Wednesday 25 March, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:46): 'You have to be an optimist; why involve yourself in issues of public policy unless you are?'—Malcolm Fraser. In my late teenage years I visited a giant in our area, Nick Bianco, in his office, and there was a coaster on Nick's desk, and it read 'Life was not meant to be easy.' I remember asking Mr Bianco what this was about and him explaining to me that it was a quote from one of the greatest, if not the greatest, prime minister of all time, Malcolm Fraser.

It was explained to me why Malcolm Fraser was such a huge icon in the multicultural community: because he was an empathetic and tolerant leader and did many great things for the migrant and multicultural communities. I rise to say a few words about him on his passing. An empathetic man, but not a socialist. In fact, on socialism he said:

It is not a way of life, it is an unworkable formula which would apply to robots but not to men and women.

It is with great sadness that I approach parliament today to remember the Hon. Malcolm Fraser who died on Friday 20 March, who served as the 22nd prime minister of Australia between November 1975 and March 1983. Today I acknowledge some of the impacts he had on Australia.

Entering politics at the ripe age of just 25, when he was the youngest member of the 22nd parliament, his first 10 years in politics were spent as a backbencher in the Menzies' government. After Harold Holt was elected as prime minister a few years back, Malcolm Fraser served as minister for the Army and held numerous titles in the governments of John Gorton and William McMahon.

After the Whitlam government winning office in 1972, he sat on the opposition benches for the first time, and remained there for some years until 1975, when he became the leader of the opposition, providing the Liberal Party with a new sense of purpose and direction, after being appointed as caretaker prime minister in November 1975 by the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, when the Liberal Party came to government. He shortly won office with the largest landslide of any federal election, and won the largest parliamentary majority, as a proportion of seats, in Australian political history.

Mr Fraser's life and time in office will always be remembered by Australians. In economic policy the Fraser government pursued the goals of reducing expenditure, streamlining the public service and providing responsible economic management. Economic rationalism was introduced by the Fraser government in policy debate. However, traditional principles of financial management and fiscal policy marked the reality of Malcolm Fraser's prime ministerial term.

He supported strong defence spending and reinforced trade and diplomatic relations with countries of East and South-East Asia, from which we are still benefitting today. Fraser saw defence and foreign policy as areas that were key to economic benefits in the future. He was influential on the changing relations of countries within the British commonwealth. He took a strong stand in supporting reform in South Africa, and he also played a significant part in the commonwealth's efforts to establish an independent Zimbabwe. He was not afraid to speak his mind and he was passionate about human rights, even when his party disagreed.

During his term, Australia saw the National Gallery of Australia completed and the construction of the new Parliament House. In closing, Malcolm Fraser will always be remembered by his colleagues, family and friends and to Australia at large as a giant of our time. May he rest in peace.