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The inside story on Fraser’s 
resignation

Three weeks ago Malcolm Fraser and I were signing books outside a tent in the tiny town of Clunes, two hour’s drive north west of Melbourne, when one of the people queued up for our signatures asked him if he was still a member of the Liberal Party.

I held my breath. Was this when the story would break? We had been on a two month publicity tour together to promote our book, and I had been sure that the news of his resignation would come out in the first five minutes.

After all, he had been interviewed by some of the best political journalists in the country, and done dozens of public events. He had even done the Canberra Press Club. “It can’t possibly remain a secret,” I had told him in February as we awaited the book launch. But I was wrong.

Fraser had told me he would not lie if asked a direct question, but nor would he do anything to publicise his decision. Not one of the nation’s journalists had asked that direct question.

Was this it? Would the news break in tiny Clunes, thanks to a question from an ordinary member of the public? And would I at last be at liberty to write the story I had been restrained from writing?

Fraser was silent for a beat, and then replied as he signed his name: “I’m still a liberal.” And the queue moved on. He turned to me with a grin and a raised eyebrow.

Damn it.

Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party shortly after Tony Abbott came to the leadership. He told me about it early this year, in confidence, as his co-author. Naturally I wanted to break the story, but he held me to the confidence. The deal was that when the news broke, I would be at liberty to write as I chose. But not until then.

Over the following weeks I heard news of his negotiations with his former staffer David Kemp, now the President of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party, and with Tony Abbott himself. Both wanted him to sort out his disagreements with the party internally, or by writing articles and by arguing, rather than taking this final step.

But the decision was made. It was not sudden, and it was not personal. But it had been coming for a very long while.

Why did Fraser want to keep the resignation quiet? Largely, it was his old fashioned sense of honour. Leaving the Party was a painful decision. He had nearly left in 2001, during the Howard Government’s handling of the Tampa affair.

He and Tamie stayed at that time by the skin of their teeth, partly out of loyalty to the liberal-minded members of the party who were battling within, and partly out of hope that the party would one day return to what Fraser saw as its true liberal roots.

The decision to leave, after Malcolm Turnbull was ousted as leader, represented the death of that hope.

Fraser, and even more particularly Tamie, felt that it would be indecent to publicise the decision, although they accepted that it would eventually come out. They particularly did not want to be seen as using the move as part of a publicity campaign for the book.

“Do you think it would really be that big a story?” he asked me. I told him I thought it would be on the front pages, and he winced.

Yesterday the Australian Financial Review’s Laura Tingle, having apparently heard some gossip, rang Fraser to ask if it was true he had left the party. He confirmed it, and then rang to release me from my obligation.

But today his telephones are all on divert, and he is uncontactable.

Leaving the party which he led, and which for so many years had seemed to him to be the best political expression of his ideals, was not a sudden move.

When Fraser first entered politics in the 1950s, he was a vehement anti Communist. He had come of age intellectually in idealistic post-war Oxford, through his study of the core philosophers of liberalism, including John Stuart Mill, and John Locke.

Communism seemed to Fraser, and many others, the main threat to freedom. Menzies’ Liberal Party – founded, as Fraser saw it, not as a conservative force but as a progressive party committed to defending freedom and the rule of law – seemed the best embodiment of his own ideals.

He remained of that view for the next forty years.

People often ask if Fraser has changed, without fully taking account of how much the world has changed around him over that time.

By the early 1990s the Berlin wall had fallen and the Communist threat was no more. This, in Fraser’s view, made a realignment necessary. It was now not only possible, but necessary, to combat other threats to freedom.

In the eight years immediately following the defeat of his Government in 1983, Fraser spoke only sparingly on domestic politics. Inside the party he urged Peacock and Howard to stop fighting and start cooperating. The Party and the country needed both of them, he believed. He respected Howard’s political abilities, and Peacock’s liberal instincts. But these discussions remained mostly internal to the party.

His relative abstinence on commenting about domestic politics came to an end in the early 1990s, when Australia was deep in recession and unemployment was in double digits. One of the keys to understanding Fraser’s character is that he is an activist. Faced with a crisis, real or perceived, he almost never concludes that the right option is to do nothing. He feels a sense of duty and obligation to act.

In this case, he began regular newspaper columns, with the first saying he was too concerned about Australia’s future to remain silent. He saw a new threat that he believed was in many ways the mirror image of the Communist menace that had first motivated him to enter politics. The new threat was an unreasoning faith in free markets as an organising principle in human affairs.

