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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3510


Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/12/1974

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 3510

QUESTION: Since I last interviewed you, your title has changed,
you haven't you're still tall and gorgeous. What's so great
about being Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: It's the opportunity to do things or try to do
the things that you were dreaming about doing before you got
the job.
QUESTION: But some of the things have been more or less trial
and error haven't they?
PRIME MINISTER: There's a hell of a lot of things you can't do
because circumstances change. It's more difficult to do them
but on the other hand there has been an immense number of things
that you can get the satisfaction of at last having seen done,
or got done in your country.
QUESTION: Mrs Whitlam any political decisions of the Prime Minister
that you've disagreed with?
MRS WHITLAM: Inevitably.
QUESTION: Do you tell him?
MRS WHITLAM: Sometimes.
QUESTION: Who has last say?
MRS WEITLAM: Naturally he does. He is the Prime Minister. He's
the political person. I'm not, as I hasten to tell you and
everyb -v else.
QUESTION: , ny do you think you're so good for each other?
PRIME MINISTER: Well we've had to make do with each oth for
over 32 years now. ( Mrs Whitlam: Thanks very much.)
QUESTION: What attracted you to each other at first?
KR WHITLAM: It would be indelicate of me to say.
PRIML MINISTER: I suppose it was reassuring for me all those years
ago to find somebody who was much the same height and also who
had plenL-nf confidence and go and so on.
QUESTION: Still got plenty of confidence and gc?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, yes, yes.
QUESTION: What do you like doing together?
MRS WHITLAM: We don't get much opportunity to do anything together.
QUESTION: When do you have the opportunity?
MRS WHITLAM: We like going to concerts, listening to music.
PRIME MINISTER: Getting away to places like Hervey Bay.

MRS WHITLAM: Sitting in the sun.
QUESTION: What don't you like doing together?
PRIME MINISTER: You don't take time off to think. There is a
very great number of things that you're doing because you should
be doing them and some of them you like and some of them I suppose
you wouldn't bother to do that goes with the job. But you
don't really stop to say ' Do I like this or not?' You're involved,
it's part of the job and you obviously like the job. If you
set out in this life, this is the best job in it.
QUESTION: There seems to be so many problems in the press like
' Whitlam: Problems Mount'....
PRIME MINISTER: I saw that in yesterday afternoon's Brisbane
paper. QUESTION: I'm wondering if battling with the Premier is a
breeze compared to the problems in Canberra. Is it?
PRIME MINISTER: That heading I noticed in the Brisbane paper
yesterday. It's just a beat-up of something that was in one of
the papers that morning. I mean its just a beat-up there's
nothing to it.
QUESTION: But is it better being up here battling with the
PRIME MINISTER: Oh I don't know. There are a number of things
that can only be done in Australia since we have a Federal system
it the Federal Government and the State Governments co-operate. I
fr,. nkly think we aren't, here, but in every other State we are.
QUESIOi, We've had a few political handouts in the last few
months hei " rom the Federal Government?
PRIME MINISTER: And you would have had many more, as el . aer
State has, if you had taken them.
QUESTION: But a lo; of these political handouts come at election
time. PR. MINISTER: No, no.
QUESTION: Not just your party
PRIME MINIb.' R: For instance, we were elected two yea:: s ak.
Monday and at , hat time nobody expected that thc : e would btelection
for three year after that. Now in fact there was or
six months ago. Now any . andouts, as you call them, which ar(
taking place this year would 1-ive been done I s i-i 7-
of an election because you ordinaL_ ├Á expect to bt: r. rur J
and we have a good majority in the House of Represe.. atives and
of course, we still have. One would not expect there to be anot'
election for another 2 years in the House of Representative-, sG
what you say are handouts are part of a continuing program and
the program is in acts of Parliament or in reports which we've
sought and which we've published. They've not just becn in
anticipation of an election and we shouldn't. be having one for
another 2 years. i.

