Gough Whitlam dies aged 98; Family says 'loving and generous' father was 'source of inspiration'
Updated2 minutes agoTue 21 Oct 2014, 9:07am
Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam has died.
Mr Whitlam led the country through a period of massive social change from 1972 to 1975 before his ousting by governor-general Sir John Kerr.
"Our father, Gough Whitlam, has died this morning at the age of 98," Mr Whitlam's family said in a statement.
"A loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians.
"There will be a private cremation and a public memorial service."
Mr Whitlam leaves a legacy of unprecedented and unmatched change in Australian politics.
Arguably, he was as much lauded for his reformist leadership and eloquence as he was lambasted for his autocratic style and profligacy.
But it is for being at the centre of Australia's most ferocious political storm, the "Dismissal", that Mr Whitlam will forever be remembered.
Mr Whitlam remained one of Australia's most towering figures despite being the country's only prime minister to be sacked, a touchstone moment in the nation's political history.
He led Labor to its first victory in 23 years at the December 1972 election on the back of the famous "It's Time" campaign before being sensationally sacked by Sir John on November 11, 1974.
His dismissal was prompted by a refusal by parliament's upper house, where his Labor Party did not hold a majority, to pass a budget bill until the government agreed to call a general election.
To end the impasse, Sir John took the unprecedented step of sacking Mr Whitlam and installing then opposition leader Malcolm Fraser as caretaker prime minister.
For the first, and so far only, time in Australian history, the head of state used his constitutional powers to dismiss the government of the day.
Malcolm Fraser was appointed caretaker PM while the country reeled from the episode.
Despite being in power for only three turbulent years, Mr Whitlam launched sweeping reforms of the nation's economic and cultural affairs, cementing his place as one of Australia's most revered leaders.
He stopped conscription, introduced free university education, recognised communist China, pulled troops from Vietnam, abolished the death penalty for federal crimes and reduced the voting age to 18