|Birth Day:||May 21, 1930|
|Death Date:||Mar 20, 2015 (age 84)|
As per our current Database, Malcolm Fraser died on Mar 20, 2015 (age 84).
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After graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford University, he returned to his native Australia and began his political career as a Member Parliament for Wannon.
John Malcolm Fraser was born in Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, on 21 May 1930. He was the second of two children born to Una Arnold (née Woolf) and John Neville Fraser; his older sister Lorraine had been born in 1928. Both he and his father were known exclusively by their middle names. His paternal grandfather, Sir Simon Fraser, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, and arrived in Australia in 1853. He made his fortune as a railway contractor, and later acquired significant pastoral holdings, becoming a member of the "squattocracy". Fraser's maternal grandfather, Louis Woolf, was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, and arrived in Australia as a child. He was of Jewish origin, a fact which his grandson did not learn until he was an adult. A chartered accountant by trade, he married Amy Booth, who was related to the wealthy Hordern family of Sydney and was a first cousin of Sir Samuel Hordern.
Fraser spent most of his early life at Balpool-Nyang, a sheep station of 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) on the Edward River near Moulamein, New South Wales. His father had a law degree from Magdalen College, Oxford, but never practised law and preferred the life of a grazier. Fraser contracted a severe case of pneumonia when he was eight years old, which nearly proved fatal. He was home-schooled until the age of ten, when he was sent to board at Tudor House School in the Southern Highlands. He attended Tudor House from 1940 to 1943, and then completed his secondary education at Melbourne Grammar School from 1944 to 1948 where he was a member of Rusden House. While at Melbourne Grammar, he lived in a flat that his parents owned on Collins Street. In 1943, Fraser's father sold Balpool-Nyang – which had been prone to drought – and bought Nareen, in the Western District of Victoria. He was devastated by the sale of his childhood home, and regarded the day he found out about it as the worst of his life.
In 1949, Fraser moved to England to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, which his father had also attended. He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), graduating in 1952 with third-class honours. Although Fraser did not excel academically, he regarded his time at Oxford as his intellectual awakening, where he learned "how to think". His college tutor was Harry Weldon, who was a strong influence. His circle of friends at Oxford included Raymond Bonham Carter, Nicolas Browne-Wilkinson, and John Turner. In his second year, he had a relationship with Anne Reid, who as Anne Fairbairn later became a prominent poet. After graduating, Fraser considered taking a law degree or joining the British Army, but eventually decided to return to Australia and take over the running of the family property.
Fraser returned to Australia in mid-1952. He began attending meetings of the Young Liberals in Hamilton, and became acquainted with many of the local party officials. In November 1953, aged 23, Fraser unexpectedly won Liberal preselection for the Division of Wannon, which covered most of Victoria's Western District. The previous Liberal member, Dan Mackinnon, had been defeated in 1951 and moved to a different electorate. He was expected to be succeeded by Magnus Cormack, who had recently lost his place in the Senate. Fraser had put his name forward as a way of building a profile for future candidacies, but mounted a strong campaign and in the end won a narrow victory. In January 1954, he made the first of a series of weekly radio broadcasts on 3HA Hamilton and 3YB Warrnambool, titled One Australia. His program – consisting of a pre-recorded 15-minute monologue – covered a wide range of topics, and was often reprinted in newspapers. It continued more or less uninterrupted until his retirement from politics in 1983, and helped him build a substantial personal following in his electorate.
At the 1954 election, Fraser lost to the sitting Labor member Don McLeod by just 17 votes (out of over 37,000 cast). However, he reprised his candidacy at the early 1955 election after a redistribution made Wannon notionally Liberal. McLeod concluded the reconfigured Wannon was unwinnable and retired. These factors, combined with the 1955 Labor Party split, allowed Fraser to win a landslide victory.
On 9 December 1956, Fraser married Tamara "Tamie" Beggs, who was almost six years his junior. They had met at a New Year's Eve party, and bonded over similar personal backgrounds and political views. The couple had four children together: Mark (b. 1958), Angela (b. 1959), Hugh (b. 1963), and Phoebe (b. 1966). Tamie frequently assisted her husband in campaigning, and her gregariousness was seen as complementing his more shy and reserved nature. She advised him on most of the important decisions in his career, and in retirement he observed that "if she had been prime minister in 1983, we would have won".
