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.