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National Observer Home > No. 56 - Autumn 2003 > Book Reviews

Book Review: Common Ground: Issues That Should Bind and Not Divide Us

by Malcolm Fraser

Camberwell, Victoria and elsewhere: Viking (Penguin Books), 2002, pages 267, $35

In assessing any statement or writings of Malcolm Fraser over the past twenty years it is essential to recall his rejection by the Australian electorate in 1983, when he wept publicly at his loss. Since that time he has become progressively more anti-Australian, with the manner perhaps of a woman spurned (but of course many women possess qualities of loyalty not possessed by Fraser). His desire to attack mainstream Australia, and obtain satisfaction thereby or apparent revenge has been manifested in almost all of his public attitudes since that time.

Many examples of this resentment may be found. An obvious case (and indeed an inevitable one, for the temptation could not be resisted by him) has been Fraser's support of Aboriginal causes as against mainstream Australia. This matter is predictably taken up in Common Ground, where he deliberately avoids recognising the most reasonable bases for removing half-caste children from Aboriginal settlements where they were commonly the objects of sexual abuse and violence.

Further, Fraser's animus against mainstream Australia (who presumptuously removed him as Prime Minister) leads him consistently to over-statement and lack of logic. For example, Fraser argues predictably in favour of an "apology" to Aborigines by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of all Australians. He mis-states what an "apology" is, saying for example that it means merely regret or a wish that something had not happened. This is not correct, however. An "apology" connotes personal fault or responsibility.

Similarly Fraser is a strong advocate of multiculturalism, which again involves an attack by him on the mainstream Australians who ejected him from office. Again, he is a predictable opponent of government policies in respect of illegal immigrants, which in his pleasant language is evidence of "racism" (a pejorative term that misconstrues non-racial bases of action) and emphasises his view that "Australia must continue to play a leading role in the international community". It may however be thought that Fraser's support for the "international community" reflects again his self-interest and his animus against mainstream Australia. Rejected by the Australian electorate, he has been compelled in his self-promotion to seek the support of organisations whose interests are not those of Australia and which in many instances adapt policies that are inimical to Australia.

Common Ground reflects accurately the Malcolm Fraser who has attempted for the past twenty years to obtain continuing publicity, generally through the support of causes that are unfavourable to mainstream Australia. It contains little original thought, is tendentious and of course tediously self-righteous (self-righteousness being very much part of the Fraser style). Perhaps a reader might be more kindly disposed if there were some remission or alleviation of his self-serving statements, but none appears. Intellectually Fraser shows himself here as elsewhere to be a plodder, so there is no spark, no attraction of intelligence, but merely very third-rate propaganda of his views by a third-rate intellect.

Is it moreover unreasonable to ask (quite apart from the other problems that Fraser presents) why one should take notice of a man who irretrievably lost his trousers in a hotel encounter with a woman in Memphis, as widely reported in the press? Is it too hard to conclude that a man who cannot retain his trousers is not a man who - apart of course from anything else - is not a man to be seriously listened to?

I.C.F. Spry

National Observer No. 56 - Autumn 2003