QUESTION: Wt. are having one here.
PRIME MINISTER: Oh a State one.
QJESTION: I feel Mr Perc Tucker has been slightly overshadowed
because all the big guns and the big stars have been coming
up from Canberra. Do you think he's going to be lost in the
glitter of it all?
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't know how much attention is being
given to various people things often get mesmerised or
concentrated in this way. But what you're talking about, you know,
handouts which are part of programs are being run in other
States too, and they're not having elections. There are a lot
of things that should be being handed out here which are not
being accepted.
QUESTION: I'm sure you would be grossly disappointed if I
didn't mention your relationship with Mr Hawke.?
QUESTION: What have you disagreed about most strongly?
PRIME MINISTER: There was, I suppose, the Prices/ Incomes Referendum
a year ago. That was actually the only one I can think of where
there was a substantial difference of opinion.
QUESTION: What have you agreed on?
Phi E MINISTER: Naturally enough I am very often in contact
wirh Mr Hawku. I suppose usually a week wouldn't go past,
certainly not a fortnightwhere we didn't have a conversation
face -o -ce or on the telephone, but this is to be expected.
Now there lways a lot of publicity given to any conversa
I have with Mr Hawke but I'm regularly conversing, co. re
with a very great number of people in Australia as you w d
expect. QUESTION: You're so vocal about your meetings, I. er that
he is going to see you at the week end?...
QUESTION: Exactly how is it when you do get together? fDoes
come in -" ring like a bull or do you sit down and have a ch,
PRIME MINISTER. Oh no, ' ue know each other very ' ell. It is i
there's always a great C-il of publicity if he calls on me. N
other people would call c -i on the same day and not y'et the
same publicity at all. No, 1 publicise the . ieeti-. gs T
have with anybody nor i ta -ct Leca-ise un'.-dIy
watch anybody calling at rny offii: : ini iarliament Housc or at the
Lodge in Canberra or Kirribilli anybody can watch bat they
don't notice. Recently in Sydney there was a group ( f peopl.
calling in the morning to discuss the uranium developm k-nts
in -h i) o1 i T ritor'-; thr-people who were out . t tne
gate to filEi. h 1w ent didn't identify who
these people were. It would have been the biggest story imaginable
if they'd identified them. That day these people didn't announce

that they'd come; I didn't announce that they'd come but
Ministers concerned were all present and nobody dropp,-2!.
what it was. And the next time. in fact, was quitc a lac_.. sessitoi
at the Lodge in Canberra and the following day we announced it
to everybody's surprise. So it is true that you hear a great
deal about meetings or conversations I have with Mr Hawke,
because they're well publicised. But my job inevitably means
that I'm talking to a lot of people all the time, pretty well
every day of the week.
QUESTlON: Also well publicised are your tours and in two weeks
you'll be off on another overseas tour and there's been criticisml
about the fact that you are overseas when you should be at home
say your visit to the U. S. when the econamy was falling apar-t
say when you visited Indonesia and we had the floods in Queensland.
When do you consider you were in the wrong place at th. wrong
time? PRIME MINISTER: The fact is there are some things that can only
be done on behalf of a country by the Head of Government of that
country and there's not a single visit I've made overs'eas that
people would say was not justified. You see, obviouslv. I sh,. ull
visit the U. S. or t-he U. N. or Britain or Japan or Europe or
Indonesia or New Z: c . land or get togaether with the heads of
other countries it -he British Corlamnealth. Now, that is myjob
to do it. I should do it. It's very easy to criticise some
Head of GovernmTent for not being in a particula. L place at a
particular timae. ff onec acceptc& J-all those cirticisms you'd
never budcje you'd be s' : yirkg ' hWill atiat's he doing lip
ir, Queensland in a State election?' e
QUELTION: I teol sure they are.
PRIME MINISTER: At the same time, my Goverment's objects are
quite c-' ralto this campaign. This is the only Governi. t in
Australia r' ch hasn't co-operated withi my Gov_-rn-, uent and
is a very ma~ terial theme to the campaign.
QUESTION: in this area 1 don't ti-ink x: eally terrn .,) r-. ied
about what t'arty i is. It's going to be " he rmn far a.
we're concerned and we kn~ ow the lo-' al andidat:. So 1 can' t
see that you're going to: aftezt ouc decoi* Lion !, ec-( al-. sc in a countrit
is so important that th man i rig',-
PRI_ That may be, but. nevertheles-, iiu
centL of pe:; ple certainly 80 per cont , uld -' ote
accoic 9olitLical party. i ion'It think there's : h d( k
about that. I tflin its quiLtu aji dlpropriate thing if peopl
want to ' 1. inow ,7 -Ll-meafrer th-.. z celect will votr or Peak.
of us would be if i7, roc t meithb. rs of politi
parties. None of us. u. one member CQuc-ns. L iC
Parliament is in without be4--a -member of a Part,,,, In the T
of fepresentativos it is yszars . years since th. -e w: -3 E
whLo d.. drn't belong to a poiitical pa., ty. So it's t. L. that
membership of a pc. irical party would make all ti~ e di-forenceperhaps
20 per cc-nt of their J~ ote ccenia be 1,, er..-oyaI. ano. 80 pe ' r~ t
would be uependenit on their being members of a pc'litical party.
QUESTION: Wh-t do yo-u think of independents?
MRS WHITLAM: You are not indepeiclknt if you are connected with
a political party at all. That is a deceit that is often practised.