In the following years he was a frequent critic of the free market ideology of both the Liberal and The Labor parties. Nevertheless, he was enough of a loyal party member to support the election of Hewson in 1993, after the notorious Fightback policy, which Fraser had vehemently criticised, was softened.

Fraser sought the federal presidency of the Liberal Party in the mid 1990s – against Tamie’s advice. He withdrew when it became clear he could not win. By this time, a vote for Fraser could only mean a vote against Hewson, and the prevailing direction of the party.

In 1994, when Hewson announced a ballot for the leadership, Fraser supported the team of Alexander Downer and Peter Costello against the other contender, John Howard. He thought Howard had had his chance, and had brought only division. Fraser had been close to Downer’s father, and regarded him as “a conservative in the best sense of the word.” The son he thought largely untried, but he chose to hope.

When Downer became leader, he wrote that he would give the party “direction, conviction, enthusiasm and victory…for the first time in several years I am enthusiastic about the prospects for the future of the Party.”

He was wrong, of course. The untried son was soon floundering, and the Party turned one last time to John Howard.

Fraser chose to be hopeful. He wrote that Howard had “broadened his vision and understanding” since the 1980s, and that his experience would equip him well to respond to the challenges facing the party.

But he had many private misgivings.

They were confirmed, in his mind, when Pauline Hanson became a political force in 1996, and Howard failed to condemn her. Fraser was appalled. In 1997, he wrote to the party president, Tony Staley, urging him to use all his influence to prevent the Liberal Party from directing preferences to One Nation ahead of the Labor Party.

“I regard Pauline Hanson, the ideas and policies implicit in her statements, as of extraordinary danger to the unity and cohesion of a fair-minded, democratic Australia…It is vitally important that the Liberal Party remove itself as far as possible from the politics of Pauline Hanson,” he wrote. But he was unsuccessful.

From this point on, if not before, Fraser’s relationship with his party was under enormous strain. Over the next three years came Howard’s failure to apologise to the Stolen Generations, the Tampa crisis and the inhumanity of the immigration detention camps. Fraser spoke out on all these issues.

During the Tampa crisis, Fraser and Tamie sat up late debating whether they should leave the party. They stayed largely out of loyalty to other members who shared their ideals. Chief amongst these in the Fraser mindset was Petro Georgiou, formerly a staff member of Fraser’s who remained in parliament and challenged the Howard line on asylum seekers.

But in November 2008, as Fraser and I worked on the book together, Georgiou announced that he would retire at the next federal election.

Fraser considered Malcolm Turnbull, whatever his political talents, as a true liberal. The way in which Turnbull was treated by the party room was not so much the straw that broke the camel’s back as the final confirmation that the party would not return to liberalism in Malcolm Fraser’s lifetime.

To anyone who had been watching, his resignation should not have come as a surprise.

Nor should the fact that, for the moment at least, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

Fraser turned 80 last Friday. He celebrated with a quiet day at home followed by dinner with his family.

He has seen the political advertising the Liberal Party has used, playing up the supposed “menace” of boat people. It confirms him in his views.

He is at terms with his sad and painful decision.

Margaret Simons co-wrote the recently released Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs with the former Prime Minister.

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  • 1
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Abbott just lied again — he said Fraser had said the Rudd govt was worse than Whitlam’s. It wasn’t what Fraser said on Q&A.

  • 2
    Tomboy
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    When Fraser was PM, Abbott wasn’t even a Liberal - more like DLP who were following Australia’s Duce - Santamaria. Howard - 1950s; Abbott - 1930s (New Guard? Mosley?).

  • 3
    Michael James
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I believe that the spilt was due to Fraser moving more to the left in his later years, while the Liberal Party has moved more to the right.

    Labour moved more towards the right in recent years, to become more electable. Rudd won on being Howard lite. The Liberals have moved to the right to differentiate themselves from the ALP, placing a very ‘wet’ Liberal like Fraser in an uncomfortable position.

    At the end of the day however, whatever merits their might or might not have been in Fraser’s leadership of the nation for two terms (which is still the subject of significant argument by historians and those who experienced those times), Fraser has made a personal decision.

    Rather than read into it the fortunes of the conservative side of Australian politics (which will be what happens here on Crikey) perhaps it is better to see it as a personal decision by a generally private individual.

