolences motions at the Parliament. I did not get to watch all tributes because my legs eventually gave in. I learned so much about Whitlam’s political career and about him as a husband and a man of conviction. I do not always understand Australian politics, but here are some observations on a few of the tributes.

Both Shorten and Bishop have mentioned Whitlam’s efforts towards a more “tolerant” Australia. While, perhaps, this is the terminology Whitlam may have used during his political career, I think Australian politicians should refrain from using “tolerant” when describing the Australian society. Tolerance, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us should not be championed, instated, we need to aspire to become a more accepting society. Bishop and Shorten’s speeches should have reflected this. Tanya Plibersek’s speech I found to be a lot more carefully articulated compared to Shorten’s and Bishop’s. For example, when she mentioned Whitlam’s reform with regards to “new Australians,” she added “as they were referred to at the time.” Well done Plibersek, that was a more politically correct way to handle a problematic term. I thought that the Shakespeare ending of Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen’s speech was a nice touch. My last observation is on Pyne’s speech. He told a story about his mother crying when she heard that the Whitlam government had been dismissed. He said “I remember my mother was ironing,” and went on to mention his mother ironing at least three times. Correct me if I am wrong, recalling that his mother was ironing once would have been enough, but three times seems excessive and perhaps reflects his and his party’s policies on gender and women’s place in society. I might be reading too deep into it. But really once would have been enough, especially that in Gillard’s infamous misogyny speech she criticizes the opposition for saying “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…” So I do not understand his emphasis on the ironing part. No one in the Australian Parliament should ever put women and ironing in the same sentence ever again. Nevertheless, as I watched these motions on the small treadmill monitor, I realized that now may be the time for me to purchase a television.

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