Watching the parliamentary career of the NSW National Andrew Fraser go down in flames is like tracking a comet in slow motion as it arcs across the night sky before exploding into molecular dust.
Fraser, MP for Coffs Harbour on the Mid North Coast and a leading Freemason, was sacked from the shadow cabinet this week after an angry encounter with the Leader of the House John Aquilina on the floor of the chamber. During the incident, a Nationals colleague, Katrina Hodgkinson, MP for Burrinjuck, tried to calm Fraser down but putting her hand on his arm. He responded by brushing her aside.
In parliament the next day Fraser admitted that he had acted “inappropriately” and apologized to the house.
Ten weeks ago, after the Nationals lost the federal seat of Lyne to Independent Robert Oakeshott, Fraser was involved in an internal party feud with NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner and upper house National, Melinda Pavey, who co-directed the party’s failed by-election campaign.
The result was that he lost his position as deputy leader and was replaced by Murrumbidgee MP Adrian Piccoli.
Two years ago, Stoner famously attempted to throttle then Roads Minister Joe Tripodi during a late night exchange in the house which turned physical. Tripodi had been baiting the Coffs Harbour MP in a debate over road fatalities on the Pacific Highway and Fraser’s patience snapped.
As far as Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell is concerned, Fraser is now irretrievably damaged and won’t serve as a shadow minister or as a minister if the Coalition wins the state election in March 2011. This has raised the possibility that Fraser, a former takeaway foodshop proprietor who has served 18 years in parliament, may pull the pin and walk away.
But an unrepentant Fraser told Crikey today: “The issue has been blown out of all proportion. I will be standing at the next election. I’ve got a job to do as MP for Coffs Harbour and I’m going to do it.”
His natural successor is Melinda Pavey, the popular upper house National who lives in the Coffs area, but Fraser’s hardline supporters have been saying privately: “There’s no way that b-tch will have Andrew’s seat.”
Fraser is recovering from personal hard times. His home was badly fire-damaged earlier this year and his daughter received severe burns. He has become one of state parliament’s bitter, angry and grumpy mature-aged men. His behaviour has become predictable but it is preventable. It’s now a question of whether Fraser wants to do something about it or not.