  • 4
    Sally Goldner
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    We need a small-l liberal party, roughly paralell to the Liberals of Lib-Dem in the UK. Malcolm Fraser has the contacts and money to start such a party. So does the other Malcolm - Turnbull. We need more checks and balances on the 2 larger (I refuse to call them major) parties. And the sooner the better.

  • 5
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Something that has to be said about Fraser is the notion that he was particularly humane to Vietnamese refugees is a lie. He set up the camps all over Asia in response to hysteria and because he only wanted to pick the best and brightest while keeping out everyone else.

    We saw on Dateline during the story of SIEVX that a Mr Humphries who worked in immigration showed that Australian agents were putting holes in the bottom of boats to sink them in Malaysia and then have them locked up in jail camps in Indonesia.

    Nothing humane, just a way to cherry pick who we wanted while the rest died or got sent back.

    And for the man who had Whitlam sacked and still won’t admit his perfidy he should be grateful that many can forgive him because I can’t.

  • 6
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    A great story Margaret, and an interesting one.

    As a staunch laborite teenager in 1975 I had a profound dislike for Fraser, (I lived in Whitlam’s electorate at the time) however over the years he earned my respect for the way he voiced his views.

    His charity work, and the world view he expressed in various interviews in those intervening years forced that respect I began to feel.

    Again, his standing up for his principles rather than accepting the extremist attitudes of the current liberal parliamentary cohort, only reinforces that respect.

    It would be very easy for anyone to simply accept that a party is following a particular direction in order to gain a political advantage. I am glad that Mr Fraser has been stronger than that.

    I hope his decision ripples through the liberals and maybe, just maybe, they finally see some sense. They have been blocking good legislation for the wrong reasons. And they have been using sensationalism and negative scare campaigns to gain political advantage instead of working for the good of the country.

    While I realise it is incumbent on an opposition to attempt to gain government, this should never be to the detriment of the country in terms of policy and direction. If we cannot believe that ultimately, our politicians are working for the good f the country, then our political system is in tatters.

  • 7
    Tomboy
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Michael James: I think you made some valid points. Rather than moving to the left in his later years, Fraser may have been more outspoken about his real views (unencumbered by obligations to the Liberal Party right faction). Moreover, his stance with Vietnamese refugees and apartheid-era South Africa was more consistent with his position now. :-)

  • 8
    cmagree
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    When are Keating and Whitlam going to resign from the ALP?

    And we already have a socially progressive party — the Greens. Their policies are in the main small ‘l’ liberal (but are portrayed as radical because the major parties have moved so far to the right). Unlike the other parties, the Greens are very upfront about their policies.

  • 9
    David
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    @JENAUTHOR…not a day goes by he doesn’t lie Jen, he must spend a damn long time visiting Pell for the ole absolution,,,perhaps he just texts him and Pell has an automatic absolution programmed in…Hi George I,ve got another couple to confess….Pells mobile ..press 1 for 1 lie, 2 for 2 etc…absolution and penance advice will follow…Yours in Liberal George, Bishop and confessor

  • 10
    Tomboy
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    @Shepardmarilyn: I’m sorry that you’re so bitter about 1975…you can’ forgive Fraser, yet Whitlam seems to have been able to get over it (haven’t he and Fraser been friends over the latter years?).

  • 11
    Elan
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Why do we baulk at censorship??

    All I wrote was “What took you so long Malcolm”.

    It incurred the moderation notice. It disappeared. Perhaps I should have said MR Fraser??
    __________________

    Fraser should feel no sadness. He is (has become) a man of conscience, so he does feel this.

    The ‘Liberal’ Party long since deserted him. Long since. A Howard Liberal Government was- like the Bush Administration in the US.;- a global embarrassment.

    MR Fraser should have ditched this unrecognizable mess of Right-wing Conservatives years ago.

    It saddens me that they are in such a parlous state that Turnbull is looked on as some kind of saviour. He is nothing of the kind.

    His autocratic style of leadership belies any moderate philosophies he espouses. How in the hell he thought he could get away with that, with the Abbott/Minchin (g), machine, is beyond my comprehension!

    He will do the same thing again. It will incur dissension again. The bloke needs his own Party. Perhaps” The New Liberals”??

    Then he can say ‘it’s my Party, and I’ll cry (foul) if I want to’.
    _______________

    Well done Malcolm Fraser!

    This is the first beacon of hope for those of us to support those who see these Parties as so strayed from their original premise that they formally and publicly sever ties with them.

