Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam dies | Champion of Alb-Wod growth centre

FORMER prime minister Gough Whitlam, who promoted Albury-Wodonga as a national growth centre, has died at the age of 98.

His children Antony, Nicholas and Stephen Whitlam and Catherine Dovey paid tribute to their father in a statement. 

"Our father, Gough Whitlam, has died this morning at the age of 98," the statement said.

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

Mr Whitlam became well-acquainted with Albury-Wodonga during his years in power from 1972 to 1975 as he promoted the Twin Cities as Australia's first National Growth Centre.

As part of efforts to stimulate regional cities Mr Whitlam promoted decentralisation, a policy aimed at increasing the population of country centres.

He signed an agreement with the Victorian premier Ruper Hamer and NSW premier Robert Askin to promote expansion across the Twin Cities.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam meets with NSW Premier Bob Askin and Rupert Hamer at the Albury City Hall, in Swift Street.

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam meets with NSW Premier Bob Askin and Rupert Hamer at the Albury City Hall, in Swift Street.

Under Mr Whitlam's plans, the population of Albury-Wodonga would have reached 300,000.

However, economic pressures resulted in the scheme being gradually reduced and population goals reduced.

New growth areas of Springdale Heights, Thurgoona and Baranduda were fostered under the plan.

On his last reported visit to Albury-Wodonga in 2004, Mr Whitlam, then 88, encouraged the electrification of the railway line between Sydney and Melbourne. 

"It is cleaner, cheaper, faster and safer way to send long distance transport by rail than road," he told guests at an Albury Art Gallery exhibition opening.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott instructed that all flags be flown at half mast today and on the day of Mr Whitlam's memorial service as he led tributes for the former Prime Minister. 

"Gough Whitlam was a giant of his time," Mr Abbott said.

"He united the Australian Labor Party, won two elections and seemed, in so many ways, larger than life.

"In his own party, he inspired a legion of young people to get involved in public life."

A private cremation and a public memorial service for Mr Whitlam are planned.