The year 2022 was the Golden Jubilee of the election of Gough Whitlam's government, as well as the inaugural year of Anthony Albanese's. Whitlam faced similar economic challenges to Albanese and had some strikingly similar solutions, leading some to expect Albanese will emulate him and crash and burn within three years.
I'm not so sure.
Whitlam is a touchstone in Australian politics. He is revered by the Labor faithful as the man who modernised the country and the party and loathed by conservatives and the middle-ground as the man who almost broke the bank.
Elected in 1972 on the slogan "It's time," backed by an advertising jingle and countless celebrities, he gained a slim majority of seven, faced a double-dissolution election within 18 months, and was subsequently ejected from office with a record loss in 1975 after having been sacked by the governor-general.
Along the way, he expanded the size of the Commonwealth government by around a third to 23.5 percent of GDP, abolished university fees, established Medibank (now called Medicare), re-established relationships with China (while cutting them with Taiwan), cut tariffs by 25 percent, revalued the dollar, and established an Aboriginal Land Fund.
His biggest challenges were economic-the OPEC Oil Shock, persistently high inflation, and a recession; and personnel-a series of scandals caused by incompetent ministers.
Whitlam effected social change in the Labor Party, particularly its branches, transferring control from its founding blue-collar base to a university-educated white-collar one, and he reversed the status quo of 23 years of Liberal-National coalition.
After he lost, Whitlam became the template for future Commonwealth Labor governments of "what not to do," with the Hawke/Keating government strenuously disavowing any intellectual links.
Yet Whitlam has always held the heart of the Labor movement.
Parallels 50 years apart
They say history doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme.
There are certainly many similarities between the economic challenges faced by both Whitlam and Albanese.
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