Miliband leads tributes after death of Australia’s ex-PM Whitlam

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has paid tribute to Australia’s “inspirational” former prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died at the age of 98.

Mr Whitlam led Australia’s Labour Party into power in Canberra for the first time in a generation in 1972, but was dismissed from office three years later by the Queen’s representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr, in the country’s greatest constitutional crisis.

Mr Miliband hailed him as “a great Australian” who had inspired social democrats around the world with his wide-ranging and long-lasting reforms. He said: “His achievements in three short years as Australian prime minister remain inspirational: in setting up universal healthcare, creating free higher education and recognising Aboriginal land rights, he changed his country forever.”

Whitlam, a flamboyant character and controversial social reformer died at 98.

Although national leader for only three turbulent years until 1975, many of his legislative and social innovations, once regarded as radical, are now accepted as part of daily life.

Regarded either as visionary or egotistical, Mr Whitlam won the 1972 general election with the slogan “It’s time” ending 23 years of rule by the deeply conservative Liberal-National party coalition and his pace of reforms angered opponents.

Conservative senators triggered a constitutional crisis in 1975 when they refused to pass his budget and demanded another election leading the Governor-general to dismiss the government, and Mr Whitlam as PM.

Despite his failure to win back power, Mr Whitlam remained a highly-admired figure.