Malcolm Fraser dies at 84

20 Mar, 2015 09:05 AM
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Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.

FORMER Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has died after a short illness.

A statement from Mr Fraser's office said he died peacefully overnight. He was 84.

"It is with deep sadness that we inform you that after a brief illness John Malcolm Fraser died peacefully in the early hours of the morning of 20 March 2015," the statement said.

"We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him, but ask that the family be left in peace at this difficult time."


Fraser: a man of the land


Fraser was Australia's prime minister from 1975 to 1983 and represented the Victorian agricultural seat of Wannon from 1955 to 1983, now held by Liberal MP Dan Tehan. He had strong ties to the rural community.

Former PM Malcolm Fraser inspects the grand champion Hereford Bolong Kimbo at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in March 1978 with the bull's owner, Peter Croker of Taralga.

Buyer Malcolm Fraser, "Nareen", Coleraine, Victoria, with $5250 ram he bought from James Litchfield, "Hazeldean", Cooma, NSW, at the Monaro ram sales.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the well-respected former PM restored economically responsible government to Australians while recognising social change.

"Malcolm Fraser held true to the belief that his actions were in the best interests of Australia. He was determined to ‘turn on the lights’ and restore Australia’s economic fortunes," Mr Abbott said.

"The friendship he built in later life with Gough Whitlam spoke volumes about the character of both men at the centre of the crisis: in their own different ways, they were both fierce Australian patriots.

"Under Malcolm Fraser’s leadership, Australia was an unwavering opponent of apartheid and after he left office, he continued to work for the end of apartheid. His subsequent appointment to roles with the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations reflected his high international standing.

"He had a deep interest in the advancement of indigenous people.

"He banned sand mining on Fraser Island. As well, the first Australian sites were placed on the World Heritage List and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was declared.

"He welcomed the re-settlement of tens of thousands of Vietnamese people in Australia who have subsequently added a rich, new dimension to our national life."

Former PM John Howard said Fraser fully understood the importance of the Coalition.

"His partnership with Doug Anthony was a hallmark of his government, (and he) made a massive contribution to public life in Australia," Mr Howard said.

'Malcolm understood the bush'

Former Country Party (and then National Country Party) leader Doug Anthony was Deputy Prime Minister under Mr Fraser, and he paid tribute to a man he remembered as an intelligent, well-informed, broad minded and determined politician, and a good personal friend.

"Malcolm understood the bush, he was a farmer himself. I don't think there have been any (farmers as Prime Minister) since."

Mr Fraser's death today came as a shock to Mr Anthony.

"It's a very sad day. He was a good Prime Minister... and to me, he was a good friend."

Malcolm Fraser at the opening of the new Simmental House at the Melbourne Showground in September 1980.

National Farmers' Federation president Brent Finlay said that Mr Fraser was a remarkable man from a distinguished farming family.

“Mr Fraser’s father was a pastoralist at Deniliquin and later at Nareen Station in the Western District of Victoria, where Malcolm was raised. Before he was a politician, he was a grazier; and it was to Nareen that he returned after his retirement from politics in 1983," he said.

“Mr Fraser gave long and distinguished service to his country. On behalf of the farming community of Australia and all our members, I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife and family.”


Obituary: John Malcolm Fraser


A change of direction

When Mr Fraser lost the prime ministership in 1983, he had few friends on either the right or left of politics. The right spoke contemptuously of his failure to introduce the deregulatory and supposedly small-government policies associated with the neo-liberal revolution pioneered by his fellow conservatives, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. As the Fraser government had taken power several years before either Thatcher or Reagan, the right was effectively accusing him of failure to be wise (or perhaps unwise) not after but before the event.

The left's hostility was simpler. Mr Fraser could not be forgiven for the role he'd played in the "coup" of November 11, 1975: Governor-General John Kerr's dismissal of the Whitlam government. Nor could he be forgiven for defending the US war in Vietnam or, especially after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, for reinstating in Australia the hardline, US-led, anti-communist policies of what became known as the Second Cold War.

But in the second half of 1990s, something unexpected began to happen to the former PM. As the centre of gravity of Australian politics moved rightwards under the Howard government, Mr Fraser became associated with values and policies of the left. The most conspicuous early examples occurred in the areas of ethnicity and race. Mr Fraser strongly supported the movement towards reconciliation with indigenous Australians that the Howard government subverted.

He stood firmly against the attack on Asian migration and multiculturalism of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party. And he opposed the cruelty of Australia's asylum-seeker policies: indefinite mandatory detention and then the so-called Pacific Solution, tow-backs to Indonesia and offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island. Somewhat less conspicuously, he also began to question the foreign policy trajectory of the US and its super-loyal ally, Australia, following the end of the Cold War: NATO's bombing of Serbia, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the licence given to acts of dubious legality in the war on terror.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said as the Member for Wannon, a Minister, Prime Minister and elder statesmen, Mr Fraser gave six decades of tireless service to the nation.

"He immeasurably enriched Australia’s multicultural society, offering refuge to tens of thousands of vulnerable people driven from Vietnam by the horror of war," Mr Shorten said.

"He maintained the Whitlam government’s commitment to the cause of reconciliation and recognising the land rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"In the long third act of his public life, Malcolm won many new admirers as a powerful voice for human rights and reconciliation and a deep thinker regarding Australia’s place in the world."

PM Malcolm Fraser with Farm Innovation Award winner Peter Manning, Coolamon, NSW, November 1978, on the cover of The Land.

PM Malcolm Fraser with The Land Farm Innovation Award winner Peter Manning, Coolamon, NSW, November 1978.

- with Robert Manne

FarmOnline

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Just another question for Jo, if we are a civilised nation (I know you think we probably
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I wonder if the AJP could extrapolate on the concept of a tax on livestock production to inform
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Agriculture is more than farming animals, being supportive of plant based agriculture shows