Lucy and I were very sad to learn of the death of our friend Malcolm Fraser and we send our condolences to his wife Tamie and their children.
Malcolm Fraser came to the Parliament as a young farmer from the Western Districts of Victoria. He grew into a great leader of the Liberal Party and a reforming, visionary Prime Minister who laid so many of the foundations for the diverse, multicultural nation we are today.
Malcolm was rather shy and often appeared somewhat aloof (not least because of his great height). But those who knew him well saw a warm, droll and often very exuberant man.
In office and out of it he showed himself to have a big and compassionate heart. He introduced the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1976 and was a strong campaigner against racism around the world leading the Commonwealth's campaign against white minority rule in Rhodesia and apartheid in South Africa.
Malcolm Fraser’s Government established the Family Court, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and our first Freedom of Information legislation.
He was a passionate believer in multiculturalism and immigration. He enabled large scale migration from Asia, including over 50,000 refugees from Vietnam. He established the Special Broadcasting Service as a multicultural broadcaster.
Modern Australia would be very different without his vision and leadership.
As Petro Georgiou said when he retired from the Parliament in 2010 "To those who have sought to denigrate Malcolm Fraser I just want to say one thing: Malcolm Fraser's fusion of political toughness, with compassion and social conscience, is simply beyond their comprehension."
He was a young Prime Minister and had a long retirement enjoying vigorous good health until his recent illness. He continued to play a very active role in public life, never afraid to criticise governments when in his view they fell short. I was privileged to work closely with him on the Republic Campaign in 1999.
Malcolm was a fierce political warrior, but over the years he set a great example of the importance of reconciliation and remembering the things that unite us. I think all of us were delighted to see the way in which Malcolm and Gough Whitlam became friends in their retirement and found common ground in several causes whether it was defending Fairfax from takeover or advocating an Australian republic.
Above all he was utterly committed to Australia and its independence and maintained his writing and advocacy on foreign policy right up to his death. A fierce cold warrior during his days in office he became over the years concerned that Australia was too compliant with American foreign policy especially with respect to China.
Indeed his last tweet from 11.20 am on Wednesday this week, little more than a day before he died, was linked to an article about Chinese foreign policy.
Whether one agreed with him or not, in whole or in part, one thing was never in doubt. Malcolm Fraser was a passionately patriotic Australian with a big, liberal vision for our country and its people.