Malcolm Fraser’s Liberalism

amie and Malcolm Fraser with Prime Minister Robert Menzies in Portland, Victoria, 1958. Photographer: unknown. Malcolm Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2005.0036.00021
Tamie and Malcolm Fraser with Prime Minister Robert Menzies in Portland, Victoria, 1958. Photographer: unknown. Malcolm Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2005.0036.00021

The ideological expression with which Malcolm Fraser is most closely remembered is the maxim “life is not meant to be easy”, taken from his Alfred Deakin lecture in 1971.

This speech was given just five months after Fraser had bought down the prime ministership of John Gorton. That dramatic manoeuvre, along with the blocking of supply and the subsequent dismissal of the Whitlam government, has led some commentators and historians to assume that Fraser’s political career was governed by the expression of power rather than of a coherent ideology. Others ponder the question of whether Fraser’s political ideology changed after his retirement from office, or whether the political situation shifted so much that the one-time hero of the Liberal Party resigned from the party in opposition to its policies and pronunciations.

The Malcolm Fraser collection at the University of Melbourne Archives reveals a politician who thought, wrote and spoke about political ideology before, during and after his parliamentary career. According to his memoirs, the values that guided Fraser’s political life were those at the core of his vision of liberalism. This liberalism was shaped by the tradition of Menzies’ Liberal Party, and of the Cold War.

To return to the Deakin lecture, he argued there that “we can only draw reality from our idealism when we can accept that while we strive for perfection, we will not reach it in this world nor our sons after us. Recognition of this truth should soften the radical, bring tolerance to the fanatic, temper the extremes of love and hate. But it will not make our vigilance or struggle any the less necessary.”

Interviews with Margaret Simons

See online for access to recordings of the interviews. Items 117, 123, 173 and 174 specifically reference liberalism, Menzies and related topics.

Liberalism and the Liberal Party

2010.0013 item 3/37 unit 27 – correspondence about the upcoming publication on the history of the liberal party, disagreement about the Fraser government legacy, 2001

GRAPPLE (Group for the Rational Advancement of Progressive Liberalism)

2007.0013 unit 7 items 112 GRAPPLE papers, 9 April 1974–28 May 1974

2007.0014 unit 3 item 36 GRAPPLE report ‘Liberalism and the School System’  26 September 1978

Research files

2007.0013 Unit 18 items 108 and 109 - Senior Advisors research files - Freedom and liberty: papers by Professor Milton Friedman, Professor Lauchlan Chapman and others; Free enterprise system: published material,  1974-1975

2005.0107 item 2015 unit 54 - Electorate correspondence -  includes letters from Malcolm Fraser outlining views on proposed censoring of news and images from Vietnam (21 February 1968) and another explaining his view of the role of government (19 December 1967). Also copy of article by Malcolm Fraser, ‘Liberalism: As a Liberal MHR Sees it Today’, published in Ad Lib: The Quarterly Magazine of the Melbourne University Liberal Club and The Victorian Liberal Leader, issue 10 (August 1967): 11 1967-1970

Speeches and articles

2007.0008 item 86 unit 4 – Speech notes - “Hallmarks of liberalism” Queensland State Liberals 1975

2007.0008 unit 4 item 40 or unit 3 item 84 - Speech notes - Diamond Valley electorate 24 March 1975 [speech notes relating to liberalism, housing, women, health, education etc.]

Speeches available online

Sir Robert Menzies: In Search of Balance, The Daniel Mannix Memorial Lecture, Wilson Hall, University of Melbourne 30 July 1987

Radio talk, Czechoslovakia, c1968, 2007.0023.0547

Radio talk, Federal election, 10 December 1972, 2005.0072.0065

Radio talk, The Government, health and pensions, c1954, 2007.0023.0215

Radio talk, Communism and the Olympics, 13 September 1959, 2007.0023.0432

Radio talk, Industrial relations, 10 August 1975, 2007.0003.0023

Radio talk, Liberal’s criticism of Labor government, 31 August 1975, 2007.0003.0024

Radio talk, Election as leader of the Liberal Party and Opposition, 30 March 1975, 2005.0072.0117

Radio talk, United Nations and Robert Menzies, 7 October 1960, 2007.0023.0481

Radio talk, Parliamentary traditions, 2 March 1975,

Radio talk, Censorship and protests, 9 July 1972, 2005.0072.0044

Radio talk, Government assistance, free enterprise, ANZAC day, 25 April 1972, 2005.0072.0033

Radio talk, Monopolies and restrictive practices, industrial situation, 11 June 1972, 2005.0072.0040

Radio talk, Liberal Government, 14 June 1981, 2005.0072.0148

Radio talk, Individualism and government, 3 August 1975, 2007.0003.0022

Radio talk, This precious freedom, 30 September 1956, 2007.0023.0324

Radio talk, The comparison of governments, 14 February 1954, 2007.0023.0298

Radio talk, Compulsory unionism, 7 March 1954, 2007.0023.0301