Sydney, March 20:
Former Australian prime minister Malcom Fraser who led the country from November 1975 to March 1983, died at 84, his office announced on Friday.
“It is with deep sadness that we inform you that after a brief illness John Malcolm Fraser died peacefully in the early hours of the morning of 20 March 2015,” the statement said.
“We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him, but ask that the family be left in peace at this difficult time.”
Fraser entered politics at the age of 25, winning his first seat for the Liberal Party in 1955. He became Liberal leader in March 1975 and was appointed caretaker prime minister on November 1975 after governor general Sir John Kerr dismissed the Whitlam Labor government.
He won the election in December that year and won two subsequent elections before being defeated by Labor under Bob Hawke in 1983.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Fraser was a “giant of Australian politics”.
“He made a significant contribution to public life in this country. With the passing of Gough Whitlam, it really is the end of a political era,” Xinhua quoted her as saying in a statement.
“History will be much kinder to Mr Fraser than many of his critics have been over the years,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said.
“He was a very strong character who was not afraid to stand up for what was right. The Liberal Party will be mourning his passing. ”
Former prime minister Julia Gillard said Fraser in and beyond politics was a leader in the fight for racial equality.
“His brave stance against the evil of South Africa’s apartheid helped changed the world for the better. Malcolm will always be remembered kindly for his commitment to multiculturalism and his specific actions to re-settle Vietnamese boat people in Australia,” she said.
Greens leader Christine Milne said Fraser had “compassion and dedication to building a thriving and peaceful multicultural society”.
“Malcolm Fraser’s memory will never be free of the controversy and turmoil of the dismissal of the Whitlam government. But then and also in later years he courageously offered leadership in social justice and provided a vision for an Australia that truly embraced a fair go for everyone including refugees.
“Malcolm Fraser’s leadership in embracing refugees from war torn Vietnam made Australia a better place.” (IANS)