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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3249

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:05): As the Prime Minister has said, Margaret Whitlam was much loved by Labor people and well respected by the wider Australian community, and Australians are united in mourning her passing. She once noted in her diary that 'if I can do some good, I'll certainly try'. She did try, and she certainly succeeded.

Prime ministerial spouses, if I may say so, have two principal means of doing good: first, to use the eminence afforded to them to promote good causes and good values; and, second, to do what they can to help their spouses to be their best selves. On both counts, Margaret Whitlam was an exemplar. To the wider community she was a model spouse, a model mother and a model for women who wanted to make the most of themselves. She was also a tireless activist in the Labor cause and a great promoter of the arts. To her husband, it seems, she was a vital reality check. For all his famous wit, her distinguished husband had a loquacious tendency. As has been remarked by former Labor leaders Hawke and Hayden and by former Labor minister Mr Cohen, just about the only person allowed to interrupt Gough when he was in full flight was Margaret. Bill Hayden was quoted in the press on the weekend describing an occasion when the former Prime Minister was speaking at some length. Eventually, Margaret said audibly, 'Will somebody tell that man to sit down?' She started banging her walking stick on the floor until finally Gough indeed sat down. Our spouses do us sterling service when they bring us back down to earth, as all of us in this place sometimes need bringing back down.

Gough, as the Prime Minister earlier noted, once described Margaret as his best appointment. But fittingly he described her last weekend simply as, 'The love of my life.' We join the Prime Minister in offering our condolences to Gough and to the Whitlam family. We join with the Prime Minister in expressing our gratitude for a great life well lived.