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Research Guides

Malcolm Fraser: Guide to Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers

Chapter 1: Malcolm Fraser

The following text is part of a short biographical essay written by journalist and author Dr Margaret Simons. Use the navigation bar or the 'Next' and 'Previous' links below to view other parts of the essay. Chapter 1 comprises the full essay.

Relations with the Liberal Party

Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party shortly after Tony Abbott came to the leadership in late 2009. It was the end result of a gradual process of alienation from the party he had led, chiefly over issues to do with attitudes to asylum seekers and Aboriginal affairs. Fraser had been a critic of the party's adoption of economic rationalism in the 1990s. He sought the federal presidency of the Liberal Party in the mid-1990s but withdrew when it became clear he could not win.

A major point of strain came when the leader of the right-wing group One Nation, Pauline Hanson, delivered her maiden speech in Parliament which was widely viewed as racist and xenophobic, and Prime Minister John Howard failed to condemn her. In 1997, Fraser wrote to the party president, Tony Staley, urging him to use all his influence to prevent the Liberal Party from directing preferences to One Nation ahead of the Labor Party. He was unsuccessful. Over the next three years, Fraser criticised Howard's refusal to apologise to the stolen generations of Aboriginal children taken from their parents. Fraser almost resigned from the party during the Tampa crisis of 2001 and the adoption by Howard of off-shore processing of asylum-seeking boat people.

When the conservative Abbott attained the leadership, Fraser took it as the final confirmation that the party would not return to what he saw as true liberalism in his lifetime. He initially kept his resignation private, but the news leaked out shortly after the publication of his memoirs in early 2010.


Chapter 1
Malcolm Fraser