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14 Oct 2015

Hon. J.M. Fraser

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 22:43 ): I rise in support of the motion. I thank and congratulate the Hon. Tung Ngo for bringing this motion to the attention of the chamber. The motion is that this council acknowledges the positive contribution to Australian society that former prime minister Malcolm Fraser made; acknowledges Malcolm Fraser’s policy in promoting multiculturalism and acceptance of refugees that has laid the groundwork for a peaceful and diverse Australia of today; and notes, in particular, the leadership former prime minister Malcolm Fraser demonstrated in dealing with the resettlement of about 200,000 Asian and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees, especially more than 50,000 displaced Vietnamese during and after the Vietnam War.

The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser had a very great concern for human rights and in ensuring human dignity. Unfortunately, as has been said by other members of this chamber, many of his achievements have been overshadowed by the events of 1975. Malcolm Fraser considered his proudest achievement was the resettlement of Vietnamese fleeing their country to escape the brutality of war and the fall of the country to communist forces.

To his great credit he overcame the Whitlam Labor opposition to the resettlement of fleeing Vietnamese and we now enjoy a dynamic Vietnamese Australian community which continues to greatly contribute to the life of this state. His efforts cemented the vision of a multicultural Australia. In other words, Fraser consolidated a multicultural approach towards immigration, making this observation in 1981:

The less constructively a society responds to its own diversity the less capable it becomes of doing so. Its reluctance to respond , fuelled by the fear of encouraging division , becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy —the erosion of national cohesion is the result not of the fact of diversity but of its denial and suppression.

Malcolm Fraser’s biographer, Phillip Ayres, says of him:

[ Malcolm Fraser ] thought that the best Conservative would be ‘ like Churchill — a radical determined to destroy evil, and wherever he found it, by constructive legislation. ‘

All his life Malcolm Fraser retained his reforming and idealistic vision until the end. His biographer goes on to say that along with his particular individualism went a social conscience and that his social individualism was similar to that of Menzies.

I thought I might finish my submission on this motion by quoting a Sydney Morning Herald article. It reports the comments of a Dr Nguyen who was a medical officer with the South Vietnamese Army when he was captured by northern forces and detained in a concentration camp for three years and starved by his communist captors. He was released in 1978, and tried unsuccessfully to flee the country several times before finally escaping in 1980 in a small boat with his fiancée and her 13‑year‑old brother. The threesome braved rough seas but eventually made it to Australia. In a speech at his 30th anniversary in 2011 he said:

I was so lucky to be in this wonderful country. To me and all other Indochinese refugees, the then PM Malcolm Fraser and the two ministers for immigration of that period, Mr Michael McKellar and Mr Ian McPhee were real heroes who reversed Whitlam ‘ s policy and gave us a chance to resettle in Australia.

He added:

Of all the prime ministers of Australia Malcolm Fraser is great, if not the greatest, in the area of human rights, of compassion and of social justice. What he did was never done before by any prime minister. There was nobody who could match him in those areas like Aboriginal land rights, his strong stand against apartheid and his promotion of multiculturalism and especially taking in the Vietnamese refugees. To us he is a real hero. He set a shining example for us all in terms of compassion towards other human beings.

I commend the motion to the chamber.

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