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Research Guides


Gough Whitlam: Guide to Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers


Chapter 6 - Leader of the Opposition, 1967–72

Gough Whitlam was elected Leader of the Australian Labor Party on 8 February 1967. He was now in a position to complete the internal party and policy reforms he had begun, and without which he believed the ALP could not hope to regain office. His grasp of policy and the need for reform within the ALP was extensive and had developed over a decade. He referred to his longplanned changes to the party, and modernising of the party platform, as 'the Program'.

This chapter covers significant archival records from Whitlam's time as Leader of the Opposition, including media releases, interviews and speeches held by the National Archives of Australia. Items relating to the historic 1971 ALP China delegation and to the Liberal Party are also highlighted.

In Opposition

Australian War Memorial

PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN IN PHUOC TUY PROVINCE, SOUTH VIETNAM, 10 AUGUST 1966

In 1966 Gough and Margaret Whitlam visited South Vietnam, travelling to the 1st Australian Task Force area in the Phuoc Tuy province, a month before the federal election. Whitlam was Deputy Leader of the ALP at this time. At the 1966 election, the ALP pledged the withdrawal of all Australian troops by Christmas if elected.

Whitlam was briefed for his visit to the Australian Task Force in Vietnam by the Commander, Major General Kenneth MacKay, and Major B Cassidy of 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR).

See also CUN/66/0621/VN and CUN/66/0626/VN

Series: CUN/66/0628/VN
MARGARET WHITLAM INTERVIEWED BY SERGEANT WAYNE GRANT, 30 JANUARY 1968

This interview took place in Vietnam during a five-week visit to Asia by Gough and Margaret Whitlam, their son Stephen and speech writer Graham Freudenberg. They left for Asia immediately after the memorial service for the missing, presumed drowned, former Prime Minister Harold Holt.

The topics covered in this recording include Gough Whitlam, a visit to South Vietnam, and civic action work of 110 Signal Squadron at Dong Choui Orphanage, Vung Tau.

A transcript of the recording may be available. For further information, please contact the Australian War Memorial.

Series: S03608

National Archives of Australia

PRESS OFFICE – PRESS RELEASES, STATEMENTS, PRESS CONFERENCES, INTERVIEWS AND SPEECHES, 1962–75
Sydney

These records were in use in three separate sets; the original order has been maintained. A master inventory of items from all three sets has been compiled, and an annual single number catalogue system imposed on the items. Sets 1 and 2 are arranged using headed divider cards, with a short title of the item and its date typed on each card. Set 3 has been arranged in folders by month in chronological order. All three sets contain the various types of public statements mentioned in the series title. Set 1 (original box numbers 1–36, the most complete set) was collected from Whitlam's office in Parliament House and seems to consist of copies for his personal reference. Set 2 (original box numbers 112–18), which were collected from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, West Block, appears to be the reference set used by department staff. Set 3 (original box numbers 100–11), which came from room U.50 in Parliament House, consists of what seems to be duplicates of material issued for press and publicity purposes.

Series: M170
Quantity: 8.5 metres
Recorded by: 1962–75 Department of the House of Representatives – Member for Werriwa (CA 692); The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99); Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet – Prime Minister's Office (CA 1401)
Personal papers of Prime Minister Whitlam – Federal Conference, Melbourne, 28 July 1969

This item comprises Whitlam's speech to the 1969 Australian Labor Party (ALP) Federal Conference in Melbourne. The conference was significant for the large number of resolutions passed and the decisions reached on key policy issues such as education, Indigenous affairs and Vietnam. In this speech, Whitlam attempted to set a cooperative and productive tone for the conference, which re-wrote much of the ALP platform.

M170, 69/136
Personal papers of Prime Minister Whitlam – Aboriginal land rights, 6 August 1972

Whitlam's major press statement on Aboriginal land rights reiterated the ALP's intention to honour the national pledge in support of Aboriginal rights recorded in the 1967 referendum and stated that if elected, the government would legislate for immediate recognition of Aboriginal land and mineral rights. He criticised the McMahon government's record on Aboriginal land rights, in particular the government's decision to remove the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which had been established on 26 January 1972.