PRIME MINISTt.': There are some issues on which our Par. I and in
fact dii Varics Allow~ members to vote its they wish on some
social issues but in general what makes the parliamentary
system work is the party system. This is the way it works in
US., N. Z. there's nothing to be apologetic about or
ashamed about. Nobody can afford to stand for Parliament unless
he is a member of a political party even a very rich man
couldn't afford it, would not get elected to Parliament, unless
he also had the support of a political party. A very good man or
a very rich man might make the difference where things were close.
QUESTION: Mr Nixon said " I've always thought that politics was
much harder for the wives than it is for men. They can fight
the battles whilee the wives suffer on the sidelines." Have
you ever had to suffer, Mrs Whitlam?
MRS WHITLAM: Quite often.
QUESTION: When? How?
MRS WHITLAM: I'm not going to say, or give instances. There are
many occasions on which I and other wives have been hurt by the
actions well, not so much by the actions as the reactions to
actions of our husbands or our Parties.
QUESTION: What do you think the perfect politEicians wife
should be?
MRS WHITLAM: I think she should just be a wife. I don't think
she should be any different than other wives. If she has a goal
in ilife she should be left to pursue that goal. If she has not,
shi shjuld be left alone also. She shouldn't be plagued because
she dc.! sn't want to do anything. She shouldn't be plagued
becau,. -he does want to do something.
QUESTION: -think you said in your diary that you were si
of people talking about how much money you got and I dor kwhether
it was really that or the fact that they were cr. (. sing
the fact that you have jobs, positions and they would have liked
to see you doing " goody goody" work.
MRS WHITLAM: I do what you call ' goody goody work' as well. B..
yi) i can't do that all the time.
PRIME MINISTER: You see the thing is that a poiiticanr, wife 1I
do an i----nse amount of work for which she's not paid can"~
be paid. -instancq, my wife goes to an immense number of
functions in electorate which I can't go to r w because rcf
I'm more tied up than E and if Margaret goes ~ o some functi.;
elsewhere in Australia, L. c doesn't get paid. Sure, she gets
her fare-paid, but if she stavp overnight she has to pay her
accommodation. She gets no aii. r-e for that. 11olic,
wife is a full time job for which he alone is paid.
QUESTION: Getting back to your electorate, do you think its a
disadvantage to have a Prime Minster as a representative?
PRIME MINISTER: I think it's compensated for by the fact that
having a Prime Minister for your local member is likely to bring about
more weight for what he says. You can't say that a thing should
be done just because a Prime minister asks for it to be done.

