The following letter to the editor was sent to The Australian today:

In his hyperbole, prejudice and partiality, Greg Sheridan shows himself to be not so much a commentator as a barracker, in this case for political memories.

It is impossible to fully refute his emotional allegations in yesterday’s Australian in a short space such as this.

If readers are seriously interested in knowing the facts, we urge them to read our book, and also read the Howard memoir. Readers should compare the manner, style, and degree of archival research, and make their own assessment. The judges of the NSW Premier’s Awards clearly  made such an assessment.

Sheridan’s main point of substance is Fraser’s record as Minister for Defence during the Vietnam War — the things he knew, should have known and claims to have known. Yet the point of that part of the memoirs is largely to lay out exactly those matters. Fraser admits that he made errors. That record is there for the reader to judge.

It would have been easy to come up with some convincing post hoc justification. Fraser shunned that path.

There is one error that Sheridan identifies, one slip. The book says in one sentence that Fraser won four elections. Of course, he contested four and won three.

Sheridan fails to mention one of the most important aspects of our book — the rebuttal, backed by rigorously footnoted archival documents, of the frequently repeated claim that Fraser resisted economic reform, and that Howard was a reforming spirit frustrated by Fraser.

Our book establishes that it was in fact Fraser’s office that initiated and backed the key moves on economic reform and that Howard, then treasurer, was comparatively inactive. Sheridan has nothing to say about this.

Sheridan also quotes other commentators approvingly, even though they have been shown to be simply wrong, including in an article we wrote for The Australian more than a year ago, on March 20 2010. It is still available online for those who wish to read more.

But the nature of Sheridan’s style of commentary is not evidence, but emotion. Sheridan’s disgust at Fraser’s present political opinions is such that he cannot fairly assess our book. His own prose makes this clear.

Peter Fray

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