M170, 72/120
Personal papers of Prime Minister Whitlam – New Guinea – statement by Whitlam, Port Moresby, 3 January 1971

In this landmark speech in Port Moresby in 1971 Whitlam on several occasions advocated independence for New Guinea. Whitlam described Papua New Guinea as a 'genuine, distinct and distinctive nation', and argued that it was time for Australia to decide 'whether or not she is willing to continue as a colonial power' and that the decision was ultimately about Australia's place in the world. Australia, he argued, had moral and material responsibilities to the people of Papua New Guinea, and 'ruling is not one of those responsibilities'.

M170, 71/1
Personal papers of Prime Minister Whitlam – 'Gorton–Fraser on Vietnam: statement by the Leader of the Opposition Mr Whitlam', 11 October 1970

In this press statement on the Vietnam War, Whitlam criticised Prime Minister John Gorton for hypocrisy in denouncing the reduction of forces in Vietnam while simultaneously bringing Australian troops home. Whitlam reiterated the ALP's support for de-escalating the war.

M170, 70/95
BRIEFING NOTES, NOTES FOR SPEECHES AND BACKGROUND MATERIAL, 1970–75
Sydney

The briefing notes do not appear to have been part of the records assembled in Whitlam's office. They are now arranged in chronological order. Some of the material was prepared by Whitlam's staff, but most of it appears to have been produced by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The notes were prepared for Whitlam's information, but some of them would also have been used by his staff when drafting speeches.

Series: M538
Quantity: 2.9 metres
Recorded by: Department of the House of Representatives – Member for Werriwa (Leader of the Opposition) (CA 692); The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99)
Statements on Indo-China, 1954–72

This item consists of a bound folder of every statement made by members of parliament on Indo-China from 1 April 1954 to December 1972. It was compiled by the External Relations Branch.

M538, 4
'GRAHAM FREUDENBERG'S FILES' – FILES OF THE PRINCIPAL SPEECH WRITER TO WHITLAM, 1961–73
Sydney

The series consists of the files of Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam's chief speech writer. It contains drafts and final copies of speeches made by Whitlam in the period 1961 to 1973. Correspondence, telegrams and messages of congratulations following the 1972 election are included.

Series: M156
Quantity: 1.8 metres
Recorded by: Department of the House of Representatives – Member for Werriwa (Leader of the Opposition) (CA 692) (CA 692); The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99)
Historical, 1969–73

This item contains nine files. It includes the draft of Whitlam's 1972 'It's time' policy speech, which he delivered on 13 November 1972 at Blacktown Civic Centre.

M156, 29
PERSONAL FILES OF MR RICHARD HALL, 1967–72
Sydney

This series of records comprises the personal files of Richard Hall, who was Whitlam's private secretary. The records are arranged in alphabetical order. The series is not itemised, but consists of three boxes and 38 folders. It includes files on Sir John Gorton, detailed notes on Whitlam's 1967 South- East Asia trip, and copies of Whitlam's speeches on Vietnam and state aid.

Series: M863
Quantity: 0.5 metres
Recorded by: 1967–72 The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99)
CORRESPONDENCE AND PUBLICATIONS CONCERNING THE 1968 ELECTORAL REDISTRIBUTION, 1968
Sydney

This series comprises folders of correspondence, maps, plans and other publications relating to the electoral redistribution of 1968. Whitlam consistently argued the need for electoral reform, in particular for equal electorates, or 'one vote one value' to end the rural gerrymander. This was an issue he successfully pursued in office with the passage of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, at the historic Joint Sitting of parliament of 1974, following the government's re-election at the May 1974 double dissolution.

Series: M862
Quantity: 1.3 metres
Recorded by: 1968 The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99); Department of the House of Representatives – Member for Werriwa (CA 692)
COPIES OF OUTWARD CORRESPONDENCE (GREEN COPIES), LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, 1969–72
Sydney

The series consists of 18 arch back folders, arranged in chronological order, which contain green carbon copies of outward correspondence from Whitlam's office. Most letters are signed by Whitlam, although some are signed by his private secretary or press secretary.

Series: M159
Quantity: 1.8 metres
Recorded by: 1969–72 The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99) Department of the House of Representatives – Member for Werriwa (CA 692)

ALP China delegation

On 1 July 1971 Gough Whitlam, leader of the ALP, led a historic Labor Party delegation to the People's Republic of China. It comprised ALP Secretary Mick Young; ALP President Tom Burns; Shadow Minister for Primary Industry Dr Rex Patterson; China expert Dr Stephen FitzGerald; and speech writer Graham Freudenberg. Whitlam's visit took place before that of US President Richard Nixon and was extensively covered by international media, particularly his historic meeting with Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai on 5 July in the Great Hall of the People. As he began the journey back to Australia, Whitlam celebrated his 55th birthday at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai. As he arrived in Tokyo some days later Whitlam heard the extraordinary news that the American National Security Advisor, Dr Henry Kissinger, had arrived in Beijing to arrange Nixon's own visit later that year.