It ought to be done because it should be done, whoever asks.
Nevertheless, I suppose it is a fact that if the Prime Minister
asks a Department to look into a particular matter, the Department
is more likely to jump to-it than if a private member asks about
it. So its compensated for. The matters you take up are
likely to have more punch behind them. You were worrying about the
lot of a politician's wife. The thing that worries me more,
probably, is that the kids cop it. Now you quoted that heading
there in an afternoon paper. Well, afternoon papers are not
terribly serious publications but nevertheless you're likely to
have some hoarding~ on the streets. Now if your children are young
and we still have a daughter who's only 20 if she sees some
of these things, she's likely to have a clutch at the heart
and say " Oh, what's this." They cop it much more.
QUESTION: What qualities have you tried to instill in your
MRS WHITLAM: I think the qualities I admire most in children are
obedience and politeness.
QUESTION: Have they ever let you down?
PRIME MINISTER: On both scores. No, they're good kids. They've
been very satisfactory. But they' re independent persons.
MRS WHITLAM: But they were well disciplined weren't they?
PRIME MINISTER: Yes, we were tough.
QUESTION: Do you believe in the occasional smack?
MRS WKITLAM: Oh certainly. I was always the one who had
to do L. smacking, though, because he wasn't there.
PRIME MINIS~ rR: When I was home I took the brunt of that.
run to you as a court of appeal, sort of thing.
QUESTION: Mrs Whitlam is your television program " With Margaret
Whitlam" finished yet?
MRS WHITLAM: Yes for this season it has.
QUE. Is it a sore point with you?
MRS WH7T'NM: What do you mean? I enjoyed it; it was fun.
QUESTION: We_ you very disappointed about the ratings and -L.
fact that they removed y-' i from a prime time?
MRS WHITLAM: The ratings situaition was very unfair. That was
unfair. I was disappointed in attitude. I wa.-very please,
with the way the program went.
PRIME MINISTER: Did they show it up here?
PRIME MINISTER: You should have.

MRS WHITLAM: Why no;.?
PRIME MINISTER: It was great.
QUESTION: Did you watch it?
PRIME MINISTER: It was easier after 10 I think, but I wouldn't have been
home to see it more than once. No, I've seen it a couple of t. imes.
I think it turned out very well.
QUESTION: What would you rather see her as: an interviewer or
an interviewee?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh, both, both. I mean, she's got a lot of
experience now. She's a human person, so either way.
QUESTION: You mentioned in the press that you'd learnt a lot
during the program?
MRS WHITLAM: Certainly, because I knew nothing about the workings
of a program like that and I like to know how its done and I'd
know how to approach it another time. And/ alsoI'd know what
to be wary of on your side of the clipboard.
QUESTION: Are you passing hints on to Mr Whitlam?
MRS WHITLAM: No, no, he's my mentor.
QUESTION: What would you really like to be good at?
MRS WHITLAM: Oh, I don't know, do you mean I or we?
MRS WHIP-AM: Something new or something old?
PRIME MINIS17it: I think we're all right at what we're doing.
QUESTION: You wouldn't like to be a champion knitter?
QUESTION: Nothing else like that?
PRIR._ ' 11NISTER: She's an excellent knitter. She really is.
QUESTION: I think you mentioned that last time you were here.
MI WHTTLAM: Wll, you Must have asked me.
QUESTION: I was asking a. it who chooses clothes and who had the
greatest say. With yourwhole livesjis there anything you'd like to
MRS WHITLAM: Past or present?
MRS WHITLAM: I suppose you wish there were things you hadn't done
and things that you wish you'd had time to do. Overall I think
I'd really wish for moreto do it all in.