    I hope it starts a trend. (No. I won’t hold my breath).

  • 12
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Gough is entitled to do what he likes but delving into Frasers real actions over the Vietnamese makes me know that he is a load of old humbug.

    It’s not bitterness at all, but it was Fraser who has been lying about it ever since and his lying should not be rewarded.

    For example. To prevent any Vietnamese coming here the Galang refugee prison was set up close to where the ALP have one today in Indonesia.

    They started jailing people in 1979 in that place, many were still there in 1994 without hope of any kind.

    And this is just one of the many lies about that time.

  • 13
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/galangs-refugee-hell/story-e6frg6z6-1225794834269

    See.

  • 14
    Charles Richardson
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    As a private citizen, Fraser is fully entitled to keep quiet about his decision to leave the Liberal Party. But in that case, he shouldn’t have written a book. To publish that sort of book, but hold back such a key piece of information, strikes me as dishonest - the same sort of dishonesty that got Cheryl Kernot into trouble a few years back.

  • 15
    Peter Logue
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Well written and thoughtful piece Margaret.

  • 16
    Syd Walker
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Malcolm Fraser was refreshingly charming on the ABC’s Q&A this week. He almost seemed to hale from a different era, when truth mattered more than cleverness.

    His comment that the British and US Government’s must have known it likely there were no WMDs in Iraq - and the the Australian Government should have known - was the highlight of the program for me. Why were we whisked away so quickly to another topic, I wonder? What’s more important than a former Prime Minister helping to expose war crimes carried out by our Government and its so-called ‘allies’?

    Anyhow, this is a fascinating story. I share Malcolm Fraser’s view that the Liberal Party leadership was in significantly better hands when Malcolm Turnbull was leader. His ousting, I think, was a serious error for the Coalition’s long-term standing and prospects.

    I wonder if Fraser might have kept his party membership, had he known at the time of Turnbull’s susbequent decision not to resign from politics?

  • 17
    MARY WALSH
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Any one who has following what Mr Fraser has said over many years could not fail to see his loss of faith in the Liberal Party. I too faced the same dilemmas to a lesser degree when I resigned from the Labor Party. Financial members who hold strong convictions feel mortified about some actions which are taken in their name as members of a group.

    Loyalties are learned in the playground and are very hard to break.

    I knew the Liberal Party had lost the soul of Malcolm Fraser many years ago - instead of a separation it is now a divorce - which leaves him free of commitments to ideals which he cannot in conscience, support.

  • 18
    Rena Zurawel
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Regardless what some people think Malcolm Fraser was a statesman.
    All I can remember was that life and social life was much easier under the Fraser government.
    The present neo-con Liberals show less and less affinity with Australia. Very sad.

  • 19
    Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Syd,

    Q&A is on the ABC, and they must show balance. This means equal time to Labor and Liberal spin, but avoid as much as possible presenting progressive views.

    Neither Labor nor Liberal have any interest in enquiring into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war - thus move on.

    And did you notice how Jones put an end to discussion on reducing class sizes by saying “That could never happen here.”

    I’m one of the progressives who over time have come to respect Malcolm more and more.

  • 20
    John james
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Fraser, like former leaders Turnbull and Peacock, whose demise he laments, represent an ill disciplined and policy bereft minority of the Liberal Party, that the Conservative base has long since repudiated.
    Margaret Simons, like all those on the political and cultural Left, having been defeated by the West in the Cold War, now prosecute their agenda of social and cultural nihilism, destruction of personal liberty, and economic vandalism, in the very forums that feedom loving societies , unlike their marxist/socialist comrades, have provided.
    It is salutary to remember that Simons, like Choamsky, Pilger, Adams, McCallum and the rest of the ‘proletariat’, are standard bearers for a visceral anti Americanism, apologists for many terrorist organisations, in fact any that oppose the United States, ( Pilger’s public defense of the Khymer Rouge representing the absolute nadir in this sorry mess called the Left ) enduring hostility to the Judeo Christian concepts that underpin Western institutions and the personal freedoms they protect , assaults on the family and its foundation, marriage, and an enduring assault on all religion, but especially anything Christian, for like Marx, Hegel and the teachers at whose feet they absorbed this barbarity, they reject anything transcendent in humankind.

  • 21
    Socratease
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    @jenauthor: “Abbott just lied again — he said Fraser had said the Rudd govt was worse than Whitlam’s. It wasn’t what Fraser said on Q&A.”