Fraser spoke on a wide range of topics during his early years in parliament, but took a particular interest in foreign affairs. In 1964, he and Gough Whitlam were both awarded Leader Grants by the United States Department of State, allowing them to spend two months in Washington, D.C., getting to know American political and military leaders. The Vietnam War was the main topic of conversation, and on his return trip to Australia he spent two days in Saigon. Early in 1965, he also made a private seven-day visit to Jakarta, and with assistance from Ambassador Mick Shann secured meetings with various high-ranking officials.
After more than a decade on the backbench, Fraser was appointed to the Cabinet by the prime minister, Harold Holt, in 1966. As Minister for the Army he presided over the controversial Vietnam War conscription program.
Under the new prime minister, John Gorton, he became Minister for Education and Science and in 1969 was promoted to Minister for Defence, a particularly challenging post at the time, given the height of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War and the protests against it.
In March 1971 Fraser abruptly resigned from the Cabinet in protest at what he called Gorton's "interference in (his) ministerial responsibilities".
After the Coalition lost the 1972 election, Fraser was one of five candidates for the Liberal leadership that had been vacated by McMahon. He outpolled John Gorton and James Killen, but was eliminated on the third ballot. Billy Snedden eventually defeated Nigel Bowen by a single vote on the fifth ballot. In the new shadow cabinet – which featured only Liberals – Fraser was given responsibility for primary industry. This was widely seen as a snub, as the new portfolio kept him mostly out of the public eye and was likely to be given to a member of the Country Party when the Coalition returned to government. In an August 1973 reshuffle, Snedden instead made him the Liberals' spokesman for industrial relations. He had hoped to be given responsibility for foreign affairs (in place of the retiring Nigel Bowen), but that role was given to Andrew Peacock. Fraser oversaw the development of the party's new industrial relations policy, which was released in April 1974. It was seen as more flexible and even-handed than the policy that the Coalition had pursued in government, and was received well by the media. According to Fraser's biographer Philip Ayres, by "putting a new policy in place, he managed to modify his public image and emerge as an excellent communicator across a traditionally hostile divide".
After the Liberals lost the 1974 election, Fraser unsuccessfully challenged Snedden for the leadership in November. Despite surviving the challenge, Snedden's position in opinion polls continued to decline and he was unable to get the better of Whitlam in the Parliament. Fraser again challenged Snedden on 21 March 1975, this time succeeding and becoming Leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition.
Following a series of ministerial scandals engulfing the Whitlam Government later that year, Fraser began to instruct Coalition senators to delay the government's budget bills, with the objective of forcing an early election that he believed he would win. After several months of political deadlock, during which time the government secretly explored methods of obtaining supply funding outside the Parliament, the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, controversially dismissed Whitlam as prime minister on 11 November 1975.
On 19 November 1975, shortly after the election had been called, a letter bomb was sent to Fraser, but it was intercepted and defused before it reached him. Similar devices were sent to the governor-general and the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
At the 1975 election, Fraser led the Liberal-Country Party Coalition to a landslide victory. The Coalition won 91 seats of a possible 127 in the election to gain a 55-seat majority, which remains to date the largest in Australian history. Fraser subsequently led the Coalition to a second victory in 1977, with only a very small decrease in their vote. The Liberals actually won a majority in their own right in both of these elections, something that Menzies and Holt had never achieved. Although Fraser thus had no need for the support of the (National) Country Party to govern, he retained the formal Coalition between the two parties.
Fraser attended Anglican schools, although his parents were Presbyterian. In university he was inclined towards atheism, once writing that "the idea that God exists is a nonsense". However, his beliefs became less definite over time and tended towards agnosticism. During his political career, he occasionally self-described as Christian, such as in a 1975 interview with The Catholic Weekly. Margaret Simons, the co-author of Fraser's memoirs, thought that he was "not religious, and yet thinks religion is a necessary thing". In a 2010 interview with her, he said: "I would probably like to be less logical and, you know, really able to believe there is a god, whether it is Allah, or the Christian god, or some other – but I think I studied too much philosophy ... you can never know".
