Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Malcolm Fraser

Coinciding with the World War I anniversaries, Malcolm Fraser’s book will polarise Australian opinion on a fundamental issue. It has never been raised in this way, for Australian leaders have not discussed decisions to go to war in public, nor sought popular approval of Australia’s alliances. Yet successive generations of young Australians have fought in British and American wars to support our allies and to ensure that they would defend us. In Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the enemy were people who did not threaten Australia. But, as Fraser is not the first to observe, cowed countries do as great powers demand, while in return great powers do what suits their own interests.

... (read more)

It is unusual for a political leader to figure in the demonology of both the left and the right. Malcolm Fraser bears that distinction. For Labor he was the arrogant Western District squire, trampling on the rights of the workers; the hardline Cold War warrior and the abuser of the constitution. For Liberals he was the leader who denied them their Thatcherite moment in the sun and who, embittered by early retirement, decried their principles and their hero, John Howard. These memoirs are, above all, Fraser’s repudiation of these mythologies. The book is a strange hybrid, Fraser’s response being mediated by the journalist and writer Margaret Simons into a third-person narrative. In modern times, only Charles de Gaulle has dared such effrontery.

... (read more)
Published in May 2010, no. 321

When Malcom Fraser was prime minister, he was generally thought of as a hard and ruthless man of the right. In part this was because of the role he played in the removal of Gough Whitlam; in part because of his fiscal prudence; in part because of his orthodox Cold War foreign policy. Following his defeat in 1983, an alternative picture of Fraser gradually emerged. Under Labor, Australia embarked upon a program of economic rationalist reform. For his failure to anticipate this programme – to be wise or, as some would say, unwise before the event – Fraser was caricatured, especially by his former political friends, as a do-nothing prime minister. His time in office was ridiculed as Seven Wasted Years. After 1996 Fraser became one of the most influential critics of John Howard’s new brand of populist conservatism. The portrait of him was once more redrawn. The left saw him as a principled humanitarian; the right as an incorrigible Wet.

... (read more)

The debate about the costs and limitations of power is as old as the ALP, but it has been given new urgency by the changes in the Party since Labor won government in 1983. So far this year, three books have been published which deal wholly or in part with the Hawke government’s relationship with the traditions of the Australian Labor Party: Carol Johnson’s The Labor Legacy, Graham Maddox’s The Hawke Government and Labor Tradition and now Dean Jaensch’s The Hawke–Keating Hijack: The ALP in transition.

... (read more)
Published in October 1989, no. 115

There have been two major cycles in Australian political rhetoric since the war. The first occurred during the postwar reconstruction period, from 1943 until 1949, when contest over a new social order impelled an unusually clear articulation of philosophy and policies by the contenders for influence – represented in public debate by Curtin and Chifley on one hand, and Menzies on the other. The eventual ascendance of Menzies and the dominant ideas that emerged from that debate informed our political life for the next two decades. Not until the late 1960s, when the Liberal-Country Party coalition’s grasp of events slipped, and when the new problems of the modem world economic system and Australia’s precarious place within it dislodged the assumptions engendered in the 1940s, did the debate about the nature of our policy gain a new edge.

... (read more)
Published in September 1986, no. 84