Malcolm Fraser Condolences

In Parliament - Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (11:36:02): I also rise to speak to the condolence motion for the late Malcolm Fraser. I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Malcolm Fraser, Australia's 22nd prime minister, and I express my condolences to Mrs Fraser and the whole Fraser family.

Malcolm Fraser was a deeply considered and highly principled man. Though all of us come to politics with varying degrees of political courage, very few of us can say we are fearless. Malcolm was fearless, and his passion and sincerity enriched the nation. Fraser's political courage and hunger for reform saw him embrace a large-scale social agenda that reshaped Australia. In particular, his government:

  • introduced a legislative framework for Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory;
  • instituted self-government for the Northern Territory;
  • set up both the national crime commission and the Australian Federal Police;
  • stood firm against the evil of apartheid in South Africa;
  • prohibited whaling in Australia's territorial waters;
  • banned sand mining on the ecologically sensitive Fraser island; and
  • accepted Vietnamese refugees fleeing war in Vietnam that Australia was actively engaged in and later allocated funding to what became the SBS.

It should not be readily forgotten that Malcolm Fraser was a warrior for our party, and his efforts to dispense with the Whitlam government were vindicated in the December 1975 general election landslide. The events surrounding the Dismissal and subsequent election required real personal and political toughness. Fraser had that toughness.

Fraser's political strength was moderated by his conscience. I have said that Fraser was fearless and very often he was fearless on great matters of conscience. He said of his decision to accept more than 50,000 refugees from the Vietnam war and Indochina conflict that it was morally the right thing to do at the time even though the polls were 80 per cent against him. Fraser's commitment to multiculturalism was lasting. He remarked at the opening of SBS in 1980 as follows:

We used to have a view that to really be a good Australian, to love Australia, you almost had to cut your links with the country of origin. But I don't think that was right and it never was right.

As the grandson of immigrants, I have a deep personal understanding of what it means to love Australia and to celebrate diverse and sometimes very different cultures. Fraser made that possible. It was Fraser who truly ended the white Australia policy.

In foreign affairs, Fraser was a strong opponent of communism and the Soviet Union and 100 per cent committed to the Australia-US alliance. He participated in the 'Let Poland be Poland' broadcasts of the 1980s and was patron of the Australian National Committee for Relief to Poland.

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: Great union movement, Solidarity.

Mr DULUK: Very good union movement, probably the only good one. I have mentioned Fraser's commitment to land rights and to reconciliation. Speaking about reconciliation, Fraser said:

Reconciliation requires changes of heart and spirit, as well as social and economic change. It requires symbolic as well as practical action.

And I agree. Though now forgotten, Fraser was devoted to the Federation and to states' rights. He adopted a conservative approach to tax reform and economic policy. He offered the states the power to reduce or increase income tax levied by the commonwealth within a 5 per cent margin. No state took up that offer at the time and handed back to the states control over some offshore resources.

Reflecting on the 1975 constitutional crisis and Fraser's natural instincts on economics, Paul Kelly said that he was a conservative as well as a reformer. We on my side of this house are at our best when we are true to conservative values while driving a passionate reform agenda. I emphasise, in that respect, that all true conservatives have a deep compassion.

Malcolm infamously said that life wasn't meant to be easy and, in later life, speaking to us forcefully and directly about the issues of conscience, he did not make an easy life for himself. He asked all the hard questions and knew that the answers would lead to better policy. It is a measure of his quality as a man and as a leader that he ultimately made friends with his enemies, especially the late Gough Whitlam. We must celebrate political leaders who are prepared to stand up for their principles. I pay tribute to a great prime minister and a man with a principled heart.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!