Whitlam’s Mur’bah stopover
IN AUGUST 1975, then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam opened the Murwillumbah Civic Centre.
Present at that ceremony, which drew a huge crowd, was the Local Member and leader of the then Country Party, Doug Anthony.
Mr Anthony and his wife Margot were seated next to Gough's wife Margaret.
Mr Anthony said this week he had no inkling on that day that within three months he would be elevated to Deputy Prime Minister, serving alongside new Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser after Mr Whitlam was sacked by the Queen's representative, Sir John Kerr.
Mr Anthony said one of his strongest memories of that day was feeling small beside the towering Gough and Margaret as he walked alongside them.
He said it was a great privilege for the PM of the day to pay a visit.
He remembers Mr Whitlam's three years as PM as being very tumultuous.
"Parliament was pretty lively; it was pretty emotional.
"It was getting wilder and wilder. It wasn't a period our Parliament could be proud of."
While they were on opposite sides of the political fence, post-retirement Mr Whitlam and Mr Anthony became friends.
The ex-PM had an affection for Doug's late father Larry Snr and would regale him with stories.
"He was very good company and he had a marvellous brain," Mr Anthony says. "He could remember everything that had gone on."
Mr Whitlam, who was prime minister from 1972 to 1975, died on Tuesday at 98.
Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot said she was privileged to meet Gough on numerous occasions and was in awe of his legacy.
"Gough's achievements are so many, including universal health care, free university education; indigenous land rights; an end to conscription; the abolition of the death penalty; the diplomatic recognition of China; the Racial Discrimination Act; no-fault divorce; legal aid; vital changes to our social security system," Mrs Elliot said.
"The fact is, Gough inspired a generation and inspired a nation to be self-confident, looking out to the world and embracing it with confidence."