How Fraser and Whitlam became friends

Written By Unknown on Jumat, 20 Maret 2015 | 20.01

There have been very few men like Malcolm Fraser, who died today, aged 84. He was our 22nd Prime Minister, the architect of Gough Whitlam's historic downfall and won three thunderous elections

ON Remembrance Day 1975 no one could have imagined that the two men at the heart of Australia's most controversial political coups could ever be friends.

Opposition leader Malcolm Fraser had so successfully blocked the workings of Parliament that Governor-general Sir John Kerr had asked him to form a government.

On the steps of Parliament House ousted Prime Minister and Labor leader Gough Whitlam fired: "The Proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General's Official Secretary was countersigned Malcolm Fraser, who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr's cur."

Gough Whitlam looks on as David Smith reads out the proclamation of the dismissal on November 11, 1975. Source: News Corp Australia

He called on Australians to "maintain the rage" but in elections just weeks later Mr Fraser was returned by the largest majority in Australian history.

Mr Fraser won three elections until he was ousted by Bob Hawke in 1983 and was then cast into the political wilderness by his party for almost a decade. He spent that time moderating his views and later taking a stand against Prime Minister John Howard on humanitarian grounds.

Mr Whitlam said: "Malcolm Fraser has now replaced me as Public Enemy Number One in the demonology of the Australian right wing. I must say I am much more relaxed about being supplanted by Malcolm Fraser for a second time than I was the first time".

Doug Anthony, Sir John Kerr and Malcolm Fraser after being sworn in following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam's Government. Source: News Corp Australia

Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating famously told Mr Fraser: "You look like an Easter Island statue with an arse full of razor blades."

But yesterday Mr Keating was more conciliatory. "He made peace with Gough Whitlam. I would like to think had he had his time over, he would have let the 1974 parliament run its course.

"The great pity for him of the budget crisis of 1975 was that it de-legitimised his government, at its inception, and with it, much of the value he otherwise brought to public life."

Mr Fraser's deputy, Doug Anthony, yesterday recalled Mr Fraser calling him into his office after he had been to see the Governor-general. "He said 'you are now the deputy Prime Minister'. I was a bit surprised," said Mr Anthony.

"I have no regrets. It was absolutely necessary and I give Malcolm full marks for the courage in following it through. Gough Whitlam has been a friend of mine and Malcolm's but at the time he was running wild," said Mr Anthony.

Former PMs Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser confer at NSW Parliament House in 2000. Picture: Mark William. Source: News Corp Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: "The friendship he built in later life with Gough Whitlam spoke volumes about the character of both men at the centre of the crisis: in their own different ways, they were both fierce Australian patriots."

Mr Fraser was unrepentant about unseating Whitlam in 1975. "There was one sort of trauma in having an election forced. There would have been another sort of trauma in having that government stay in power another six or seven months," he told the ABC in 2005.

Mr Fraser and Gough Whitlam with Victorian Premier Steve Bracks on the steps of Parliament House, Melbourne during the 1999's campaign for an Australian republic. Source: News Corp Australia

But in another interview the same year he reflected on how his relationship with his old adversary had mellowed over the ensuing 30 years. "In today's world, there's more we have in common than there would be that divides us," he said.

"And certainly, so far as our personal relationship is concerned, whatever happened in the past has passed."


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