Malcolm Fraser

25 March 2015

I rise to speak on this condolence motion for former prime minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser AC.

Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 11:40:46 ):  I rise to speak on this condolence motion for former prime minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser AC. Malcolm Fraser's 30-year political career was over before I was born, yet that does not, and should not, make his career any less relevant to me or other members of this house who may not have been immediately impacted by the outcomes of his government.

As someone with a keen interest in Australian politics and a keener interest still in the values and qualities that create leadership, I have spent time analysing Australia's 22nd prime minister, not only by looking at his time in office but also in exploring the good works he undertook in the three decades since his departure from the prime ministership.

Malcolm Fraser was Australia's 22nd prime minister, serving in office from December 1975 until March 1983. He was elected to the Western Victorian seat of Wannon in 1955 when he was only 25 years old and he was the last Australian prime minister to represent a rural electorate.

Malcolm Fraser was greatly defined by the way in which he came to office, although the Dismissal, while tectonic in historical terms, did little more than bring forward the date of the Coalition's emphatic victory in the general election held just weeks after Gough Whitlam was removed from office. Fraser's huge victory in 1975 resulted in his securing the largest parliamentary majority in Australia's history—a record not yet broken.

The Fraser era formed a plateau of economic and social stability—an effective antidote to the chaotic Whitlam years and a foundation for the necessary economic reforms that followed during the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments. Some headline achievements of the Fraser government include the introduction of the family allowance, family income support, lone father's payment and abolition of estate and gift duties.

His government was a huge champion of multiculturalism and essentially founded what modern multiculturalism is in Australia. Between 1975 and 1982, Australia welcomed some 200,000 refugees including, as has been mentioned by many members today, 56,000 from Vietnam alone. The establishment of the Special Broadcasting Service, better known to us as SBS, is a pivotal moment in Australia's commitment to multiculturalism and a great thing that can be celebrated about the Fraser government.

Another great achievement of the government was initiating a modern-day focus on conservation and expanding the number of national parks in Australia. Some of these environmental achievements included banning whaling in Australia, the declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, prohibition of sand mining on Fraser Island and having five areas placed on the World Heritage List, including the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, Willandra Lakes, Lord Howe Island and south-west Tasmania. As someone who is a strong and passionate environmentalist, I think those are very worthy achievements and I am glad they have been mentioned on both sides of the house today.

The Fraser government also established FM radio, the Australian Institute of Sport and the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office, opening up scrutiny to government processes. Prime Minister Fraser strode the world stage and fitted well with his contemporaries, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, as they formed a generation of Western leaders who were united in their push for Keynesian economic reform, looked at ways to cope with the oil shocks, dealt with Cold War politics and analysed and worked towards improving the challenges of white rule in Southern Africa, with Mr Fraser becoming a vocal opponent of apartheid and doing a great deal to ensure that that ghastly practice was brought to an end.

After Malcolm Fraser left his role as prime minister he helped establish the Australian chapter of the aid organisation CARE, which stands for Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere. This became a great passion of his, as he got the organisation up and running in Australia, sought substantial philanthropic support and drove appeals for victims of natural disasters across the world. He was chairman of CARE Australia from 1987 until 2001, and also president of CARE International from 1991 to 1995, and its vice president until the end of the century.

For me, one of the characteristics of a successful leader is someone who can transition from one sphere of leadership to another. Malcolm Fraser's move from leading our nation to becoming a world-leading figure in humanitarianism marks him out as an excellent leader who has achieved more than simply political success. He was a genuine Liberal, his own man, a humanitarian and a leader. Farewell Malcolm Fraser.

Extracted from Hansard