PATRICK WHITE, who was awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature, spoke at an Australian Labor Party rally at the Opera House, Sydney, on 13 May.
‘Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a double privilege to be speaking here today. In the first place, I was a friend and supporter of the architect who conceived this noble building, who was driven away by Those Who Know Better before he had a chance of finishing his work. Today I am here in support of a man with similar aims whom we must not allow to be sacrificed as Utzon was. Both Utzon and Whitlam are men of vision who build for the future while not losing sight of the everyday details, as Utzon’s domestic architecture in his native Denmark shows, and Whitlam’s concern for the humbler members of society. As an artist, I am impressed by the Whitlam Government’s recognition of creative endeavour and its practical encouragement of our artists to a degree no previous Australian Government has dared. This is one very substantial reason why I support the Government, and why, I believe, most of my fellow artists do. So today I am not talking to artists, rather to those who are not creative themselves, thousands of thoughtful people throughout Australia for whom the life of the imagination—books, painting, music, theatre—plays a very important part, and without which, existence would be drab indeed.
‘Some of you to whom I am speaking may be in a quandary over how to cast your vote—as I too found myself in a quandary at a certain point in the post-Menzies era. Brought up in the Liberal tradition, I realized we had reached the stage where a change had to be made—that we must cure ourselves of mentally constipated attitudes, heave ourselves out of that terrible stagnation which has driven so many creative Australians to live in other parts of the world. Whether we shall bring back these refugees is doubtful, but to offer an intellectual climate from which others won’t feel the need to escape is most important and necessary, and this is what the Whitlam Government is trying to do: I support it also for its genuine efforts to alleviate poverty, and its attempts to come to grips with that most complex of all our problems, the Aborigines, both tribal and urban. I think we have come at last to understand the important part spiritual association plays in the lives of Aborigines in their original tribal surroundings. I hope we are beginning to realize the importance of these associations in the lives of white communities, particularly in the more neglected suburbs of our cities, and that the wholesale uprooting of human beings without regard for their feelings can have the most distressing psychological effects. The Whitlam Government, I believe, recognizes and respects the rights of the defenceless to a degree that the Opposition, with its subservience to monied interests, cannot pretend to emulate.
‘As for the world scene, it isn’t possible for heads of states, or diplomats, to espouse causes as passionately as your and my individual conscience is free to embrace them, whether it be that of Israel, Greece, South Africa, Chile, or those countries of Eastern Europe where the majority is not at liberty to speak its mind, but I am confident that the Whitlam Government will lead us through the labyrinth of foreign affairs more wisely than any other political combination offering itself at this election. Certainly the Prime Minister on his visits overseas has conducted himself with more dignity and to greater purpose than his predecessors, dropping their crumby jokes in Washington and London, giving the impression they were representing some nation of rustic clowns. If I have not mentioned inflation it is because I am not competent to approach the subject. I’d only like to point out that it is something inherited by the Labor Government, a sickness raging in all but the most primitive countries, from which it will take years to recover; above all it is not, as the Opposition often implies, a virus capriciously injected into us by wicked Mr. Whitlam and his ministers.
‘These are my personal views on why we should continue to support Labor. I leave it to the Prime Minister to give you the last word on his policy.’