National Archives of Australia

PHOTOGRAPHS RELATING TO WHITLAM'S PARLIAMENTARY TERM OF OFFICE, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1952–78
Sydney

These photographs cover Whitlam's activities during his parliamentary career. They document family gatherings, meetings with foreign dignitaries on overseas trips, electioneering activities, and various official and unofficial occasions. Also included are publicity portraits of Gough and Margaret Whitlam and of Labor ministers.

Series: M155
Quantity: 3.7 metres
Recorded by: 1952–78 Department of the House of Representatives – Member for Werriwa (Leader of the Opposition) (CA 692); The Hon. Edward Gough Whitlam AC, QC (CP 99)
Gough Whitlam and Chou En-Lai, 1971

This image shows Gough Whitlam and Chou En-Lai during their historic meeting in the Great Hall of the People, People's Republic of China, on 5 July 1971.

M155, B22
ALP delegation to the People's Republic of China, 1971

This image shows Whitlam, the ALP delegation and representatives from the People's Republic of China.

M155, B22
Whitlam and ALP delegation to the People's Republic of China, 1971

This image shows Whitlam and the ALP delegation meeting with representatives from the People's Republic of China.

M155, B22

National Library of Australia

RECORDS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LABOR PARTY (CAUCUS), 1906–2007

This extensive collection comprises Caucus minutes (1906–89); correspondence books (1909–17); minute books; Labor Senators' Party meetings (1915, 1916); attendance rolls for federal Labor members at Caucus meetings (1914–38); Caucus committee files; Caucus general correspondence; and agendas, resolutions, circulars, contacts, submissions, reports, committee lists and other papers. The files include information relating to the ALP Federal Executive (1956–65); Select Committee on Voting Rights for Aborigines (1960–65); federal conferences (1961, 1966); legal documents on Portuguese ship-jumping in Darwin (1962); the Richardson report on parliamentary salaries (1948–59); and files on notices of motions. The collection is restricted.

Finding aid online.

Series: MS 6852
Quantity: 19 metres (96 boxes) + 14 cartons + 1 folio box
PAPERS OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY FEDERAL SECRETARIAT, 1917–93

The federal parliamentary Labor Party was formed in 1901. Archibald Stewart was elected first Federal Secretary of the ALP in 1915. In 1963, Cyril Wyndam was elected the first full-time Federal Secretary. This extensive collection includes minutes, agendas and reports of meetings of the ALP Federal Executive and federal conferences, and correspondence between the Federal Secretary, ALP members of parliament and other office holders (for instance, branch secretaries). The collection is restricted.

Finding aid online.

Series: MS 4985
Quantity: 117 metres (577 boxes) + 103 cartons + 3 folio boxes + 3 folio volumes
SPEECHES PRESENTED BY HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II IN AUSTRALIA, 1954–92

The collection comprises a set of speeches made by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Australia between 1954 and 1992. It is arranged chronologically within each tour. It also includes 10 speeches presented in New Zealand (7–17 February 1963).

Finding aid online.

Series: MS 9174
Quantity: 0.1 metres
PAPERS OF CLYDE CAMERON, 1924–2004

This collection has been donated by Clyde Cameron in regular instalments since 1973. It comprises correspondence; diaries; memoirs; a wide range of ALP material, including minutes, reports, articles, press releases and speeches; Australian Workers' Union rule books and other publications; and other material, including an extensive collection of pamphlets. Much of the collection has been collated, indexed and bound by Cameron. The collection is restricted.

Finding aid online.

Series: MS 4614
Quantity: 32 metres (148 boxes) + 7 folio boxes + 114 volumes
Telegram from Mick Young regarding invitation to Whitlam to visit China in 1971 Box 5, Folder 1
Telegram to Tom Burns, 21 May 1971

A furious Cameron wrote a telegram to Burns regarding the ALP delegation to China. He insisted on the inclusion of ALP National Secretary Mick Young, who had first suggested the visit.