Fraser was particularly active in foreign policy as prime minister. He supported the Commonwealth in campaigning to abolish apartheid in South Africa and refused permission for the aircraft carrying the Springbok rugby team to refuel on Australian territory en route to their controversial 1981 tour of New Zealand. However, an earlier tour by the South African ski boat angling team was allowed to pass through Australia on the way to New Zealand in 1977 and the transit records were suppressed by Cabinet order.
After the defeat of the Howard government at the 2007 federal election, Fraser claimed Howard approached him in a corridor, following a cabinet meeting in May 1977 regarding Vietnamese refugees, and said: "We don't want too many of these people. We're doing this just for show, aren't we?" The claims were made by Fraser in an interview to mark the release of the 1977 cabinet papers. Howard, through a spokesman, denied having made the comment.
At the 1980 election, Fraser saw his majority more than halved, from 48 seats to 21. The Coalition also lost control of the Senate. Despite this, Fraser remained ahead of Labor leader Bill Hayden in opinion polls. However, the economy was hit by the early 1980s recession, and a protracted scandal over tax-avoidance schemes run by some high-profile Liberals also began to hurt the Government.
In April 1981, the Minister for Industrial Relations, Andrew Peacock, resigned from the Cabinet, accusing Fraser of "constant interference in his portfolio". Fraser, however, had accused former prime minister John Gorton of the same thing a decade earlier. Peacock subsequently challenged Fraser for the leadership; although Fraser defeated Peacock, these events left him politically weakened.
By early 1982, the popular former ACTU President, Bob Hawke, who had entered Parliament in 1980, was polling well ahead of both Fraser and the Labor Leader, Bill Hayden, on the question of who voters would rather see as prime minister. Fraser was well aware of the infighting this caused between Hayden and Hawke and had planned to call a snap election in autumn 1982, preventing the Labor Party changing leaders. These plans were derailed when Fraser suffered a severe back injury. Shortly after recovering from his injury, the Liberal Party narrowly won a by-election in the marginal seat of Flinders in December 1982. The failure of the Labor Party to win the seat convinced Fraser that he would be able to win an election against Hayden.
On 3 February 1983, Fraser arranged to visit the Governor-General of Australia, Ninian Stephen, intending to ask for a surprise election. However, Fraser made his run too late. Without any knowledge of Fraser's plans, Hayden resigned as Labor leader just two hours before Fraser travelled to Government House. This meant that the considerably more popular Hawke was able to replace him at almost exactly the same time that the writs were issued for the election. Although Fraser reacted to the move by saying he looked forward to "knock[ing] two Labor Leaders off in one go" at the forthcoming election, Labor immediately surged in the opinion polls.
At the election on 5 March the Coalition was heavily defeated, suffering a 24-seat swing, the worst defeat of a non-Labor government since Federation. Fraser immediately announced his resignation as Liberal leader and formally resigned as prime minister on 11 March 1983; he retired from Parliament two months later. To date, he is the last non-interim prime minister from a rural seat.
On 14 October 1986, Fraser, then the Chairman of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, was found in the foyer of the Admiral Benbow Inn, a seedy Memphis hotel, wearing only a pair of underpants and confused as to where his trousers were. The hotel was an establishment popular with prostitutes and drug dealers. Though it was rumoured at the time that the former Prime Minister had been with a prostitute, his wife stated that Fraser had no recollection of the events and that she believes it more likely that he was the victim of a practical joke by his fellow delegates.
In retirement Fraser served as Chairman of the UN Panel of Eminent Persons on the Role of Transnational Corporations in South Africa 1985, as Co-Chairman of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons on South Africa in 1985–86 (appointed by Prime Minister Hawke), and as Chairman of the UN Secretary-General's Expert Group on African Commodity Issues in 1989–90. He was a distinguished international fellow at the American Enterprise Institute from 1984 to 1986. Fraser helped to establish the foreign aid group CARE organisation in Australia and became the agency's international president in 1991, and worked with a number of other charitable organisations. In 2006, he was appointed Professorial Fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, and in October 2007 he presented his inaugural professorial lecture, "Finding Security in Terrorism's Shadow: The importance of the rule of law".