    Thanks, I thought I heard Fraser say the opposite, too.

    I’d have more respect for Fraser if he said what he really thinks about the turkeys on the Liberal front bench.

  • 22
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    And did you notice how Jones put an end to discussion on reducing class sizes by saying “That could never happen here.””

    Had to laugh. In kindergarten in NSW 20 students is the maximum — so it is already happening!!

  • 23
    Socratease
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes, and I said ‘huh?” at that unnecessary and incorrect throw away line of his.

  • 24
    davidk
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I think Fraser said Rudd’s govt was worse than Whitlam’s in terms of policy implementation. The fact that abbott lied should come as no surprise to anyone. I’ll be surprised if he ever tells the truth about anything.

  • 25
    Holden Back
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    So if the Cold War has been won, why is John James still fighting it with tired half-truths? Could he please explain what is actually conservative about neo-liberalism? Oh, and those Judeo-Christian values, which are they?

  • 26
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps it isn’t a case of Malcolm Fraser turning a little bit left. Rather it is a case of keeping abreast of the decent liberalism which exists in this country-At least I hope it does-which is on the point of going underground.

    Whereas the Liberal Party, led by Tony Abbott, attracts scheming thugs who reveal the rabid right-wing prostitution of all traces of dignity, decency and balance. The same mentality as the small time thugs employed by Hitler to run concentration camps and bully-boy gangs.

  • 27
    Scott Grant
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I can relate to the story of forming political views during Uni days. Being anti-communist is quite a respectable position, particularly during the worst days of Stalinism.

    My own basic leanings were formed during the era of the Vietnam war and conscription. All I could see was a bunch of old conservatives who allowed their anti-communist hysteria to lead us into the immoral quagmire that was the Vietnam war. Fraser, of course, was Minister for the Army under Harold Holt. I rejoiced when the election of Gough freed me from the threat of conscription.

    I think I could vote for a genuinely liberal party, if the liberalism was tempered by a genuine concern for social justice, for limiting corporate power, and, of course, for doing something about climate change.

    For my part, any lingering angst over the dismissal, is directed at the Murdoch press which was then and is now so stridently anti-democratic. Malcolm was concerned about the threat to freedom posed by communism. Today, more than ever, the threat is unrestrained corporate power.

  • 28
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    SCOTT GRANT: As evidenced by Rupert Murdoch?

    I agree with everything you’ve said-for what it is worth.

  • 29
    Jonathan Maddox
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    @John James : “Pilger’s public defense of the Khymer Rouge” —  — WHAT?

    Pilger was the first Western journalist on the ground following the Vietnamese invasion that EXPELLED the Khmer Rouge from power in Cambodia and first to expose the sheer scale of destruction in the preceding years. He wasn’t in Cambodia while the Khmer Rouge were in power nor did he ever write anything in favour of that most insane of regimes.

    Consider this a public defence of John Pilger.

    Do go and READ what Pilger wrote at the time, if you care a whit for honesty.

    As for “rejecting anything transcendent in humankind” — go and READ Hegel!

  • 30
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    @ Scott
    “Today, more than ever, the threat is unrestrained corporate power.”

    Well summed-up, Scott. Balance is a key word.

    Unrestrained corporate power is in evidence in the Murdoch press, with its consistent and blatant skewing of political reporting in this country. It is a form of censorship — one that has a nefarious intent, not, as with pornographic censorship, for instance, aimed at the public good.

    The same could be said of the really big miners and some international banks. That lack of restraint gave us the GFC. The banks that were ‘too big to fail’ showed the downright arrogance of unrestrained corporate power.

    Individual corporate heads have lost touch with the real world where most of us live (cf. Sol Trujilo when heading up Telstra). Thus they have no concept of the ramifications of their decisions.

  • 31
    davidk
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m with both of you.

  • 32
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    ANyone watching Abbott digging another hole for himself on QT?

  • 33
    Callum
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    @jenauthor 1.34pm and @socrates, LMAO, my god, you two are really full of it. Even worse, you have just been caught out. Fraser re-phrases a question from Paul Sherrington on quanda, where Sherrington asks Fraser which government, out of Rudd and Whitlam government’s, is better. Fraser rephrases the questions and says ‘least worst’.