Box 5, Folder 1
PAPERS OF RICHARD HALL, 1934–2003

This large collection contains papers accumulated by Hall during the course of his career as a journalist, author and political advisor. More than 130 boxes are organised in 36 series of papers, several of which relate to Hall's work in the political sphere. Series 15 records his time as press secretary to Whitlam during the period 1969–72.

Series: MS 8725
Quantity: 21 metres (132 boxes) + 3 folio boxes
China and Ross Terrill – ALP delegation to China (includes correspondence), 1971

This folder contains correspondence relating to the ALP delegation to China in July 1971, including Ross Terrill's correspondence with Étienne Manac'h, French Ambassador to the People's Republic of China. Terrill was a China expert based at Harvard and Whitlam had asked him to correspond with the French Ambassador to facilitate the visit.

Series 15, Box 51, Folder 2
Research material

This folder is within a series that contains papers relating to 'First days', Hall's working title for his unfinished biography of Whitlam. The bulk of the papers comprise Hall's extensive research material. Folder 20 includes an extract from an unpublished autobiography by Sir William (Billy) McMahon (undated) in which McMahon acknowledged that he did not accept that the Governor-General had the power to dismiss a government.

Series 30, Box 97, Folder 20

Private collection

PRIVATE PAPERS OF DR STEPHEN FITZGERALD

Diplomat and academic Dr Stephen FitzGerald, a China expert, was part of the ALP delegation to the People's Republic of China in 1971. He holds a collection of photographs taken during the visit. Whitlam later appointed Dr FitzGerald as the first Australian Ambassador to China, one of the Whitlam government's first actions.

Liberal Party of Australia

Australian National University Archives

AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY CORRESPONDENCE FILES
Series: ANUA 53
Registration for National Service, 1965–72

Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, conscription, anti-war protests and the ANU's relationship with the Holt, Gorton and McMahon governments form the backdrop to this multi-part file. Students refused to register for National Service, those pursued by the authorities found sanctuary on campus, and funds were collected for the National Liberation Front. ANU Vice-Chancellor Sir John Crawford tried to maintain the university's independence and the privacy of student information, but for a time faced proposed amendments to the National Service Act aimed at requiring the addresses of draft resisters to be supplied to government. The file includes correspondence, press releases, newspaper clippings, telegrams and legal opinions. Inevitably, it includes references to McMahon as Minister for Labour and National Service, Fraser as Minister for Education and Science under Gorton, and Holt and Gorton. Finally there are references to draft resisters criticising Whitlam for arguing that they should give themselves up.

ANUA 53/4.0.0.22 Parts 1–3 & C

National Library of Australia

BARWICK, GARFIELD, INTERVIEWED BY PETER COLEMAN, 1995

Garfield Barwick was Chief Justice of the High Court (1964–81), Attorney-General (1958–63), and Minister for External Affairs (1961–64). Barwick spoke of the Governor-General Sir John Kerr's dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975; the debate over reserve powers; a republic and the required constitutional amendments; his period as Attorney-General; contrasting his matrimonial causes legislation with Lionel Murphy's later legislation; the Crimes Bill and the Petrov Royal Commission; Sir Robert Menzies; Sir John (Black Jack) McEwen; the High Court and external affairs powers; High Court judicial review; appointment to the High Court; Lionel Murphy; Sir Owen Dixon; and reviews by Sir Zelman Cowan and Lee Kwan Yew of his book A Radical Tory.

Series: TRC 3317
GORTON, JOHN, INTERVIEWED BY CLARRIE HERMES, 1985

John Gorton was Prime Minister of Australia (Liberal Party) from January 1968 to March 1971. He was a member of the Australian Parliament for 26 years, first as a senator, then as a member of the House of Representatives. Gorton spoke of his family background; education; early life; Oxford days; his beginnings in politics and career in the Senate; politicians and issues during his career; Robert Menzies; Harold Holt; the relationship between the Liberal and Country parties; Sir William (Billy) McMahon; Doug Anthony; problems during his term of office; the VIP aircraft incident; foreign affairs; the 'Mushroom Club'; Don Chipp; and the 1972 election. Gorton is critical of the Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Fraser's decision to block Supply, which he described as 'a disgusting way to go on', and argued that the government was being 'held to ransom by the Senate'.

