A precious memory to add to the thousands of others being shared on this day of Gough Whitlam’s Memorial Celebration in Sydney Town Hall. Wednesday 5th Nov.2014.
It was 1977, the year that the Fox Commission was deliberating on whether our uranium supplys should be mined or allowed to remain within the earth.
This issue was one of the main items at the National Labor Party Conference held in Perth in July of that year.
During the year I had been working in a voluntary capacity in Sydney with the Movement against Uranium Mining, and I was given the opportunity to fly to Perth for the purpose of doing some lobbying on behalf of the campaign – although I had little idea of how to go about” being a lobbyist!”.
On arriving there, I decided to be content with just observing to start off with.
When everyone had assembled in the large conference hall, Mr Whitlam made a grand entrance.
Everyone rose and clapped enthusiastically. This was to be his last year as Federal president of the Labor Party.
When all of the delegates were seated, parliamentary style on a slightly raised platform, proceedings began, and I was lucky to find myself in the front row of all the other people attending.
It was all very interesting and exciting, and it wasn’t until I had settled down a bit, that I realised that I was sitting beside none other than Margaret Whitlam!
She was occupying herself quietly knitting as she listened, and we had little snatches of conversation in between breaks in the speeches.
After a while, she laid down the needles, gave a big sigh, turned to me and said ” I’d give anything right now to be able to go upstairs to my room and have a good afternoon nap”
In my customary fashion, I couldn’t resist asking ” then why don’t you do just that”?
I was very moved when, after a pause, she replied quite simply ” Because, even after all these years, Gough really likes me to be present and listening to him whenever he is giving a speech, and it really doesn’t hurt me to be willing do that for him.”
That reply proved to be just as memorable a moment for me as when the conference voted to leave uranium in the ground.