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Thanks for the ride, Gough

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Being involved in politics during the Whitlam era was exhilarating

I have met every Prime Minister since Gorton, save Rudd. Most of these encounters have been fleeting and now, as those who were the young Ottomans of the seventies approach the age where they put their 70-year-old feet on the ottomans, it is interesting to reflect on Gough Whitlam, whose memorial service echoes in my ears as I write.

Everybody has an anecdote about Gough. Mine is about a night in 1973 when I was leaving Parliament House with John Knight, who later became Senator for the Australian Capital Territory before tragically dying in 1981 at the age of only 37. On the steps of Parliament House, we encountered Graham Freudenberg, who was working for Gough at the time. Both John Knight and I were on opposition leader Bill Snedden’s staff. However, staffers, irrespective of party affiliation, were generally on good terms, and Graham — Freudy, as he was known when we were all in a bibulous frame of mind — in the ecumenical spirit of the times, invited us both to a party.

We got lost going to the party in John Knight’s Datsun, but, spying a phone box, Freudenberg suggested we call for reinforcements. Five minutes later, after a brief phone conversation, around the corner came nothing other than C1, the Prime Minister’s car. I said to Freudenberg, “Not every day of the year that the principal private secretary of the leader…