Speech to Parliament: Condolences on the death of Margaret Whitlam
Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (14:15): I join my very eloquent colleagues in sharing our condolences with the Whitlam family, particularly with Gough, who has lost his very best appointment. I have had the honour of representing Margaret Whitlam in the parliament, a fact she never failed to remind me of whenever I saw her. She had a remarkable, grounded nature that enabled her to restrain her husband’s grandiosity and flights of fancy. Having seen them closely at different times in my life, through our friendship over several decades, it was never entirely clear to me, because no one can ever really penetrate the ineffable mystery of the intimacy of a long marriage, whether Gough’s grandiloquence in Margaret’s presence was not designed as much to get a rise out of her as to satisfy his own sentiments. I always felt that the way Gough described her as Dame Margaret was having a little bit of a dig back at her for having a dig at him for being so grand.
She was an inspiring and loved woman, mother and Prime Minister’s wife—she was loved by all Australians. She radiated throughout her life an optimism, a generosity and a compassion that were unmistakable. She lived to a very great age—92 is a hell of an innings. We look back at her life, lived with her husband and her family over all those years, and we think of her with Gough going to China and we think of her with Gough at one great national event after another; these two enormous people—so tall—and producing these enormous children too, I might say. The image of Margaret that I think speaks most eloquently of the woman is the picture of the swimmer, the Bondi girl in her swimming costume, looking out into the future—a future she could not possibly have imagined. It was to be a future of leadership and of a long life of enormous eventfulness. She looked into that future in that picture. When you look at it, you see a look of optimism, of affection, of cheerfulness—a very Australian view into the future. You could say truly and with great affection of Margaret Whitlam that you could take the girl out of Bondi but you could never take Bondi out of the girl.