ACT News

Malcolm Fraser dead: Canberra pauses to remember its 22nd prime minister

Politicians, community leaders and the public paused around Canberra on Friday to remember former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who has died at 84. 

Politicians, community leaders and the public paused around Canberra on Friday to remember former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who has died at age 84. 

First elected to parliament at 25, Mr Fraser was a central figure in the Whitlam dismissal and served as Australia's 22nd prime minister for seven years. 

Mr Fraser and his wife, Tamie, first moved to Canberra in 1957, making the capital their home during parliamentary sessions only.

Museum of Australian Democracy community engagement coordinator Katie Wallis and public programs coordinator Steve ...
Museum of Australian Democracy community engagement coordinator Katie Wallis and public programs coordinator Steve Murkett set up a condolence book for former prime minister Malcolm Fraser. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Within a few years, however, the couple lived with their four children in Canberra during school terms as well.

They built a two-storey home in Daly Street, Deakin, just behind the prime minister's official residence, The Lodge, where the family later lived from January 1976 until 1983. 

Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson paid tribute to Mr Fraser on Friday, saying the former Liberal leader's death was "a time to reflect on the work of a great servant for Australia".

"Malcolm Fraser was a giant of Australian politics and I express my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at his passing," Mr Hanson said in a statement.

Jill Wallis, of Mittagong, signs the condolence book at Old Parliament House.
Jill Wallis, of Mittagong, signs the condolence book at Old Parliament House.  Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"His ascension to the office of Prime Minister in 1975 came at one of the most difficult and poignant times in Australia's political history. Mr Fraser guided the country out of tough economic times experienced during the early and mid 1970s.

"He also formed CARE Australia as part of the worldwide humanitarian CARE network in 1987 and was chairman from 1987 until 2002."

Chief Minister Andrew Barr called Mr Fraser "a true statesman of Australian politics and a champion for human rights and social equity".

"His compassion and conviction in his life beyond his political career saw him as a role model for all sides of the political divide," Mr Barr said.

His compassion and conviction in his life beyond his political career saw him as a role model for all sides of the political divide.

Andrew Barr

"Malcolm Fraser and his family embraced living in Canberra, making it their home during his political career, educating his children in local schools. My condolences go to his family."

Eric and Jill Wallis were among the first people to pay tribute to the former prime minister in a condolence book at Old Parliament House.

Ms Wallis, visiting Canberra from the Southern Highlands, said a bouquet of yellow roses drew their attention to the book with children passing through the halls on school tours.

"We both lived through that tumultuous era of Australian politics and felt that he was a man of integrity who made a difference in public life," she said.

Flowers have also been placed on the front steps of Old Parliament House and the condolence book will remain open for the duration of the day.

Mr Wallis said Fraser's ability to bring "a sense of stability" to Australian politics was greatly appreciated along with his contributions to public life after leaving office.

"In his later years, he was still concerned about what was going on in other nations and stood [by] his principles, which is something we ought to celebrate in this country," he said. 

Mr Fraser worked inside Old Parliament House and as prime minister in 1978 he unveiled plans to build a new parliament house to be opened in 1988. 

He later said the new building was "too grand, too big [and] a house for non-communication". 

ACT government minister Joy Burch recognised Mr Fraser's role in opening up Australia's borders after the Vietnam War.

"There was a significant shift from a young, eager, aggressive politician in his role in the Dismissal to him then being very publicly critical of such fundamental platforms of the current Liberal party and government," she said.