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.
Malcolm Fraser lost power after calling an early election in 1983. There were a number of factors – the economy was in poor shape, having been hit hard by the second oil shock which followed the Iranian Revolution in 1979; the drought; and a wave of industrial disputes at home. The country seemed to be at war with itself, and in this Fraser, who had never developed the trick of being loved by the electorate, seemed to be a divisive figure, particularly when contrasted with the former head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Bob Hawke, who had entered politics amid enormous popularity and with the reputation of an industrial peacemaker.
Fraser thought he could beat Labor leader Bill Hayden, but he knew that Hawke was a different matter. This was part of the reason he called the election early – but on the same day that Fraser went to see the Governor-General, Hawke was made Labor leader. The campaign began with Fraser 11 per cent behind in the polls, and he was never ahead. His time as Prime Minister came to an end on election night, 5 March 1983.
A month later, he resigned from Parliament. He hoped that by leaving politics, he would make it possible for the Liberal Party to make a fresh start. He had advised leadership rivals John Howard and Andrew Peacock to work together – that the party needed them both. In fact, the Liberal Party was to enter a long period of division and leadership turmoil that would keep it from government until 1996.