Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam has died, aged 98.
The announcement was made by his family in a statement. Mr Whitlam’s children – Antony, Nicholas and Stephen Whitlam and Catherine Dovey – said he was “a loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians.”
The family have announced there will be a public memorial service, following a private cremation. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said flags will be flown at half mast in recognition of his commitment to the nation. He said Mr Whitlam “united the Australian Labor Party, won two election and seemed, in so may ways, larger than life. “In his own party, he inspired a legion of young people to get involved in public life.
“He established diplomatic relations with China and was the first Australian Prime Minister to visit China. China is our largest trading partner. That is an enduring legacy.
“Gough Whitlam recognised the journey that our country needed to take with indigenous Australians. The image of soil passing from Gough Whitlam’s hand to Vincent Lingiari’s is a reminder that all Australians share the same land and the same hopes.
“Gough Whitlam’s life was inseparable from that of Margaret Whitlam. Margaret Whitlam was a leading light for women of her generation. Together they made a difference to our country.”
Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister of Australia from 1972 until his dramatic dismissal by the governor-general John Kerr in 1975. He is recognised for his reformist leadership and despite his sacking remained a prominent figure in Australian politics and society.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is expected to address the parliamentary Labor caucus this morning.
Governor-General Peter Cosgrove expressed his condolences on the passing of the Honourable Gough Whitlam AC QC
“On behalf of all Australians I wish to express sincere condolences to the Whitlam family on the passing of former Prime Minister, the Honourable Gough Whitlam AC QC. “Mr Whitlam was a towering leader of his time who made a significant contribution to the life of our nation and his legacy endures today.
“Lynne and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Whitlam family at this sad time,” he said.