Former prime minister Gough Whitlam was a pioneer who introduced reforms Australians now take for granted, former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says.

Former prime minister Gough Whitlam was a “pioneer” who introduced reforms Australians now take for granted, former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said.

The revered Labor leader died early on Tuesday at his Elizabeth Bay nursing home in Sydney. He was 98.

Speaking from his home in Brisbane, Mr Beattie said Mr Whitlam reformed Australia’s health and education systems, and paved the way for equal opportunities for women and indigenous Australians.

“He implemented things people now take for granted,” the former Labor premier told Fairfax radio.

“Gough was a pioneer (and) a lot of the reforms he brought in really scared people because they weren’t aware of the possibilities of what could be, and what could be is now the reality.”

Mr Beattie described Mr Whitlam as “a very, very rare individual”.

“In politics there are a lot of also-rans but there are very few leaders, very few visionaries, and he was one of the best.

“People like that come along once in a generation.”

Queensland’s current Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman has also paid tribute, saying his father Kevin Newman was a minister in the Fraser Coalition government after Mr Whitlam was dismissed in 1975.

While they were political opponents, Mr Newman says his late father would want him to honour Mr Whitlam.

“My father would want me to say that Gough Whitlam was a great Australian and he was a visionary,” the premier told reporters on Tuesday.

“We didn’t always agree with him and the things he did. He was probably ahead of his time. But he made a huge contribution to this nation.

“It’s a great loss to see a great Australian pass, and that’s what he was: a great Australian.”