Today's Birthday 11/7

Callum Godde
Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's policies were inspiring but expensive

Today's Birthday, July 11: Former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam (1916-2014).

The younger sister of former prime minister Gough Whitlam died earlier this year, almost four years after her famous brother.

Church leader Freda Whitlam died in May aged 97, living one less year than brother Gough, whose reformist policies and infamous 1975 dismissal remain part of Australian political folklore.

The siblings remained close throughout their lives, with Gough telephoning her ever Sunday until shortly before his death in 2014.

Born Edward Gough Whitlam in Melbourne in 1916, Whitlam gained a Bachelor of Arts and Law degree at the University of Sydney and served as a flight lieutenant in the Pacific War before being admitted to the bar in 1947.

Having joined the Australian Labor Party in 1945, Whitlam won the federal seat of Werriwa in Sydney's southwest in a 1952 by-election. Over the coming years he emerged as a relatively young leadership contender with fresh ideas.

He took the Labor leadership from retiring Arthur Calwell in 1967 and reformed the party to cater to the middle-class.

After narrowly losing the 1969 election, Whitlam made waves in 1972 with the memorable "It's Time" campaign slogan capturing the imagination of voters after 23 years of conservative government.

Labor won the election but didn't gain control of the senate, suffering the same fate again at polls in 1974.

Whitlam's reforms were inspiring and often expensive.

He institutionalised universal healthcare, provided free tertiary education, implemented legal aid programs, enacted the Racial Discrimination Act, kicked off Aboriginal land reform and granted independence to Papua New Guinea.

After the 1973 oil crisis, the Whitlam government faced economic pressures from all directions.

Sweeping tax cuts were implemented in 1974 in a bid to control inflation, and significant private sector investment was made to safeguard jobs.

The opposition blocked the 1975 budget in the senate and forced a double dissolution.

Whitlam refused to hold a federal election and the governor-general Sir John Kerr took the unprecedented measure of dismissing the government on November 11.

His speech to angry supporters on the steps of Parliament House that day - "God save the Queen because nothing will save the Governor-General" - is one of the most famous in Australian political history.

Whitlam resigned from Parliament in 1978 after losing both the 1975 and 1977 elections.