By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs
By Malcolm Fraser with Margaret Simons (The Miegunyah Press, $44.99, softcover, 853 pages)
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s memoirs, co-authored by Margaret Simons, has attracted its fair share of negative publicity.
Nevertheless, it picked up top prizes at the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards with the judges saying that the book was “an engaging work that demonstrates how literary craft can transcend the usual limitations of political autobiography”.
Charting the 79-year-old’s time in public life, for the most part, this enormous book centers on Malcolm Fraser’s period as PM from December 1975 to March 1983. It could also be seen as refuting condemnation that despite having numbers on his side in both the houses of Parliament, he was at the helm of a do-nothing administration.
Ping-pong arguments abide, but an overlap in policies and actions is demonstrated in this book: the Fraser government did some slight deregulation of the financial system but major reforms – like floating the dollar and removing restrictions on bank interest rates – occurred in the Hawke-Keating period.
Described as one of the most interesting and possibly most misunderstood of Australia’s prime ministers, The Political Memoirs looks at his term from the Vietnam War to the Dismissal and offers insight into his substantial achievements.
He was the first Australian politician to describe Australia’s future as multicultural, and his federal government was the first to pass Aboriginal Land Rights and Freedom of Information legislation, also establishing the Human Rights Commission.
Fraser played a key role in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa and was founding chairman of CARE Australia. However, his outspoken views on refugee and Indigenous issues make him a more complex person than he has been given credit for.
He says it himself: “The great task of statesmanship is to apply past lessons to new situations, to draw correct analogies to understand and act upon present forces, to recognise the need for change”.
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