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It's time … to go back to Blacktown and a historic moment

''MEN and women of Australia,'' Gough Whitlam began famously 40 years ago on November 13, 1972 in his campaign policy launch at the Blacktown Civic Centre. His speech, which went on to become one of the best-remembered in Australian political life, will be celebrated tomorrow in a gathering that will bring together luminaries of the left as well as entertainers; much like Whitlam's initial ''It's Time'' campaign did in 1972.

The Whitlam Institute has organised a sold-out night billed as ''Back to Blacktown; a celebration of the speech that changed the nation'' at the venue where Mr Whitlam made his speech, Bowman Hall in Sydney's west.

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Former prime minister Bob Hawke will speak about the importance of the speech, Mr Whitlam's former speech writer Graham Freudenberg will discuss the writing of it (which he says was a joint effort, but regards them as ''Gough's words'') and the Whitlam Foundation chairman John Faulkner will be talking about political speech-making - past and present.

The singer of the band the Whitlams, Tim Freedman, will perform as well as Col Joye and Patricia (Little Pattie) Amphlett, who both appeared in the 1972 ''It's Time'' election campaign advertisement. Students from the Campbelltown Performing Arts High School will sing the ''It's Time'' campaign song.

Among the 300 expected to attend will be the former Whitlam era politician Tom Uren, the former public servant John Menadue, and Jenny Hocking, Mr Whitlam's biographer. The 96-year-old former prime minister will be represented by his four children, Stephen, Nicholas, Anthony and Catherine Dovey.

''It will be a gathering of the faithful and the curious,'' said the director of the Whitlam Institute, Eric Sidoti. ''Whitlam's speech stands the test of time … it was a detailed guideline of policies that were the culmination of years of work.''