John Malcolm Fraser – Fact sheet 242
Prime Minister of Australia 1975–83
Malcolm Fraser (christened ‘John Malcolm’, but always known by his second name) was born in Melbourne in 1930, and educated at Tudor House (NSW) and Melbourne Grammar before completing a degree in politics, economics and philosophy at Oxford in 1952.
On returning to the family property ‘Nareen’ near Warrnambool, Victoria, Fraser joined the local branch of the Liberal Party, and at the 1955 federal election won the seat of Wannon to enter parliament as a member of the Menzies Liberal–Country Party government. He entered the ministry under new Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1966 as Minister for the Army (1966–68). He subsequently served as Minister for Education and Science (1968–69 and 1971–72) and Defence (1969–71) in the governments of Prime Ministers John Gorton and William McMahon. Differences with Gorton caused Fraser’s resignation from the Defence portfolio early in 1971 and precipitated the events that caused Gorton’s replacement as Prime Minister by William McMahon in March 1971.
With the defeat of the McMahon government by the Gough Whitlam-led Labor Party in December 1972, Fraser served as a front bench member of the Billy Snedden-led Opposition, until replacing him as leader in March 1975. When the Opposition parties blocked supply in an attempt to force the increasingly unpopular Whitlam government to an election, the resulting crisis was resolved when Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Whitlam and appointed Malcolm Fraser as caretaker prime minister, pending a double dissolution election. At the December 1975 election Fraser’s Liberal–National Party coalition won a landslide victory. Fraser also led the coalition to election wins in 1977 and 1980.
Malcolm Fraser served as Prime Minister between November 1975 and March 1983. During these years the government sought to reinforce Australia’s diplomatic and trade relations in East and South-East Asia, and the nation’s role as a power within the British Commonwealth. When the coalition lost the 1983 general election to the Bob Hawke-led Labor Party, Fraser resigned as leader of the Liberal Party and as a member of parliament.
After leaving parliament Malcolm Fraser held a number of significant appointments, including Co-Chairman of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons formed to encourage political dialogue and reform in South Africa (1985–86) and with the aid organisation CARE as Chairman, CARE Australia (1987–2002) and President, CARE International (1990–95).
National Archives holdings relating to Malcolm Fraser
The National Archives holds a collection of records created by Malcolm Fraser in his years as a member of parliament, minister and prime minister. Official Commonwealth records about Fraser – including the records of the Fraser Cabinet – are also held. Selected records are listed below. Commonwealth records become available when they enter the open access period.