Before the last election, Malcolm Fraser and I had lunch in Melbourne. When I met him on that cold Melbourne morning, he was in high spirits, eager to engage in debate about important issues affecting Australia’s future.
High on his mind that morning and over lunch was the threat to the world, and Australia, of war. He stated that the world had been at war for over 50 years in different parts of the globe and he wondered when it would all stop.
He was a strong supporter of the development and sustainable growth and said as Prime Minister, “Development requires modification and transformation of the environment. The planet’s capacity to support its people is irreversibly reduced by the destruction and degradation of the biosphere and the need to understand the problem and take corrective action is becoming urgent.”
He saw the dangers to our planet far before others had thought about the issue. In his travels around Australia as Prime Minister, he touched the people and they touched him. He valued our democracy and reminded us in 1980 as our Prime Minister that “Secrecy is completely inadequate for democracy but totally appropriate for Tyranny.”
As Malcolm Fraser once said when referring to Nelson Mandela,
“If there were six Nelson Mandela’s around today, a couple in Europe, one in America and in a couple of other places, there wouldn’t be any wars.
“The truth is today that if there was six Malcolm Frasers around today, a couple in Europe, one in America and in a couple of other places, there wouldn’t be any wars.”
Like many world leaders, he helped Nelson Mandela on his long walk to freedom.
He supported the South African people in their struggle for human rights and self-determination.
No greater accolade can be given to any man no greater title or acknowledgement than that of peacemaker.
Malcolm Fraser believed in the reconciliation of man. He sought refuge for the stateless. He saw injustice and he tried to stop it. He saw division in this country and he tried to heal it. He devoted his life to those less fortunate than himself.
Gifted in intelligence, he perceived and saw what others could not see.
He saw an Australia where all Australian children could join hands and take that long walk together into the future.
He saw an Australia where all cultures of the world could be united in one country valuing their heritage and embracing each other in one nation.
His words in 1981 during his inaugural address to the Institute of Multicultural Affairs in 1981 are equally true today.
“Multiculturalism speaks to us forcefully and directly; it is not an abstract or alien notion, not a blueprint holding out utopian promises, but a set of guidelines for action which grows directly out of our society, aspirations and experiences.”
While understated and modest in his manner, he was strong on courage and commitment. One of the rarest commodities in political life is courage. Political courage, the ability to do what is right regardless of the cost, regardless of admonishment to go forward where others would not go.
He showed us the way and we must follow his example and cherish the gifts he has left for us as citizens of this great country.
I remember back in the early 80s when no state was interested in hosting Expo 88.
It was Malcolm Fraser who had the persistence to stay with it to go the course to continue to fight for the Expo to be held in Australia and the then Queensland Premier Sir Joh agreed with the Prime Minister to hold it in Queensland. Without Malcolm Fraser’s persistence, the people of Brisbane would not have Brisbane’s South Bank today and Australians would not have enjoyed Expo 88.
I remember another time when Sir Joh’s staff flew back to Queensland after a Premiers’ Conference and left the Queensland Premier sleeping in the Lakeside hotel. They got to the Queensland border when they remembered they had left the Premier in Canberra. They contacted the Prime Minister’s Office who never hesitated in offering the Queensland Premier the hospitality of The Lodge.
As Sir Joh told me, he arrived at The Lodge and the Prime Minister even offered him a pair of his pyjamas. Malcolm Fraser was quite a bit taller than Sir Joh was and Sir Joh said that as he walked around he had to hold up his pyjama pants so they would not fall off and his feet only went down to where Malcolm’s knees were.
During the night, Sir Joh went to the kitchen to get a drink, opened the fridge and a light came on, at which time security challenged him and he held up his arms and he remarked to me that security got quite a surprise. Sir Joh remarked to me that there were not many people who would give their own pyjamas but Malcolm Fraser would.
For Malcolm Fraser ‘life wasn’t meant to be easy’.
However, for Malcolm Fraser it could have been. He chose his own way freely. He chose a life of service. He chose the hard way, the more difficult road.
He should not become greater at this time than he was in life. An Australian who was prepared to give all for the service of his country and to weather the storm no matter how difficult, no matter how hard, without complaint.
His integrity was beyond question as he said himself, ‘Flexibility in pursuit of the nation’s interests must never be allowed to degenerate into expediency.’
His humility moved those who came to know him in life. He believed in our people and all the people of the region and the world
He brought peace and fought for those who suffered under the yoke of racism.
In my discussion with him, it was clear he had a pure mind, but more importantly, he had a pure heart. I extend my sincere condolences to his family. The world is so much better because of Malcolm Fraser, a citizen of the world who cared.
As it has been said, he will stand to those of us who are left as an incarnation of the spirit of the land he loved.
One of those with whom I discussed Malcolm Fraser in the last couple of days said he was a big man with his six-foot-plus frame. For people who had never met him before he was a big man, bigger than many realised.
All of our lives are enriched for having lived on this earth in the time of Malcolm Fraser.