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Malcolm Fraser whacks lackey Australia

  • 16 May 2014

Dangerous Allies, by Malcolm Fraser, Cain Roberts. MUP, May 2014. Website


From 11 November 1975 (when, post-dismissal, he replaced Gough Whitlam, as a caretaker PM) until electoral defeat on 5 March 1983, Malcolm Fraser was known as a ruthless, inherently conservative political animal who, nonetheless, was that rarest of Australian scarcities: a genuine small-l liberal.

Having quit his own party in protest in 2009, the soon-to-be-84-year-old Fraser has long been one of the nation's most prominent human rights champions. Now, aided by researcher/contributor, PhD candidate Cain Roberts, Fraser delivers a tour de force overview of Australia's troubled pursuit of security in the bosom of Great (Super) Powers.

This elder statesman is quite the angry young man in print. Fraser delights in telegraphing his haymakers and following through with a well-placed elbow or two. The loosely-affiliated British colonies, he says, federated into the nation of Australia not to gain independence from the UK but to ensure Big Mumma would smack down any French, German or Japanese interloper looking to settle in PNG, the New Hebrides or Fiji.

Australia's job was to carry out British foreign policy, so we legislated inequity through the White Australia Policy; and our treatment of Aboriginal Australians and asylum seekers has a glaring common denominator: racial prejudice. 

The whacks keep on coming: Australia's 'naïve faith in the wisdom and righteousness of the United Kingdom' was jettisoned after Singapore fell. Faced with Japan's space invaders, we wrapped ourselves around the Yanks' Star Spangled Suspenders. Dominoes falling, the Cold War froze any independent thought; but we fearfully outstayed our sensible sojourn on Uncle Sam's hind teat.

And Fraser's coup de grâce: following the US into Vietnam was a dud decision, as was invading Afghanistan and Iraq. The latter act was 'a major error not only because the justifications for that war were based on falsehoods but also because the result is, and was always going to be, disastrous ... We need the United States for defence, but we only need defence because of the United States.'

Put bluntly, Fraser suggests we need to shed our lackey status. Australia should close down the US' Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility and seek a dignified distance, engaging maturely with conflicting powers such as the US, Japan and China.

Having amply demonstrated that Australia has never consistently sought or possessed strategic independence, Fraser declares in measured terms that it's about time Australia advanced fairly and squarely on her own.


As former foreign