Malcolm Fraser bows out

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has died aged 84. Here he is in his prime:


Former PMs have had nice things to say. Here’s Paul Keating:

“I always thought Malcolm would be around a lot longer. I must say, I wished he had been.

“Notwithstanding a controversial prime ministership, in later years he harboured one abiding and important idea about Australia – its need and its right to be a strategically independent country.

“His public life also enshrined other important principles: no truck with race or colour and no tolerance for whispered notions of exclusivity tinged by race. These principles applied throughout his political life.”

The same article summed his contribution as follows:

In office, Fraser was a staunch conservative on economic policies, an opponent of deregulation – and he was was criticised by his colleagues for lacking reform zeal. But he continued many of Labor’s progressive reforms.

In 1976 he established the family court of Australia and federal court of Australia; granted the Northern Territory self-government; passed the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act; created the position of federal ombudsman and established the ABC’s FM radio service. The next year, he established the National Aboriginal Conference and SBS.

In 1979 the Fraser government established the Australian Refugee Advisory Council to advise it on the settlement of refugees – many of whom had been arriving as “boat people” from Vietnam since 1978.

After criticising the Liberal party’s direction during the years of the Howard government, Fraser finally quit the party when Tony Abbott came to the opposition leadership, unhappy with Abbott’s rejection of emissions trading. He said the Liberal party was no longer a liberal party but instead a conservative party.

Fraser campaigned assiduously for human rights and attacked the party’s stance on immigration and refugees.

Economics was perhaps his weak spot. Richard Holden summarises:

Australia can be justifiably proud of an approach to economics that is squarely between Europe and the United States. The US, on the whole, champions free enterprise despite the social costs; Europe sees a much larger role for the state, even if that inhibits free enterprise. The Australia in which we live today is somewhere in between.

When Malcolm Fraser became prime minister that was all up for grabs. We could have become “old Euope” or veered onto a radically individualist path in response to the debacle that came before. Fraser helped us chart a middle course, and we should be very grateful for that.

Perhaps he wasn’t quite up to the challenge, but he had a steady hand and did no great harm. The Guardian has a suite of articles, the titles of which tell a story:

Malcolm Fraser’s steady hand is in stark contrast to Tony Abbott’s chaotic manoeuvres Lenore Taylor

Malcolm Fraser had no Damascene conversion – he always championed human rights Katherine Murphy

Malcolm Fraser, a leader who believed there is a moral compass in our nation’s life Fred Chaney

Malcolm Fraser dared to dream of a truly original Australian foreign policy Margaret Simons

Fraser’s great conservative achievement: cementing Whitlam’s progress on race
Robert Manne

Fraser’s politics didn’t shift much after 1975, but the rest of Australia’s did
Julian Burnside

Tributes roll in – a prime minister who won three elections remembered

Malcolm Fraser: Australia’s former prime minister – in pictures

Fraser was ruthless in gaining power, first in the coup that unseated Gorton as PM, then doing over Billy Sneddon for the Liberal leadership and later in the famous dismissal of the Whitlam government. I hated him tribally for that, and disliked him for his apparent aloofness and arrogance, but later came to see him as a man of principle and values.

There’s more on his legacy at the ABC and heaps of articles just about wherever you look!

Probably the best article that takes you to the complexity of the personality and his politics is Guy Rundle at Crikey, unfortunately paywalled.

A remaining mystery is what really happened that night in Memphis, when Fraser turned up in the foyer of a seedy hotel without his trousers.

Update: Must read on Fraser at The Piping Shrike.

Saturday salon 21/3


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Hockey defamed?

Politicians rate poorly in public esteem, as in fact do journalists and the press. Do you have to have a reputation before you can be defamed? Is it possible to defame a politician? Does anyone place any reliance on what the press say anyway?

I suspect Hockey has done himself some damage by pursuing Fairfax for defamation. Most people don’t read Fairfax, but I’m sure now most people know that he’s been up to something that caused comment.

His lawyers think too that the process has harmed him. They are after maximum damages for what was published, plus extra for the way Fairfax conducted the case.

Essentially they are saying that Fairfax lawyers continued their “smear campaign” against Hockey in court. Fairfax lawyers say their cross-examination of Hockey was “properly conducted” and “robust” but did not “cross any boundaries”.

2. Palmer Coolum resort closes down

One thing is for sure, Palmer Coolum Resort has closed its gates. 40 staff have been sacked. But:

The golf experience will carry on. The Palmersaurus Dinosaur Park, Motorama auto museum and Palmer Grill restaurant will remain open during redevelopment.

A large proportion of the accommodation was time-share. Investors are out of luck, at least for the time being.

This ABC report was positive about refurbishment and new investment, but the TV news on Thursday was negative, suggesting it had plain gone bust.

I keep expecting the whole Palmer phenomenon to blow up in a puff of smoke.

3. Poll news

According to Roy Morgan, Mike Baird will win comfortably on 28 March, 55.5 to 44.5 for the ALP.

In Queensland, however, the ALP under Annastacia Palaszczuk would go down 49-51. However, Palaszczuk is the preferred premier, and for the first time more men (56%) prefer her. Overall she wins 61-39 over Lawrence Springborg.

In Victoria the ALP under Daniel Andrews is surging and would win 56-44 over the LNP.

4. Cooktown dodges a bullet

Cyclone Nathan slammed into the coast north of Cape Flattery, with winds at Cape Flattery in the Category 3 classification. Cape Flattery is well north of Cooktown. The indigenous community of Hopevale, 49 km northwest of Cooktown, was the nearest polulation centre and received no destructive winds. Even their banana farm, flattened by Cyclone Ita last year, escaped this time.

Cyclone Ita hit Cape Flattery as a Category 4 system and mauled Cooktown. This time they escaped.

Cyclone Pam, however, is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vanuatu, and is up there as one of the strongest cyclone ever in the Southern Hemisphere.

Update: This post was originally published as Saturday salon 28/3 in error