Malcolm Fraser death: national leader and proud family man remembered at state funeral service

Malcolm Fraser death: national leader and proud family man remembered at state funeral service

Malcolm Fraser was a "proud leader with more passion for Australia than anyone I know", his granddaughter Rachel Fraser has recalled.

But at heart, the political giant was a "joker" and most relaxed around his family eating ice cream straight from the tub.

The former prime minister has been farewelled at a state funeral in Melbourne attended by hundreds of mourners, including his successors Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard, John Howard and Paul Keating.


Mr Fraser died last Friday after a short illness. He was 84.

Ms Fraser told mourners one of her grandfather's best traits was "wanting to keep up with the pace of technology, the same way his views were continuously evolving with society".

"A few years ago, grandad was intrigued as to why all his grandchildren were taking photos and constantly checking their phones," she said.

"After a few long conversations about both Twitter and Facebook, at the age of 81 grandad seemed to have his accounts up and running in no time and became more active than all of us put together. I still remember the cheeky grin on his face when he said 'I've got 20,000 followers, how many do you have, Rach?'."

Ms Fraser recalled her grandfather's sometimes questionable taste in movies, noting his favourite film was The Bodyguard "because of Whitney Houston".

"Every time I stayed with him he would ask granny and I if we wanted to watch it, as if we had never seen it before," she said.

Peter Nixon, the former Nationals MP who served as Mr Fraser's transport minister, was a close personal friend of the former prime minister.

He spoke of the "classic big-man duel" leading to Gough Whitlam's dismissal and of Mr Fraser's "courage and strength" during the 1975 election campaign.

"In the face of huge media stories printed day after day, Malcolm did a superb job holding the party members together," Mr Nixon said.

"The election campaign was as noisy and bitter as any I went through in 23 years. Malcolm came under a huge personal attack. The pressure on him every minute of every day was immense.

"He showed enormous courage and strength, never once displaying weakness. And it's history now that the people of Australia elected him as prime minister with the largest majority in the nation's history."

Mr Nixon said that, as a leader, Mr Fraser was patient and allowed ministers to have their say.

He pursued closer economic ties with countries including New Zealand, Japan and the United States and established land rights, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the SBS. He declared the Great Barrier Reef a marine park and established Kakadu as a national park.

Mr Nixon said Mr Fraser would be remembered for his strong stance on human rights and support for a multicultural Australia.

"Such was the man and his achievements that none of our differences could compromise the respect and friendship which I feel for him," he said.

"Malcolm was subject to much hatred during his political career because of the unique events which some, I believe incorrectly, say defined his career.

"The only source of hatred for Malcolm was policy issues, not people.

"The fact that Gough and Malcolm, who were the leaders in the toughest political contest in the nation's history came to respect and like each other, demonstrates what big men they were."

'Forever in our hearts'

The state funeral featured politicians spanning five decades, governor-generals past and present, foreign dignitaries, family, friends and those who had no hope without the leadership of Malcolm Fraser

Outside on Collins Street, among all the flags on cars, the heavy security and pin stripe suits, it was the warm and heart felt dedication from Australia's Vietnamese community that rose above all else.

"You are forever in our hearts", one large yellow sign from the community said.

Phong Nguyen from the Vietnamese community of Australia simply held a portrait of Fraser, like he was a family member.

He said Mr Fraser, who was prime minister when large numbers of Vietnamese refugees arrived in Australia, meant "so much to our community".

"We are here today because of Malcolm Fraser," he said.

Those filing into the chapel and waiting outside said a lot about Fraser. One patient onlooker described him as a "true liberal".

From Prime Minister Tony Abbott to former PMs Julia Gillard and Paul Keating, from Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to former premiers Ted Baillieu, Steve Bracks John Cain - respect for Mr Fraser crossed all political divides.


As the onlookers meandered away, one quipped, "we need more leaders like Fraser".

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