    He then goes on to describe many of the failings of the current government as being worse than Whitlam in administering policies. Specifically, he says “and the administrative failures are as great, if not greater, than the administrative failures in Gough Whitlam’s government”. This says a heck of a lot. The transcript is below, but before we go there, two things strike me as very amusing about those two comments:
    1) @jenauthor and @socrates have not tried to say the Rudd government is good (or Whitlam for that matter), rather they tried to say Rudd is not as bad as Whitlam
    2) How desperate are the left wing staffers on here to deliberately and blatantly misrepresent what was clearly said, but then, the left wing don’t lie. In fact, the only people with a pre-disposition to lie in politics are apparently people on the right, according Joooolia, Waaaayne, Krudd, and now @ jenauthor and @socrates lol

    ROTFLMAO

    Enjoy below – clowns!

    PAUL SHERRINGTON: Thanks, Tony. Controversial Melbourne columnists like Andrew Bolt and others have declared the Rudd Government to be the worst and most wasteful government in living memory, perhaps unfairly. Given a choice between the Whitlam Government, as you intimately know it, Mr Fraser, and the Rudd Government so far, which do you think is better?

    MALCOLM FRASER: Oh, you’ve got to say - I’d use different terms: “least worst”. The Rudd Government so far, but you didn’t take a very good - I don’t want to criticise journalists, because, you know, some journalists have very extreme views and generally only report one side of a question, as we’ve heard, perhaps. The administrative failures of the current government, whether it’s in delivering houses to indigenous people, or whether it’s in putting insulation in roofs or building classrooms for schools with government schools costing several times what it costs private schools, or what other things have they sought to administer? They’re going to muck up the hospitals next. The administrative failures are gross and half of them aren’t pursued by the opposition and the administrative failures are as great, if not greater, than the administrative failures in Gough Whitlam’s government. But Gough’s failures were of a different kind, of a different quality, and I don’t want to go into those now. It wasn’t straight out of administering what should have been a plain, straightforward program, which for some reason this government seems totally incapable of doing.”

  • 34
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Actual chest-beating! Wow. His chimpanzee dna is really coming out now.

  • 35
    jenauthor
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Callum — it became quite obvious during Fraser’s discourse that he also, had been reading the Australian without actually getting the truth.

    You accuse us of parroting labor party propaganda — well what the heck do you think you do? Go back and actually look at what official inquiries have told us on the administration of the insulation scheme, for instance. What, you don’t trust the official reports?

    Convenient.

  • 36
    rossco
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I find it interesting that the Frasers almost quit the Libs over Tampa. I always supported Labor (although not a party member) until Tampa but I was so disgusted with Labor’s cave in on that issue I joined the Greens and am still a member. I know it was a turning point for quite a few others in shifting from Labor to the Greens.

    Now that Malcolm has quit the Libs he might consider joining the Greens!

  • 37
    John james
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    @ Jonathon Maddox, ‘..he wasn’t in Cambodia while the Khymer Rouge were in power..”

    The boofhead Left at its dissembling best.
    The Left hailed the ‘liberation of Cambodia ” by the Rouge, just as they applauded the defeat of the United States by that other doyen of the Left, the murderous Ho Chi Minh.
    Ho and Pol Pot learned their Marxism at the feet of the ‘Left bank intellectuals’ in Paris, reading Hegel, and Marx, voraciously and erecting monuments to themselves soaked in the blood of the ‘intellectuals’ they murdered.
    Ask Vietnamese Catholics about what the Left see as transcendent, then back to sipping your lattes while reading your heroes of the revolution.

  • 38
    Ian
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Will somebody please send John James a box of teabags!

  • 39
    David
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    @johnjames….From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Religion in Cambodia is predominantly Buddhism with 95% of the population being Theravada Buddhist. Most of the remaining population adheres to Islam, Christianity, Animism and Hinduism…..

    Why do you single out Cambodian catholics? I wasn’t aware they were the only Cambodians tortured and killed during Pol Pot’s regime. Is it only catholics that concern your tunnel vision view of the world?

  • 40
    OBlizzard
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Micheal

    Q&A is on the ABC, and they must show balance. This means equal time to Labor and Liberal spin, but avoid as much as possible presenting progressive views.

    Neither Labor nor Liberal have any interest in enquiring into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war - thus move on.

    And did you notice how Jones put an end to discussion on reducing class sizes by saying “That could never happen here.”

    I’m one of the progressives who over time have come to respect Malcolm more and more.

    To be fair Michael it wasn’t remotely relevant to the question. Maybe Tony was just being expedient rather than acting as an organ of a partisan political conspiracy? Just a thought.

