The memorial service for former prime minister Gough Whitlam is currently underway at Sydney Town Hall, with around 1900 mourners inside and thousands more outside watching the service on a live screen.
The day got off to a troubled start when many realised that despite registering to attend, they’d missed out on a seat inside.
Events took another extraordinary turn when the ALP-partisan crowd turned the arrival of various politicians into a cross between a football match and pantomine, cheering for Labor figures and booing when Liberals, including prime minister Tony Abbott, arrived.
ABC TV put together a compilation as former PMs, including John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julie Gillard arrived. Despite the enmity between those last two ALP figures, the crowd gave them a strong cheer, perhaps Gillard more so, with Australia’s first female PM also receiving a standing ovation as she walked down the aisle of the town hall.
John Howard was not so lucky. They also booed as Bob Hawke spoke with Tony Abbott.
Here’s the crowd reaction.
Whitlam’s speech writer Graham Freudenberg paid tribute to his friend “The Whitlam touch is on us all. He touches us in our day to day life, in the way we think about Australia, in the way we see the world.
“He touches, still, the millions who share his vision for a more equal Australia, a more independent, inclusive, generous and tolerant Australia, a nation confident of its future in our region and the world,” Freudenberg said.
Cate Blanchett paid tribute as a child of Whitlam’s reforms, while Cape York Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson delivered an extraordinary and moving speech to “this Old Man”, mocking the arguments of modern politics about Whitlam’s legacy as akin to the scene in Monty Python’s Life Of Brian where they argue over what the Romans have done for them.
“The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management,” Pearson said.
“We salute this old man for his great love and dedication to his country and to the Australian people.”
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