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Malcolm Fraser – The Last Liberal Conservative?

Malcolm Fraser always struck me as an interesting man and – from a personal viewpoint – was someone who both disappointed and vindicated me on many, many occasions.

In the controversy of 1975, I found myself defending him. No, I don’t believe the Senate should block supply, but I still think that Fraser is a decent man who’s doing what he believes is right. No, no, I don’t accept that he’s just evil, just because someone has a different view of what’s right doesn’t make him a Nazi. Ok, “born to rule” I can accept, but they are monarchists after all, so maybe they’ll be better next century when we’re a Republic…

It was the Budget after the 1977 election that made me completely cynical about him. It was a horror Budget, but the one before was a “pre-election” Budget, designed to ensure re-election for the nastiness to follow. I scoffed at my girlfriend’s Toorak mother who insisted that we were in a mess and something drastic needed to be done (a familiar refrain from the Liberals) asking her if that was the case, then why didn’t need to be done a year earlier.

Even after this, there will still moments where I got the sense that he believed in certain values, that he wasn’t just like Reagan and Thatcher. I read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand and wondered why, as someone who’d expressed admiration for Rand, he behaved more like the villainous politicians in the novel than the inspiring individuals that she loved so much.

For the most part, I felt that he was foolishly trying to restore the world of Menzies while acknowledging that one or two things had changed for the better.

His time after being Prime Minister has made my earlier assessments of him seem closer to the real Fraser than the man who presided over Howard’s incompetence as Treasurer. And the fact that the Liberal Party preferred John Elliot to him as President indicates their change in direction from a conservative party to a mob of carpetbaggers. (Excluding Joe Hockey, of course, who has an itchy trigger finger as well as far too much money to spend on lawyers and lots of time in lieu.)

But I feel that the mealy-mouthed responses from the Liberal Party MPs and ex-MPs would be considered ungracious if they were to come from his political foes. From refusing to “speak ill of the dead” to congratulating him on winning three elections, there seems a lack of graciousness. (I’m not even going to criticise Tony here because he has all the class of a rugby league player’s buck’s night so I don’t expect him to ever rise to the occasion. So to speak..)

So, I thank Malcolm for the good he tried to do, and I think that Australia was a better place when the Liberals were actually conservative – when they believed that we shouldn’t change too much, that Australia is a great place and, all right, maybe one or two things need to change but think carefully. Yes, I know that’s still their message, but that’s not what they believe. They believe that we need massive change – that we need WorkChoices and people prepared to work for $2 an hour, otherwise how can people get rich if the wealth is shared amongst too many people – we’ll all end up middle class and where’s the fun in that?

Perhaps, Malcolm was the last conservative Liberal PM. Perhaps not. It’s all relative. But I sincerely hope that we’re never saying that – relatively speaking – Abbott wasn’t so bad and really he was quite conservative.

Vale Malcolm. The Liberal Party misses you. Australia was better when the enemy of the Left was someone like you. Although, I guess Andrew Bolt will be telling us that you were a member of the Left.

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40 comments

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  1. Lee

    RIP Malcolm Fraser. Another Australian voice for human rights has left us.

    It came as no surprise that Tony Abbott’s tribute to Malcolm was more of a dig at the ALP and there was no acknowledgement of Malcolm’s many years of humanitarian works.

  2. Rossleigh

    Ok, I promise that I hadn’t read this from Bolt before I wrote the article.

    “Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, later a Leftist critic of the Liberals, has died. Much demonised by the Left as Prime Minister, he will now be much mourned.”

  3. Dagney J. Taggart

    Another icon of my childhood passes. The politicians of today just seem so ……. shallow? One dimensional? Compared to Gough, Malcolm and Hawke. I can still remember being at an election night BBQ in 75 watching the grown ups(?) getting into heated arguments over the likely results.

    What surprises me is that conservatives of today don’t realise how far they have swung to the right. Reagan would be too soft for them now.

    Unfortunately for Malcolm, Zimbabwe didn’t work out as well as he had hoped but you can’t win them all. But at least he could change and admit to making mistakes, unlike a certain JWH.

    And as a final semi-unrelated point, I too have read Atlas Shrugged. Took me over a year – boring as hell, but I refused to be defeated by it. I found the style to be very similar to white supremacist (or white nationalist as they now prefer to be called) writings – childish, simplistic with ” our side” being noble and heroic and “their side” being impossibly incompetent, evil and corrupt.

  4. Wally

    Fraser probably did more good after he was PM than when he was PM and that is an achievement that very few can lay claim to. While he was PM I despised him because of the way he ousted Gough but I think he could have been PM for much longer if John Howard was not Treasurer. It always amazed me that the worst Treasurer in Australia’s history returned to be our longest serving PM, but I think the latter had a lot to do with a lack of decent alternatives. It will be interesting, sorry bloody scary to be frank to consider there could be a DejaVu, Hockey coming back in 15-20 years time to be our PM. We must put a stop to that ever eventuating!

