Friday, March 27, 2015

Ex prime minister Malcolm Fraser farewelled in state funeral

    Ex prime minister Malcolm Fraser farewelled in state funeral
Members of the Vietnamese community holds signs and a photograph of Malcolm Fraser
before his state funeral. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

FORMER prime minister Malcolm Fraser has been remembered as a unique and great Australian who was always sure to succeed in politics, at his state funeral in Melbourne.

Political leaders from across the divide, dignitaries and hundreds of public mourners gathered to farewell the former Liberal prime minister.

Widow Tamie Fraser and the couple’s four children were welcomed to the front pews of a packed Scots’ Church where a casket adorned with an Australian flag sat at the foot of the altar.

Former National Party member and Fraser government minister Peter Nixon delivered the main eulogy describing Mr Fraser as a “unique and great Australian”.
Tamie Fraser (centre), widow of Malcolm Fraser looks on as the hearse leaves carrying his coffin
at Scots Church. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Malcolm Fraser's coffin is carried out during his state funeral in Melbourne. Source: Supplied

Former prime ministers John Howard, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard, Premier Daniel Andrews and former state leaders as well as all living former governors general, apart from Bill Hayden, who is unwell, were among those paying respects at the Presbyterian church where Sir Robert Menzies was honoured at his death in 1978.

Police say about 2000 people were outside the church or in St Michael’s opposite watching the telecast service.

The service opened with a chorale prelude and the singing of the national anthem.

Mr Fraser, who died last Friday aged 84, was remembered for his dedication of service to the nation and his passionate post-political life of advocacy for universal rights, indigenous welfare and humanitarianism.
A woman holds the funeral program at Scots Church during the State Funeral for Malcolm Fraser. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Mr Nixon said his long-time colleague was a dedicated and fearless politician.

Coming up against then Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975 — “a big man in every way” — including spending, Mr Fraser as new opposition leader set up a “classic big man dual” with Whitlam, with both believing they had right on their side, Mr Nixon said.

The fact that Gough and Malcolm, “leaders of the toughest political contest in the nation’s history,” later became friends was a testament to their character, he said.

Much comment had been made of Mr Fraser in the past week, he said.

“One thing is certain, the country has lost a unique and great Australian.”
Mourners leave carrying the coffin of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser from Scots Church
in Melbourne. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images Source: Getty Images

Hugh Fraser said his father was a “truly global man” who loved Australia.

“He was not merely one of its sons but one of its most fervent custodians,” he said, adding his father was still talking passionately about national affairs last week.

Talking of the private side of Mr Fraser, Rachael said her grandfather was a “joker at heart” who would eat out of an ice cream container at the table and listed The Bodyguard as his favourite film.

She said several years ago, intrigued by his grandchildren always checking their phones, Mr Fraser took to new technology apace, gathered 20,000 twitter followers in no time and always had his iPad at the ready to post thoughts and comments.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the funeral of former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.
AP Photo/Theo Karanikos Source: AP

“It is clear grandad was most relaxed when with the family,” she said.

Mr Fraser’s daughter Phoebe Wynne-Pope read a quote by Theodore Roosevelt to sum up the way she saw her dad.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” she read.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.

“If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Foreign minister Julie Bishop arrives at the State funeral of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser
at Scots' church in Melbourne. Source: Supplied

The volume of public mourners spread across the corner of Russell and Collins streets to St Michael’s Uniting Church where screens telecast the service and police shut down traffic.

Australia’s Vietnamese community were among those to turn out to farewell Mr Fraser.

General secretary of the Vietnamese community in Victoria Phong Nguyen said it was like losing their own parent.

“We call him our father and our saviour,” Mr Nguyen said on Friday.

“He means everything to us but mostly freedom for saving us from the refugee camp. It’s a very deep loss for our community.”

Mr Nguyen met Mr Fraser several times and was to have an appointment with the former prime minister this week.

“His ongoing support of the community was unwavering,” Mr Nguyen said.

Mr Fraser’s actions touched many people, including Richard Tanter, a politics professor at University of Melbourne who worked with him.

“It seemed to me in the last half of his life he worked in an extraordinary way for the Australians we don’t want to look at most of the time,” Professor Tanter said.
Members of the Vietnamese community hold signs aloft outside of Scots Church
 during the state funeral for Malcolm Fraser. Picture: Josie Hayden Source: News Corp Australia

Winning a landslide election and a historic 55-seat majority a month after coming to office, Mr Fraser was to remain prime minister until 1983.
The coffin of former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser. AFP PHOTO Source: AFP

And although painted as an arch-conservative, the enigmatic Fraser rolled out a moderate reform program during his time in office — save for his ‘Razor Gang’ bureaucracy cuts — and surprised many within his own party as a staunch supporter of thousands of Vietnamese refugees fleeing communism.

It was an egalitarian side to Mr Fraser that defined his life after politics, where he remained passionately engaged in humanitarian causes, environmental and refugee issues and a supporter of softening Australia’s automatic alliance with the US in favour of a stronger embrace of China and the Asian region.

The Choir of Scots’ Church sang the benediction, The Lord Bless You and Keep You, a piper played to mark the end of the service and Mr Fraser’s casket was taken by six pall bearers passed solemn mourners.

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