In 1993, Fraser made a bid for the Liberal Party presidency but withdrew at the last minute following opposition to his bid, which was raised due to him having been critical of then Liberal leader John Hewson for losing the election earlier that year.
After 1996, Fraser was critical of the Howard Coalition government over foreign policy issues, particularly John Howard's alignment with the foreign policy of the Bush administration, which Fraser saw as damaging Australian relationships in Asia. He opposed Howard's policy on asylum-seekers, campaigned in support of an Australian Republic and attacked what he perceived as a lack of integrity in Australian politics, together with former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam, finding much common ground with his predecessor and his successor Bob Hawke, another republican.
The 2001 election continued his estrangement from the Liberal Party. Many Liberals criticised the Fraser years as "a decade of lost opportunity" on deregulation of the Australian economy and other issues. In early 2004, a Young Liberal convention in Hobart called for Fraser's life membership of the Liberal Party to be ended.
This precipitated a series of events which eventually led to the downfall of Gorton and his replacement as prime minister by William McMahon. Gorton never forgave Fraser for the role he played in his downfall; to the day Gorton died in 2002, he could not bear to be in the same room with Fraser.
In 2004, Fraser designated the University of Melbourne the official custodian of his personal papers and library to create the Malcolm Fraser Collection at the university.
In 2006, Fraser criticised Howard Liberal government policies on areas such as refugees, terrorism and civil liberties, and that "if Australia continues to follow United States policies, it runs the risk of being embroiled in the conflict in Iraq for decades, and a fear of Islam in the Australian community will take years to eradicate". Fraser claimed that the way the Howard government handled the David Hicks, Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon cases was questionable.
On 20 July 2007, Fraser sent an open letter to members of the large activist group GetUp!, encouraging members to support GetUp's campaign for a change in policy on Iraq including a clearly defined exit strategy. Fraser stated: "One of the things we should say to the Americans, quite simply, is that if the United States is not prepared to involve itself in high-level diplomacy concerning Iraq and other Middle East questions, our forces will be withdrawn before Christmas."
In October 2007 Fraser gave a speech to Melbourne Law School on terrorism and "the importance of the rule of law," which Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella condemned in January 2008, claiming errors and "either intellectual sloppiness or deliberate dishonesty", and claimed that he tacitly supported Islamic fundamentalism, that he should have no influence on foreign policy, and claimed his stance on the war on terror had left him open to caricature as a "frothing-at-the-mouth leftie".
In December 2011, Fraser was highly critical of the Australian government's decision (also supported by the Liberal Party Opposition) to permit the export of uranium to India, relaxing the Fraser government's policy of banning sales of uranium to countries that are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In 2012, Fraser criticised the basing of US military forces in Australia.
In late 2012, Fraser wrote a foreword for the journal Jurisprudence where he openly criticised the current state of human rights in Australia and the Western World. "It is a sobering thought that in recent times, freedoms hard won through centuries of struggle, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have been whittled away. In Australia alone we have laws that allow the secret detention of the innocent. We have had a vast expansion of the power of intelligence agencies. In many cases the onus of proof has been reversed and the justice that once prevailed has been gravely diminished."
In July 2013, Fraser endorsed Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young for re-election in a television advertisement, stating she had been a "reasonable and fair-minded voice".
Fraser was given a state funeral at Scots' Church in Melbourne on 27 March 2015. His ashes are interred within the 'Prime Ministers Garden' of Melbourne General Cemetery.
In June 2018, he was honoured with the naming of the Australian Electoral Division of Fraser in the inner north-western suburbs of Melbourne.
Currently, Malcolm Fraser is 92 years, 6 months and 12 days old. Malcolm Fraser will celebrate 93rd birthday on a Sunday 21st of May 2023.
Find out about Malcolm Fraser birthday activities in timeline view here.