Margaret Whitlam has died at 92. A sad day for Gough and for the many people whose lives she touched.

And I’m not convinced that certain lines in her ABC obituary were particularly fair to publish at this time.

These remarks about Malcolm Fraser:

[In a 1993 interview] she also spoke of her anger at John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser’s role in the dismissal.

“I’ve always regarded people like John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser with scorn – scorn for what they did, scorn for what they didn’t do,” she said. “In a way it wasn’t so much what they did, but the way that they did it that was so wrong. And I just couldn’t understand them, I couldn’t forgive them, I can’t forgive them.”

And these remarks about Jeanette Howard:

A biography of Mrs Whitlam quoted her as saying Mrs Howard failed to carry out the obligations of a prime minister’s wife.

“She is useless in terms of how little she really gives the community,” she said in the book. “She doesn’t even go to the old people’s homes that Howard visits. The only thing she goes to is big, public things. I fear she’s a steely woman. Never contributing anything else but a smile. Nor a grin – a grin indicates some sense of humour.”

Why include those sorts of quotes? Why today? Neither of these people can reasonably respond to what’s being said about them by the recently-deceased person. And it’s hardly a nice way to portray someone who’s just died – by highlighting times when they’d criticised someone else.

It’s not really fair to anyone involved. There’s a reason those sorts of sledges are not usually included in obituaries. I’m surprised the ABC has forgotten it.

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