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People of the Liberal Party:
Malcolm Fraser

    Prime Minister from 11 November 1975 to 5 March 1983

    John Malcolm Fraser was born on 21 May, 1930 in Toorak, Victoria, to a wealthy rural Victorian family.

    Fraser was often considered to be from the "landed gentry". Max Walsh in the Australian Financial Review on 31 October 1975, described Fraser in this way.

    "Malcolm Fraser is a unique Liberal leader. He is not a city man with some rural interests but a member of what used to be called the landed gentry."

    Fraser's grandfather, Simon Fraser was one of Australia's first Senators.

    Fraser was educated at Tudor House, Moss Vale, NSW, then Melbourne Grammar. He gained a place at Magdalen College, Oxford University, before coming home in 1952 to manage one of his father's properties, Nareen.

    Malcolm Fraser was elected to the Parliament, winning the seat of Wannon in 1955, at only 25 years of age. He was then the youngest person ever elected to the House of Representatives.

    Fraser remained a back bencher for 11 years until Harold Holt took over from Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister in 1966. He was made Junior Minister for the Army. Shortly afterwards, under John Gorton he became Minister for Education and Science.

    In March 1971, Fraser became disenchanted with Gorton's style of leadership and told Parliament "He is not fit to hold the great office of Prime Minister." The next day Gorton and William McMahon drew even in a party room ballot for the leadership. Gorton used his casting vote to see McMahon become the Prime Minister. Fraser was seen as instrumental in Gorton's defeat.

    In 1974, Fraser challenged Billy Snedden for the Liberal leadership and lost. In March 1975, Fraser was installed as the leader.

    The Liberal Country Party used its control in the Senate in September 1975 to block the money supply of the Whitlam government. The deadlock lasted for weeks, until on 11 November 1975 the Governor General, Sir John Kerr dismissed the Whitlam Government and made Fraser a caretaker Prime Minister, until Elections could be held.

    On 13 December, 1975, Malcolm Fraser won the biggest majority ever in the Federal Parliament: 55 seats. The ALP was left decimated.

    Fraser's government started strong: lowered inflation, gave good tax cuts and was socially progressive in some of its social welfare programs. Many have later criticised the spending side as just a continuation of Whitlam. Many also believed that Fraser respected the fabric of the Australian society was delicate given the way he had come to power, and this affected his ability to cut back much of Whitlam's excesses.

    On 10 December, 1977, Fraser's Government was returned with its majority virtually intact. In 1980, the majority was halved, when Bill Hayden took the ALP close to victory.

    A number of scandals occurred in the next three years. There were leadership challenges from Andrew Peacock. In 1982, Fraser's plans to call an early election were thwarted by a serious back injury which hospitalised him.

    On 5 March, 1983, Fraser was defeated in the polls by Bob Hawke, a charismatic, former Trade Union leader, whom replaced Bill Hayden on the day the Election was called. Fraser took full responsibility for the Government's defeat and resigned.

    Fraser was a staunch opponent of Apartheid and carried this through after his PrimeMinistership. He also promoted close relationships with Third World countries. He also passed a law to transfer land to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory.

    In retirement, Malcolm Fraser has been an advocate for many social issues, and is widely respected around the world. In 1999, two Australian aid workers Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace were jailed in Kosovo. Fraser as Chairman of CARE was involved in their release.

    Fraser, like many former Prime Ministers has largely been distanced from his party, and not utilised as much as he could have been.

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Written and Authorised by A.Molloy, PO Box 669, Double Bay, 2028.
Responsibility for Election Commentary taken by A.Molloy, PO Box 669, Double Bay, 2028.
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