Malcolm Fraser 

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Malcolm Fraser is a former Australian Prime Minister.... of the same party as John Howard and Phillip Ruddock.  John Howard was Treasurer in the Fraser Government.

An ABC Lateline program characterised Malcolm Fraser as one of the "most trenchant critics of the (Howard) crackdown on boat people."

Before the Federal elections Mr Fraser said destitute have been made pawns in a harsh political contest, referring to refugees attempting to reach Australia by boat.

He said of the election, "I never thought I'd see the day when discrimination and race would play such a large part in an election program and I never thought I'd have a situation where both major parties have the same policy."

".. the boat people, the border issues, were used - you only have to follow the advertisements that were used from day one to the last possible day of the campaign, and they centred around protecting our borders, from women and children and destitute people, a few hundred, a few thousand at the most, as though they could ever offer a threat to Australia."

When asked by the ABC's Tony Jones if he agreed with former Labour Prime Minister Paul Keating's statement that the election was won by appealing to racist attitudes, Mr Fraser had this to say:

" Let me put it a slightly different way. It's possible to appeal to the better things in our nature, the things that ought to happen to make the world a better place.

It is also possible to play upon our fears and our concerns about the unknown, people unknown because they come from a different land, they look different and they come from a religion that is different to that which most of us follow.

Now, when you appeal to these things, you're really appealing to the worst part of our nature and not to the best."

He said both major parties, Liberal and Labor, "appealed to the worst of our natures and not to the best of our natures."

Tony Jones asked if given that most people voted either Liberal or Labor, was that not a mandate for Howard's policies.  MR Fraser made some quite startling comments, some of which I quote below. After talking about the pro-immigrations statements of Harold Holt and Arthur Caldwell he said, 

"If I had asked Australians, do you want me to embrace policies which will lead to about 200,000 Vietnamese and a significant number of Cambodians and others from Indo-China coming to Australia at the end of 1975, 1976, the late '70s and into the '80s and beyond.

If I'd taken that vote people would have said 'no'. But we believed that it was necessary in Australia's interest, in the broader national interest, so we took those decisions and Australia is a better country as a consequence and people accepted those decisions when the reasons for them - the national interest, the broadening of Australia, the multiculturalisation of Australia - they accepted these decisions.

Now we've done something quite different in this election."

Mr Fraser has been an embarrassment to the Liberal Party.  Some have tried to brush off his comments as though he is out of touch, or wouldn't really know about the harsh realities of leadership and boat people these days.  Interestingly he is the President of the relief organisation Care Australia, and has just been awarded its highest honour.  He knows about suffering and refugees in a way John Howard and Phillip Ruddock probably don't.  It's interesting that one who has been a Prime Minister and who is still working for people who are dispossessed should have such a starkly different view to our current leadership.  I find I have much more respect for him than or Howard, who is taking us backwards.

The source article for Mr. Fraser's words was at on November 16 2001


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