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Gough Whitlam has died aged 98.

Gough Whitlam.

Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam has died aged 98.

“Our father, Gough Whitlam, has died this morning at the age of 98,” Mr Whitlam’s children Antony, Nicholas and Stephen Whitlam and Catherine Dovey said in a statement this morning.

“A loving and generous father, he was a source of inspiration to us and our families and for millions of Australians.

“There will be a private cremation and a public memorial service.”

Edward Gough Whitlam — born in Kew, Melbourne, a graduate of Knox Grammar and Canberra Grammar and a former barrister — was the 21st Prime Minister of Australia, from 1972 to 1975. The election of the his government on 2 December 1972 ended 23 years of conservative rule.

During its three years in power, the Whitlam government instituted sweeping changes that transformed Australian society.

As The Guardian reports, those changes included the creation of Australia’s national health insurance scheme, the abolition of university fees, the introduction of environmental protection legislation, the return of traditional lands in the Northern Territory to the Gurindji people, the withdrawal of remaining Australian troops from Vietnam, the passing of the Racial Discrimination Act and the removal of God Save the Queen as the national anthem.

Gough Whitlam in younger years.

Whitlam was famously ousted by governor-general Sir John Kerr on on 11 November 1975, at the culmination of the Australian constitutional crisis — an event that remains one of the most controversial events in Australian political history.

He retired from politics in 1978.

Gough Whitlam’s wife, charity advocate and women’s rights campaigner Margaret Whitlam (nee Dovey), passed away in 2012 aged 92.

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Married in 1942, Gough and Margaret Whitlam were a formidable team. Both were famous for their commitment to public service, and when Margaret Whitlam died her family released a statement saying, “(Gough) admired her intellect, wit and commitment to improving the lives of others; she described him as ‘delicious’ and ensured his feet remained well-grounded.”

The Prime Minister and Labor MPs are already paying tribute to their former leader.

Tony Abbott described Mr Whitlam as a “giant of his time”.

“We remember his lifetime of service to Australia in the Royal Australian Air Force, as a parliamentarian, as Prime Minister and as an ambassador,” Mr Abbott said in a statement this morning.

“Gough Whitlam recognised the journey that our country needed to take with indigenous Australians.

Mr Abbott’s statement in full read as follows:

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten said Mr Whitlam redefined Australia.

“Today, the party that I lead – the Labor party – has lost a giant,” he said. “And I think it is fair to say, regardless of one’s politics, the nation has lost a legend.”

Former Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard also remembered Mr Whitlam fondly, in a piece for The Guardian today:

“Gough will live always in our nation, which he transformed throughout his long public life.

“He is alive in our universities and the many lives he changed by giving free access to university education, my life included in that count.

“Alive in Medicare and the uniquely Australian health system we now take for granted.
Alive in our suburbs and in our family law.

“Alive in our relationship with China and our multicultural society.

“Alive in our embrace of land rights for Indigenous Australians and our hope for a truly reconciled future.
“I remember Gough as one of the great Australian characters. His wit literally filling books.

I honour Gough as a man of the highest political courage. A giant of his era. He was truly prepared to “commit and see what happens”. He transformed Australia and we are in his debt.”

More to come.

Click through our gallery of memorable Whitlam moments:

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