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(John) Malcolm Fraser AC CH PC

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Prime Minister, 11 November 1975 to 11 March 1983
Liberal Party of Australia

The third longest serving Liberal Party Prime Minister,1 Malcolm Fraser’s (1930-2015) patrician bearing masked a deep wellspring of ‘compassionate conservatism’.2 His embrace of multiculturalism and rejection of racism forever changed the face of Australia.

Grandson of Sir Simon Fraser,3 a colonial politician and senator, Fraser was born in Melbourne but spent his childhood on a NSW Riverina pastoral property. He studied politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford, returning to Australia in 1952. Elected in 1955 as the Liberal Member for Wannon, he was the new Parliament’s youngest member. He married Tamara (Tamie) Beggs the following year;4 they had four children.

Fraser became Minister for the Army in 1966 during the Vietnam War, and later took on the Education and Science (1968–69 and 1971–72), and Defence (1969–71) portfolios. Having ascended to the Liberal Party leadership in March 1975, the Whitlam dismissal later that year saw him become Prime Minister amid immense controversy. However, Fraser led the Liberal–Country Party coalition to a landslide victory in the subsequent election, winning a 55-seat majority in the House of Representatives – the largest margin on record – and a six-seat majority in the Senate.

As Prime Minister, Fraser is remembered for his stringent economic rationalism as well as social, environmental, and legal reforms. Under his Government, Australia became ‘the first Westminster system to introduce national freedom of information laws’.5 He established the Human Rights Commission and the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Fraser regarded Vietnamese refugee resettlement, immigration reform, and implementing policies to support multiculturalism as his proudest achievements.6 His resolute anti-racism and belief in Australia’s capacity as a middle power led him to condemn apartheid and support Zimbabwe’s independence. In his words, ‘If you are interested in a better world then you have to be interested in foreign policy’.7 Fraser was the last Prime Minister to successfully amend the Constitution, including a proposal to formalise the convention (broken in 1975) that Senate casual vacancies should be filled by members of the same political party.8 In 1978, he announced plans for a new Parliament House, and two years later ceremonially turned the first sod at Capital Hill.9

Fraser resigned from Parliament after his Government’s defeat in the 1983 election. He then became a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group seeking to end apartheid in South Africa.10 In 1987, Fraser became the founding chairman of CARE Australia, a major overseas aid provider.11 He was awarded Australia’s Human Rights medal in 2000. He died in 2015, shortly after Gough Whitlam, with whom he had reconciled decades earlier.

Sir Ivor Henry Thomas Hele CBE
South Australian artist Ivor Hele (1912-1993) was known for his exceptional draughtsmanship and talent for portraiture and figure compositions. He studied art in Adelaide and later in Europe, and began exhibiting during his teenage years. By 1939, he had become a regular exhibitor with the Royal South Australian Society of Arts, highly regarded for his prize-winning portraits. In 1940, Hele enlisted in the army and in 1941 was appointed an official war artist. He would go on to become Australia’s longest serving and most prolific war artist, producing over 500 works. Although he also painted many landscapes, Hele was best known for his portraits, winning the SA Melrose Prize for Portraiture three times and the Archibald Prize five times, notably with his portrait of Robert Menzies. In 1969 he was made a CBE, and in 1982 was knighted for his services to art. Hele was a trustee to the board of what was then known as the National Gallery of SA 1956–69. His work is represented in all major Australian national, state and regional galleries.12

(John) Malcom Fraser
by Ivor Henry Thomas Hele
Oil on canvas
100 x 79.6 cm
Historic Memorials Collection, Parliament House Art Collection

1. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: M Fraser and M Simons, Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, updated edition, The Miegunyah Press, Carlton, 2010; M Grattan, ed., Australian Prime Ministers, revised edition, New Holland, Sydney, 2008, pp. 354–79; B Carroll, Australia’s Prime Ministers: From Barton to Howard, Rosenberg, Dural, 2004;W Brown, Ten Prime Ministers: Life Among the Politicians, Longueville Books, Double Bay, 2002; J Farquharson, ‘Fraser, Malcolm (1930–2015)’, Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, accessed June 2021.
2. Grattan, op. cit., p. 378.
3. S Marchant, ‘Fraser, Sir Simon (1832–1919)’, The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate Online Edition, Department of the Senate, Parliament of Australia, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed 8 July 2021.
4. ‘Malcolm Fraser’s partner: Tamie Fraser’, National Archives of Australia, accessed 8 July 2021.
5. Fraser and Simons, op. cit., p. 405.
6. Ibid., pp. 277, 439.
7. Ibid., p. 449.
8. S Bennett, The Politics of Constitutional Amendment, Research paper series, 2002–03, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2003, p. 13, accessed 8 July 2021.
9. M Fraser, ‘Ministerial Statement: New and Permanent Parliament House’, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1979, p. 3192.
10. Fraser and Simons, op. cit., p. 522.
11. Ibid., p. 612.
12. Information in this biography has been taken from the following: ‘Sir Ivor Henry Thomas HELE CBE (1912–1993)’ Virtual War Memorial Australia; ‘Sir Ivor Hele 1912–1993’, National Portrait Gallery, 2021; ‘Ivor Hele: the heroic figure’, Australian War Memorial; J Hylton, ‘Hele, Sir Ivor Henry (1912–1993)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 2021; ‘Hele, (Sir) Ivor Henry Thomas’, A McCulloch, S McCulloch and E McCulloch Childs, eds, The New McCulloch’s Encyclopedia of Australian Art, Aus Art Editions in association with The Miegunyah Press, 2006, p. 509.  Websites accessed 26 March 2021.

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