QUESTION: Politicans are a cartoonist's delight. Have you ever
kept any of their masterpieces?
MRS WHITLAM: I wouldn't say they were always masterpieces.
QUESTION: Which ones appeal to your sense of humour?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh there are dozens. But the funniest are always
those about other people.
MRS WHITLAM: The thing about cartoons is that they date so. You
know, you keep them for a couple of years thinking they're absolutely
marvellous and then you wonder what it was all about.
QUESTION: Have you heard any good jokes about yourself lately?
People do use your name for a joke. Do they tell it to your
MRS WHITLAM: It depends what jokes you're talking about. Tell us
one now.
QUESTION: No, I'm not good with jokes, I can't remember them.
PRIME MINISTER: A lot of jokes, I now find, people attach my name
to a terrific number of jokes I can remember being used about
Billy McMahon and Bob Menzies. I can't say they fit to me
the jokes they told about John Gortin. But particularly the ones
about Menzies and McMahon. When you're been in politics for a
fair time they crop up again. Whether you like it or not it happens,
so there's no use complaining. It doesn't really worry me.
QUESTION: What never ceases to amaze you about Mr Whitlam?
MRS WHITLAM ( unclear)
QUESTION: What never ceases to amaze you about Mrs Whitli
PRIME MINISTER: " Custom never stales her infinite variety".
QUES'" ION: What do you think Mc. z ' qhitlam looks good in?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm not particularly good at describing these
QUESTION: Have:.' t you ever said ' That's the be:; t thing I've
ever seen you in. Wear it dress again.'
PRIME MINISTER: I'm not vex2 . t describing materials or
colours. I remember for instance, _ wout 10 years ago I'd
brought her back some Thai silk maybe blue Thai silk and it made
up superbly. On a formal occasion she would stand out very
elegantly. Well I suppose you've caught me. I just don! t think
very often of this sort of thing.
MRS WHITLAM: He mentions it at the time and then forgets. He's
generally more impressed by women in evening dress than in
any other dress.

Q -9-
PRIME MINISTER: Yes that would ie so. If I've cihosen something,
naturally enough I'd notice it bo.'' use I'v sometimes brought
back things.
QUESTION: Is there anything he's brought back you thought was
absolutely ghastly.
PRIME MINISTER: I don't overdo it. If she doesn't like it, then
that's alright as far as I'm concerned.
MRS WHITLAM: They just go to the bottom of the pile of things
to be made up, that's all.
QUESTION: After elections these days, they usually play a
song appropriate to the occasion. Mrs Whitlam what song title
would you choose for your husband?
MRS WHITLAM: I'm not anticipating him going out, anyway, and
requiring a song.
QUESTION: I don't mean it to be a swan song. Just something
like, " You're just too good to be true" or " Baby face" or
something. PRIME MINISTER: Oh no, forget that!
MRS WHITLAM: Actually the titles of pop songs these days don't
always indicate the contents.
QUESTION: Have you got a song that means something to both of
you. Advance Australia Fair?
MRS WHITLAM: No, I'm afraid we don't. Perhaps the love theme
from " Tr'ristan and Isolde" the love duet....
PRIME MINIL'Fq: Or at our age, " Never on Sunday"!
QUESTION: What are your Christmas plans? You will be overseas
won't you?
PRIME MINISTER: We'll be in London for Christmas.
QUESTION: What would be your best Christmas preseint?
MRS 2LAM: Actually the best Christmas pr ; s-. cL xiolid b to
have everyone together, which is just about the most impossible
thing fo-. ir family because there are four children who are not
all over the .: orld now, but who always seem to be and they are
here. PRIME MINISTER: The first time they were all together for 10 years
was at Easter last year in We went over to see Mr Heath
and the Queen about some Constitut├▒ orn.-l things and they all
happened to be there at the one time. The first time for 10 years.
Not that they're so old. The eldeit is only
QUESTION: What would be a beaut Christmas present for you then.

PRIME MINISTEP: I don't know. You throw me so much with these
questions you ask.
QUESTION: You don't need a new razor or something like that?
MRS WHITLAM: He always needs a new razor.
QUESTION: I do hope it is a most enjoyable and happy time for
you for the festive season, and that politics are not too much
of a problem during that time for you and my very sincere thanks
to you, Mrs Whitlam and Mr Whitlam for appearing on the program.

Transcript 3510