Bendigo labor figures honour Whitlam

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BENDIGO Labor politicians Lisa Chesters, Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allan have expressed their sorrow at the passing of Gough Whitlam and said how important a figure he was in the development of modern Labor. 

State MP for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said it was Gough Whitlam who inspired her to enter politics as a young girl. 

"The presence of the man and the dignity of the man and what he had to say about social justice and equality really triggered something in my mind," Ms Edwards said.

She said one of her most vivid memories was of her four uncles dancing around the living room just after Whitlam was elected prime minister in 1972 and singing his election catch cry, "It's Time". 

"That sparked my interest in politics about why this man was so revered," Ms Edwards said.

"He had the most progressive social agenda of any political leader in our history.

"He set the agenda for every leader thereafter."

Ms Edwards said she shed a tear this morning when she learned of his passing. 

"Gough Whitlam was the kind of person we all felt was invincible," she said.

"It's a very sad thing to realise that he’s no longer with us."

State MP for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said Gough Whitlam had a remarkable impact on Australian society.  

Ms Allan said Whitlam's legacy was still having an impact decades after he left office in 1975. 

"I think Gough Whitlam inspired each and every member of the Labor party," Ms Allan said.

She said Whitlam was "a doer", "a reformer" and wanted a fairer and just society. 

"Gough Whitlam is a very powerful symbol in the Labor party on what Labor values are and what Labor governments should do in office," Ms Allan said.

"His achievements are so many and broad and vast, it's hard to capture it just a couple of sentences.

"It's not just a legacy, it's a living legacy that is there today."

Ms Allan said her father and grandfather went to see Whitlam speak in Bendigo once.

She said her father described the day as one of the best days of her grandfather's life. 

Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said Gough Whitlam's ideas, values and legacy would live on forever. 

She said he brought in universal health care, free tertiary education, indigenous land rights, social reforms like abolishing the death penalty and funded community and legal aid programs.

"He basically said that any Australian regardless of background or postcode should have the capacity to become anything you want to be," Ms Chesters said.

"He inspired them to stand up for what they believed in.

"For young people like myself, those values have been passed on."

Ms Chesters said Labor was still fighting for many of the changes Gough Whitlam stood for. 

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