Last night’s ABC program on Malcolm Fraser paid due homage to the dead. It emphasised Fraser’s role in combating apartheid in Africa and most particularly his stance on Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam war. These are undoubtedly achievements that place him well above the normal run of politicians.
The issue of the Vietnamese refugees is particularly relevant today.
Fraser argued that Australia had responsibility to the Vietnamese who fought alongside Australian troops against the Vietcong. His decision to allow large numbers of these refugees into Australia was not a popular one in the electorate or with the bureaucracy.
There was bi-partisan agreement between Whitlam and Fraser on the issue although Fraser implied in the interview that Whitlam only agreed because he (Fraser) wedged Whitlam into a position where he could not to oppose the government rather than Whitlam agreeing as a matter of principle (but more of that later).
It is a commentary on the lack of moral and ethical fibre in the political leadership of both of the current parliamentary parties that on the issue of refugees the only bi-partisan agreement that exists is to send them to Nauru or Manus Island.
Fraser rightly condemned both political parties on this issue. His view will be the one that history will justify.