Whitlam’s memorial - It's still time for change

November 7, 2014
Part of the overflow crowd at the Whitlam memorial on November 5. Photo Peter Boyle

About 1700 people packed Sydney Town Hall, and an overflow crowd of thousands filled the adjacent square, for the official memorial service for former Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on November 5.

Sprinkled through the crowd were people who still had their iconic “It's Time” T-shirts and badges from the 1972 election that brought the Whitlam government to power.

It was a memorable gathering not just because of the passing of this former PM, but because Whitlam has come to symbolise a long-lost era of progressive reform in this country.

Sadly, today when you hear a politician — Liberal or Labor — speak of “reform” they are most likely talking about a regressive change. The bipartisan capitalist neoliberal agenda has stolen and debased the word “reform”.

The slogan on one T-shirt worn in the crowd that day captured the mood best: “It is STILL time!”. That's true in many ways.

I was a student in 1972 — only in university with the help of a scholarship — and “It's Time” really captured the popular sentiment of that time. I joined the Labor Club on campus and with thousands of others took to sleepy suburbs to letterbox election leaflets.

Conservative governments had been running the country for what seemed like ages and change was overdue.

Just like today. Except, the conservative governments that have been running — and ruining — the country for the last few decades have been Labor and Liberal.

The ALP and Coalition share the same regressive, corporate-profits-first agenda today while Whitlam's political nemesis, Malcolm Fraser, now stands for more progressive political positions than any Labor leadership in the past three and a half decades.

It's still time, but the change, next time around, is unlikely to come from an ALP government.

Whitlam became memorable only because his government was carried on a wave of powerful social movements against war, for women's liberation and against racism, among others.

The movements that will make a new wave of progressive change happen are still in formation.

Green Left Weekly is a critical part of the new movement for change. But the clock is ticking on us all. Time is running out to bring in the serious changes we need to address the climate change crisis.

We need your help today to make sure that when “It's Time” again, it won't be too late.

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