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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3632


Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (17:47): Margaret Whitlam was the wife of a prime minister who, to me as a teenager, was right there with her husband all the time. She was actually in the game. Lots of prime ministers' wives were there as the 'first lady', but Margaret was there in the game. I think that was the first thing that really set her aside. Let us not cast aside anything; the early seventies were a fantastic time for Labor and they would not have been so without the Whitlams or without Margaret Whitlam at the front. We will always remember the 'It's Time' ad with Margaret and Gough singing at the front. I have heard Gough sing at certain functions and I bet you they muted his microphone.

There were a lot of similarities for me. Although I grew up in a very small country town in south-west Queensland right in the heart of Country Party territory—and my father would no sooner have voted Labor than fly to the moon—the similarities were that Margaret Whitlam was a lot like my mum. In the days when women did not work once they had children, my mum worked. My mum was there with her husband, with her partner, in the family business. And that is what Margaret did. Yes, it was on a bigger stage, but she was there with her husband, with her partner, in the family business.

That was the big difference with the Whitlams. While there could never be any doubt as to which one was the Prime Minister, they were a dead-set partnership. They set the template for the Hawkes and the Howards who followed so well in their wake. I never met either Whitlam. In fact, the closest I got to that was drinking a bottle of Nick Whitlam's wines—actually quite a few bottles of Nick Whitlam's wines. They were very good. The thing about Margaret Whitlam was that you felt you knew her. Even for someone like me who never got anywhere near her, you felt like that if you met her you would like her and that she would like you. You felt that she would be a person with whom conversation would flow easily. You felt that she was a person who would have an absolutely fabulous sense of humour—and the speeches so far in both the main chamber and here reflect that genuineness of nature. I am extremely jealous and envious of the member for Wentworth, who showed yesterday he had such a genuine love for this woman and will obviously miss her.

Both my grandmothers lived well into their nineties. Both were incredible women who, while nowhere near as famous as Margaret Whitlam, had a lot in common with her in that they truly loved their husbands; they were true partners in every success and failure of their partnership. They were always incredibly independent women.

The world is the poorer for Margaret Whitlam's passing. When I heard of her death my feelings were exactly the same as when Don Bradman died: you just wish that you had met them; your life would have been a little bit richer for having done so. But all our lives are richer for having lived during the time of Margaret Whitlam. There is one final thing: 70 years of marriage and they were still talking to each other! I have barely got to 10 and we barely speak a word! Probably that should not go in Hansard! But I do love my wife very, very dearly. All the way to the end of Margaret's life the one thing that never left them was the obvious love these two people had for each other. They were inseparable and I think that is the most wonderful thing given every day after day that they spent together. My condolences go to the entire Whitlam family, to all three surviving generations, and I ask sincerely that she rest in peace.