  • 41
    paddy
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    A nice piece of writing there Margaret.
    Thanks

  • 42
    John james
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    @ David “… Why do you single out Cambodian Catholics?”
    @ John James, “.. Ask Vietnamese Catholics..”

    You know you’re dealing with the Left, that shambolic excuse for lucidity, when they start quoting what they think you said, and start rewriting history.

  • 43
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Why are the comments by John James slipping through the moderation? He’s calling the author of this piece a mass-murderer, or at least an enabler of one, without providing any evidence whatsoever….in a thread about Malcolm Fraser’s resignation of all things. His comments are not only off-topic, but the very definition of a ‘personal attack’. Crikey, please moderate or ban this notorious troll.

  • 44
    Rena Zurawel
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    John James
    Before you start studying Hegel or Pilger, could you start studying English writing system?
    Only then you can start studying both geography and recent history.
    And, by the way, ‘the Left’ does not have to mean ‘communist’ as ‘the Right’ does not necessary mean ‘fascism’.

  • 45
    Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Jonathan Maddox
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    @John James : “Pilger’s public defense of the Khymer Rouge” —  — WHAT?

    @JONATHAN - I agree. The first documentary of John Pilger’s that I recall was what happened to the people of Cambodia - I can still see all those skulls piled up, and I was transfixed with horror while I watched. The very idea that John Pilger supported the horrors that the people endured is repudiated in this article below. these are not the words of someone who agreed or even excused what happened. It certainly was not my impression via that documentary called,” Year Zero;The Silent Death of Cambodia”.

    http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=553

    I’m also anti-American with good reason. The US has either interfered with or invaded over 45 countries since the end of WW2 - some of them more than once, like Haiti and Iraq. You appear to be on the side of anyone who killed alleged communists, regardless. I suggest you read ‘American Torture’ and take another look at the numbers of Vietnamese killed, assassinated and tortured by the US. Look no further than Central and South America, and speak to the many from Chile and El Salvador that I have spoken to. John Pilger’s “War on Democracy” is also worth watching.

    SHEPHERDMARILYN - While I acknowledge the ‘softening’ of Malcolm Fraser re asylum seekers and aboriginal issues in recent years, I am still angry over the Whitlam sacking. My vote was torn up, and I’m not convinced that the whole thing was a deliberate ploy to get rid of him, because of international bodies who, above other things wanted our uranium. Where’s Khemlani for instance? Funny how he conveniently just vaporised after 11th November ‘75?

    @TOMBOY - Gough was entitled to forgive and forget if he wished, but it was more than just his sacking - it was all of us who voted for him, who voted full stop!

    I’d have more time for Malcolm Fraser if he’d been honest at the time of his resignation.

  • 46
    David
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    @ johnjames, my apologies for the error. At least I respond in a civil polite manner.

  • 47
    JamesK
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    @ John James Post 2:48 pm

    Very well said.

    I was shocked to hear the news of Fraser’s resignation as I had thought there had been a mutually agreed separation a decade or more ago.

    Good to see and hear Tony Abbott say nice things about him but the Coalition is much the better for his formal acknowledged departure.

    No Flowers, Please.

  • 48
    Sancho
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Are we going to get some links from John James, or is he going to continue putting his own statements in quotation marks and attributing them to John Pilger?

  • 49
    John james
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    @Daniel “..Crikey, please moderate or ban this notorious troll”

    Daniel, this isn’t the Politburo mate. But this is vintage Left ‘nonsense’.
    I bet you love to ban lots of things.

    @Rena Zurawel, “..the Left doesn’t have to mean communist..”

    Can you point to where I’ve used the word “communist” ? The term “marxist” and “socialist” are much broader.
    Back to your latte and your Hugo Chavez manual of economic theory.

  • 50
    PatriciaWA
    Posted Wednesday, 26 May 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Maintaining Rage

    Malcom Fraser -
    Once you were
    “Kerr’s cur”
    And still are so for me,
    Notorious
    In Australian history
    For destroying
    Our democracy.
    Softer now and
    Old and grey,
    Elder statesman,
    All that evil
    Gone away?
    Still you represent
    For me
    The worst
    By which
    Society is cursed:
    Patriarchy,
    Patronage,
    Benovolence
    Of a by-gone age,
    Once denier of
    My suffrage.
    Many have forgot
    Those things you did,
    But I have not.
    Even Gough may
    Have forgiven you.
    Again I say
    That I have not.

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