  5. Banjo

    No one mentions those kids that missed their shot at the Moscow Olympics while down on the farm it was wool sales to the USSR as usual.

  6. Kerri

    At least Malcolm had the character and principle to leave the Neo-con Liberal Party when he felt it had strayed.
    We will never see such humility as he showed sitting beside the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young or such principle to agree with her ideals rather than paint her as poison just because of her position in an opposition party. I doubt Malcolm would ever have come up with a fund such as Australians For Honest Politicians!

  7. stephentardrew

    I had issues with Malcolm however I deeply admire him for his capacity for change something generally anathema to conservative thinking.
    His charity work represented the position of a true statesman who could see injustice and inequity regardless of his political leanings. Recently he stated that we need to reduce US influence in Australia and remove US military and spy instillations from our country. Pretty controversial and courageous stuff. He was no shrinking violet and I am immensely thankful to him for his humanity. I am truly sorry for the loss to this country and for the grief of his family.

  8. Harquebus

    Malcolm Fraser was not very smart and I never liked the man.
    The tributes I heard coming from politicians today made me wanna puke!

  9. lindsayms

    I, too, find myself in a quandary. Having cast my first vote for Gough as a 19 year old and voted against Fraser I look back on the Governments of both those men with a great amount of nostalgia. All of the following governments have tended to become more and more self serving as each tries to follow the rush to neo conservatism.
    In a number of places I have seen referrals to the fact that Gough and Malcolm became firm friends each realising that they had more in common with each other than with any of the following philosophies.
    In both men was the desire for the betterment of our country, they may have disagreed on the method but their aim was the same.
    That cannot be said about our current crop where the driving force seems to be to push one’s own snout further into the trough.

    Dagney – I too read “Atlas Shrugged” and found it quite enjoyable. BUT it was fiction and perhaps had something to say to its generation. I think a more relative story for today would be “The Hunger Games” or perhaps “The Handmaiden”

    Wally – the only solace I get about Hockey being a future PM is that I won’t see it. But I mourn for my children and grandchildren in such a scenario.

  10. kittsy

    It is interesting to see the responses to his death.
    I remember a man in time and place. A different time to now and a very different place to where we find ourselves. He was not without fault but in perspective in today’s society he would be some where politically between the greens and labor with his perspectives on righting the ‘gap’, climate and refugees. How our paradigm has shifted so far right that a former Liberal leader should fall into such a category.
    At his passing he falls beyond political class, but becomes a man of human rights issues, something lacking in politics today.

  11. Eelboy

    Fraser, to his credit, did not revert to the bunyip outlook of previous tories governments once he had ousted Whitlam. The idea of Australia as a monolithic Anglo-Celtic culture was forever thrown out the window when Fraser refused to revert to the practices of the past.

  12. rossleighbrisbane

    But Harquebus, it’s unlimited puking that is the problem.. Besides, your comments always show that nobody but you is a “smart man” so you could hardly hold that against Fraser given the entire world is composed of fools who refuse to listen to you!

  13. stuffme

    I think he was one of the last true Liberals. Today they teeter on the edge of fascism. Very sad. And is there one member of the front bench of the federal LNP with a brain? How ever, like all polies he wasn’t perfect. Sold wool to Russia but no Olympics, and lost his pants in the USA.

  14. Audioio

    As a commenter on Andrew Elder’s blog said:

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

  15. Florence nee Fedup

    Democracy must have place for all views. It is the competition between these views, that take democracy forward. . There is much, very much did not like about Frasers policies.

    I do know, democracy is at risk, if we cannot get common decency and respect back into the equation.

  16. CMMC

    Frasers first term was, deliberately, unremarkable. They were saving the vicious right-wing stuff for the second term, which the enormity of the ’75 landslide made inevitable.

    Abbott could have done the same, and he vouchsafed such during the election, but that winning margin of 4.1% made them nervous. They threw out ‘steady as she goes’ and went Tea Party crazy.

  17. rossleighbrisbane

    Tobias Wolfe does a wonderful hatchet job on Ayn Rand in his autobiographical novel “Old School”, but the thing I love best about her is the wonderful contradiction in her philosophy where she basically says that it’s the individual who doesn’t follow the crowd and thinks for themselves who is the truly great human being and if you disagree with that you’re just wrong and have no right to speak.
    And I can’t help but think of “Life of Brian” when I hear about Ayn Rand societies where people study her works In order to help them think for themselves. There’s an apocryphal story of the person who was thrown out of one for contradicting one of her ideas.

  18. mars08

    Didn’t Ayn Rand…. the fanatical libertarian… spend the the last eight years of her life receiving Social Security and American Medicare benefits?

  19. Michael Taylor

    I can’t believe how much I liked Malcolm Fraser when you consider how much I once hated him. One of us changed. I reckon it was him. 🙂

  20. lindsayms

    I tend to agree Michael

  21. townsvilleblog

    At last Kerr’s cur is dead, good riddance, his spiteful maneuvering in 1975 robbed this nation of its chance to be great, for that there is no forgiveness.

