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.
Entry into politics
Image 8: Federal election publicity for Malcolm Fraser, 1955.
UMA, 1985.0148, box 134
Malcolm Fraser's home electorate of Wannon was in 1952 held by Labor. The Liberal Party candidacy was about to be declared vacant. A Fraser family friend, Claude Austin, was a leading member of the local branch of the Liberal Party, and encouraged and coached Fraser to stand for pre-selection. In his speech to the pre-selectors, delivered on 11 November 1953, Fraser declared that anti-communism was his core motivation for wishing to enter politics. He asserted that to counter the working man's attraction to the 'false god' of communism, Liberals must not be Tories nor rely 'upon a negative' opposition to socialism, but must engage in:
… a liberal crusade … converts can only be made by the example of their own actions … I want to play some part in this. I am young and would like nothing better than to devote a lifetime to this end.8
To his own surprise, he won pre-selection against more experienced candidates. He went on to contest the 1954 election, in which the Menzies government suffered a small swing against it and lost five seats. He gained a regular spot on the local radio station, and began to give short Sunday night addresses under the title Our Australia. With very few breaks, he was to keep these up until his retirement from Parliament in 1983. The transcripts of the radio talks provide a close insight into the young man's political thinking, with many of the concerns of his later years also present in these early talks.9
Fraser did not win Wannon in 1954, but the vote was extremely close – only 17 votes separated him from the winning candidate. He won the election of December 1955 with the redistribution of preferences, and subsequently converted Wannon into a safe Liberal seat, winning it at every election he stood for until retiring from Parliament in 1983.