Series: TRC 4900/47
GORTON, JOHN, INTERVIEWED BY MEL PRATT, 1976

John Gorton spoke of his early life in Sydney and Melbourne; Oxford; pilot training in World War II; 135 Squadron; Singapore; the accident at the tank farm; Indonesia; returning to Darwin; electioneering for the Senate; socialism; the role of a senator; Robert Menzies' double dissolution; the Democratic Labor Party; his appointment as Minister of the Navy; his contribution to the arts; Malcolm Fraser's resignation; Billy McMahon's election; the dictatorship accusation; Ainslie Gotto; conspiracy against him; Defence; Alan Reid; disappointments; and loss of the 1972 election.

Series: TRC 121/78
MCMAHON, WILLIAM, INTERVIEWED BY RAY AITCHISON AND JONATHAN GAUL, 1974

Sir William (Billy) McMahon was the Liberal member for the seat of Lowe, NSW, from 1949 to 1982. His portfolios included Minister for Labour and National Service (1958–66); Treasurer (1966–69); and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1969–71). He was Prime Minister from 1971 to 1972. McMahon discussed his family background and early life, education and interest in politics.

Series: TRC 316–17
SNEDDEN, BILLY, INTERVIEWED BY BERNADETTE SCHEDVIN, 1983, 1987

Billy Snedden held the seat of Bruce, Victoria, for the Liberal Party from 1955 to 1983. He was Leader of the Opposition from 1972 to 1975, and also held the portfolios of Attorney-General, Immigration, Labour and National Service, and Treasury. Snedden spoke of his family background; early life; early attempts to enter parliament; early jobs with the Department of Immigration and as a solicitor; entry into politics; the effect on family of political life; politicians and issues during his career, including the 1972 election; Whitlam and his government; the media; Phillip Lynch; Malcolm Fraser; the role of the Opposition; Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO); the 1974 election; internal politics and problems of the Liberal Party; and the 1975 election and preceding constitutional crisis.

Snedden recounted the appearance of the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at the annual St Andrew's Day dinner of the 'Melbourne Scots' in November 1976. Kerr was a guest of honour at the invitation of Sir Robert Menzies. A bastion of conservatism, the dinner became a de facto celebration of Whitlam's dismissal. Snedden recalled his embarrassment at a drunken Sir John Kerr clasping his outstretched hands in victory, 'like a boxer just having won the crown … It sickened me'.

Series: TRC 4900/57
SNEDDEN, BILLY, INTERVIEWED BY CATHERINE SANTA MARIA, 1976

Snedden provided withering opinions on several political identities, issues and his Liberal Party colleagues including Malcolm Fraser, John Gorton, Billy McMahon, the Democratic Labor Party, the Packers, Arthur Calwell, Whitlam Attorney-General Lionel Murphy's ASIO 'raid', the threatened blocking of Supply in 1974, John Kerr, Vietnam, the Loans Affair, and Robert Menzies.

Series: TRC 455/1
ST JOHN, EDWARD , INTERVIEWED BY VIVIENNE RAE-ELLIS, 1983

Edward St John held the seat of Warringah, NSW, for the Liberal Party and as an Independent from 1966 to 1969. St John spoke of his mother; university life; Gough Whitlam; John Kerr; Nigel Bowen; Garfield Barwick; pre-selection; the 1966 election; parliament; his maiden speech; the Voyager; John Gorton; his resignation from the Liberal Party; the 1969 election; the Liberal Party after 1969; and contemporary issues.

Series: TRC 4900/70

University of Melbourne Archives

MALCOLM FRASER COLLECTION

The Malcolm Fraser Collection at the University of Melbourne comprises documents, photographs, books and other material relating to the life, family and career of Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia from 1975 to 1983. The collection complements the official records held at the National Archives, as well as several other personal and political collections at the University of Melbourne.

Series: F1
Articles, reports and press clippings relating to the ALP, senior ALP figures and South East Asia (including Vietnam), 1955–67

The Liberal Party kept detailed notes on the ALP and senior ALP figures. This item consists of loose papers, publications, articles, reports and newspaper clippings relating to the ALP. A Liberal Party 'research note' dated 12 August 1965 gives a detailed overview of the differences in the ALP at that time, in particular between Arthur Calwell and Gough Whitlam. It includes Barry Jones' 1964 article, 'The two ALPs'.

105/99

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