Statement: Malcolm Fraser

Malcolm Fraser should be honoured as a Liberal Prime Minster of Australia in the tradition of Alfred Deakin.

Prime Minster Fraser, both during his time in office and after, championed the cause of ending apartheid in South Africa; the advancement of the interests of Indigenous Australians; and the passage of the Human Rights Act in 1981.

On the moral imperative of eliminating apartheid in South Africa, Malcolm Fraser stood in absolute contrast to Margaret Thatcher.

He was an active supporter of the Gleneagles Agreement in 1977 under which the Commonwealth banned sporting contact with South Africa until apartheid was ended.

Gleneagles was a critical conference because it became an important driver of political momentum within both the Commonwealth and the wider world in bringing pressure to bear on Pretoria.

On Indigenous Australia, Prime Minister’s Fraser’s passage of the Northern Territory Land Act in 1976 was an important step forward in the long-term process of building bipartisan political consensus on justice for Aboriginal Australians.

I well remember Malcolm attending the National Apology in February 2008 together with Prime Ministers Whitlam, Hawke and Keating as we celebrated another milestone in reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The existence of the Australian Human Rights Act is also an important legacy of Prime Minister Fraser’s administration.

The fact that the Human Rights Commission (now the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) through to this day continues to articulate an independent voice within Australian on the protection of the fundamental human rights of all Australians is a tribute to his leadership.

The significance of the Human Rights Act in 1981 was that it provided the mechanism through which international human rights treaty law could then be given effect within Australia’s domestic legal arrangements.

Prime Minister Fraser was also an internationalist. He exhibited a genuine passion for the poor of the world. Mr Fraser founded CARE Australia and was its inaugural Chairman from 1987-2002.

All Australians will recall Mr Fraser’s role in the controversy surrounding the dismissal in 1975.

This cannot be erased from history.

Prime Minister Fraser will be remembered as a compassionate Australian, who cared for people at home or abroad, who had little or nothing to protect them.

Therese and I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Tamie and their family.