  22. DanDark

    Cant stand the pompous elite talking idiot, not then not now, Fraser screwed this country, yep Kerrs cur is dead, no great loss to the country
    I wont be shedding any tears for the old bastard…..”life wasn’t ment to be easy” fraser was born with a silver spoon in its mouth, he never had a hard day in his life, he was a cold hearted bastard, age mellows mean men, he just mellowed in his older years, to mellow yellow 🙂

  23. townsvilleblog

    well said Dan, and so say all of us…

  24. Lee

    “I can’t believe how much I liked Malcolm Fraser when you consider how much I once hated him. One of us changed. I reckon it was him. :)”

    I think it is more a case of the present day ALP has moved so far to the right and the Liberals have gone even further.

  25. Harquebus

    @rossleighbrisbane
    Malcolm Fraser’s ideology still persists to this day and how well has it done? The pillaging of our resources, massive debt imposed on future generations, increased inequality, more pollution, the continuing destruction of our environment, resource depletion, water scarcity, climate change etc., etc. Yeah, real smart.
    The entire world is not composed of fools, just most of it and it is not so much that I am smart, it is that most are ignorant and that, is not their fault. The dumbing down of Australia was no accident.

  26. rossleighbrisbane

    One should never use two et ceteras, the second is superfluous and a waste of valuable resources, Harqebus. I suggest that you get off the computer now and stop using up the resources and contributing to the multinational companies who own the energy companies and your Dell computer.

  27. Harquebus

    @rossleighbrisbane
    Thanks for that.
    For all the good that you do which, isn’t very much, I could give you the same advice.
    My ecological footprint is a lot less than most and the energy I use goes toward, among other things, combating the multinationals.
    Avagoodwun.

  28. randalstella

    Not two ‘et ceteras’ ever, Ross?
    What is such a giant brain as yours wasting its time on such a little site? Must be something to do with the culture of wasted talent, etc., etc., etc.
    It’s a culture that cannot seem to run without duplicitous parading of Values. For example, on his last Q&A appearance, in answer to that preening boofhead Jones, Fraser was able to pretend that he had not trashed Medibank – and get away with it.
    He got away with a lot. If Whitlam had not been such a staunch and committed constitutionalist, a true conservative, Mal would be just about due for parole by now. So, lucky Mal.

    You’ve shown you can match Mal’s equivocation. He was a ‘perhaps or perhaps not’ kind of guy – except when he wanted power no matter what. It’s all very well being moral when you lose it – power, that is. By which I mean it is not at all well. No ‘perhaps’ about it.

  29. townsvilleblog

    Lee, you are undoubtedly correct the ALP has moved so far to the right because they are controlled by the weakest unions in Australia, the SDA and The AWU the gerrymander that these two (supposed) unions have on the ALP see Shorten leading the party at federal level, the weakest right wing leader in my living memory.

  30. townsvilleblog

    Harquebus, indeed you are correct, Whitlam tried to change this nation into a fair place for all, Fraser with the backing of big money Australia ensured that Whitlam’s dream of a fair go for all would never come to be, Kerr’s cur is dead, good riddance.

  31. townsvilleblog

    I also use a Dell computer, I had not previously known that there was a computer standard that one had to meet, Ross your contributions are so poor I rarely share them on my facebook page, other authors though have regular entry.

  32. rossleighbrisbane

    Well, thanks for the rare times you do share them, townsvilleblog. And no, there’s no restriction on the type of computer anyone uses, so you keep doing whatever you like.

  33. John Fraser

    <

    rossleighbrisbane

    I thought it was Peacock who used the Ayn Rand quote.

    Then again I though Rand wrote "Atlas Shrugged" while having an amphetamine induced psychotic episode.

    townsvilleblog

    I think this is the first time I have ever responded to you ……………. thats it.

  34. townsvilleblog

    Thank you John, I would just ask “in what sense.”

  35. John Fraser

    <

    RossLeigh

    I was reading J.P. Donleavy's books at about the same time as I read Atlas Shrugged.

    Those and Catch 22 about a decade earlier helped make me the man I am today.

    Who else could say that Abbott is no Clayton Claw Cleaver Clementine.

  36. rossleighbrisbane

    Well anyboy could say that, john Fraser, it’s just that they would know what they meant. However, my point about Fraser and Ayn Rand was that it was interesting that he seemed more like he took his cue from the bad politicians in her novels than the good industrialists.

    But like I said he was a man of contradictions. Nonetheless, I was happier when he was the “enemy”, rather than the the pathetic excuses for politicians we have today

    Ah, nostalgia. Makes even Dr Goebels seem like a debating point!

  37. John Fraser

    <

    Ross Leigh

    Have you got a Link to where Fraser made the remark about Ayn Rand ?

    I'm still of the opinion that Peacock was the one who used her a reference, its much more like him than Fraser.

  38. townsvilleblog

    good industrialists that’s a good one Ross.

  39. Rossleigh

    It was said with more than a trace of irony, Townvilleblog.

  40. townsvilleblog

    I see Ross, a very interesting case indeed.

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