CONDOLENCES - Fraser, Rt Hon. John Malcolm, AC, CH


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (13:47): I want to associate myself with the very fine words of our leader, Senator Abetz, on a very fine man. I also acknowledge the dissertation by Senator Brandis on Mr Fraser's qualities and philosophy, and I do want to acknowledge the very generous contributions that have been made by all other senators. I extend to Tamie Fraser and their children and extended family my sympathies and condolences.

I will not repeat the details of Malcolm Fraser's life and works, but I do mention with pride some of the highlights of his government. As a Queenslander and Northern Australian and one who has always had a very enduring interest in the environment, I was particularly pleased at his declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the abolition of sand mining on Fraser Island and the creation of Kakadu National Park. As a lawyer back in those days, I well remember the formation of the Australian Federal Police and, particularly importantly in the town that I practised in, the abolition of estate and death duties. As a one-time minister in the areas of the Northern Territory and the Australian Antarctic Division, I experienced at first hand the benefits of the awarding of Northern Territory self-government and the creation of the AAD in Hobart.

I also acknowledge Mr Fraser's opposition to apartheid and his destruction of the White Australia policy that had been so prominent in Australia in the early years of our nation. I acknowledge the introduction of freedom of information, the indexation of pensions and the creation of the Australian Institute of Sport amongst many other initiatives that will mark Mr Fraser's time as Prime Minister of our country.

I well remember him firstly as army minister and subsequently defence minister at the time of the Vietnam War, something that I and most young people at that time strongly supported. We were those who willingly went into the birthday ballot. He prosecuted the war with skill, and his support for Vietnamese refugees following the war is legend. He was a regular visitor to the north, particularly to the then relatively newly established Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.

I have a very proud and fond recollection of him at a function in those days at the house of the then President of the Liberal Party in my town, Billy and his wife Wendy Muguira, who are still active stalwarts of the party, at their then house on Brandon Road in Ayr. He was a very tall and imposing figure and, as someone very interested in politics but quite removed from it at the time, I was particularly impressed to be at the same barbecue function with him. I remember him as a very tall and imposing figure and I still have this vision of him as defence minister at a barbecue in the backyard, actually talking through the hills hoist that was there because his height was greater than that of the hills hoist at the time. As I say, I fondly remember him addressing the party faithful at that time.

We were always so very proud in those days that we as a Liberal Party in what had been traditionally a Country Party town had a Liberal farmer as Prime Minister of our nation. His support for the party around that time was an influence in my decision to stand as a Liberal candidate in the state election in 1983. But it was his courage at the time of the dysfunction of the Whitlam government that will stay in my mind for as long as I live. As a youngish follower of politics in those days, I was proud of the way he was seen to have saved Australia at that time. The Left have never forgiven him for his part in that change of government, but I always had the greatest and enduring admiration for his courage, determination and leadership at that time of crisis. Rarely acknowledged is the fact that Whitlam was actually sacked not by Fraser but by a Governor-General the Labor Party had appointed. But Fraser's leadership and role at the time was vindicated, as is appropriate in a democracy, by one of the largest electoral victories ever following the events of November 1975—something that those who pontificate every 11 November still do not accept.

Malcolm Fraser's public life finished as it started—determined, thoughtful, caring and courageous. May he rest in peace.

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