While other former Australian prime ministers went off to make money, or mischief, we now know what Malcolm Fraser was doing in the final years of his life. As we report today in Crikey, his last big project was to try to create nothing less than a big, new mainstream centrist political party.

Why? Here’s how it is explained at the start of the extensive manifesto for the party, Renew Australia, which we publish exclusively today:

“When high national purpose gives way to cynical political opportunism; when ethical ways of behaving are diminished by expedient or corrupt party practices; when the major parties become out-dated, behave undemocratically and serve the vested interests of the few … those of conscience and goodwill must assert a new way of governing the country.

“Many of us believe we have now reached such a time in our history, and we are joining in common cause to advocate a new path for Australia. The party we have formed, [Renew Australia], seeks to embody the principles and policies required to restore trust and reassert the decent and enduring values of Australian society and advance Australian democracy.”

Instead of slipping into a quiet retirement in his 80s, we now learn that Malcolm Fraser spent years working secretly with dozens of people to try to make his country a better place.

You don’t have to agree with his ideas to admire his relentless passion to improve the quality of Australian democracy. And you don’t have to support the practicality of launching a new political party to respect his motives to address the malaise in our public space.

Which only goes to prove what everyone has been saying for the past week. Fraser was an Australian outlier.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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