I don’t remember where I was the day the Governor General was lambasted from the steps of Parliament House. In a tyre swing in the front of our house at Essington Avenue, Clare, I’m guessing. But certainly, the incident shaped my early childhood – I was simultaneously mortified and proud to be driven around a small conservative town in a car covered with stickers proclaiming in red, ‘Don’t blame me, I voted ALP’ and the pretty bloody dreadful ‘Tammy’s got one, Mal is one’.
My attachment to the ALP has been as much emotional as it is political, but like a lot of people, I lost any real sense of belonging at the time of Tampa. I was deeply disappointed in my father then. I could not understand how he continued to support a party which was so clearly disconnected from the values that he had taught me were non-negotiable. My mother would have left, I’m certain of that. We fought about it, my father and I, in a way we had never fought about politics and values before. It was a confusing time, because we had never been separated in such a way before. You fight for change from within the party, my father said. Or you fight it from outside.
I had heard the argument all my life, but this time, I wasn’t convinced.
That was about the time his own, personal fight began, so I guess I’ve forgiven him for letting the ALP battle go.
Maybe all of this has coloured my reaction to Malcolm Fraser’s resignation from the Liberal Party, because do you know what?
I am maintaining the rage.
I thank Malcolm Fraser for his stand against the Howard government and I thank him even more for his stand against the possibility of one led by Abbott. But equally, I hold him responsible for creating a political environment in which a Howard government could exist.
Fraser’s government came to power driven by an unwavering belief in it’s own privileged entitlement to power. Whatever else they did or did not do, this was the foundation on which their power rested. How could the people of such a government escape a ‘born to rule’ mentality, how could they not learn to view the electorate with contempt?
It wasn’t an inevitablity. I’m not saying the Howard government is a natural outcome of the Fraser government. But I don’t think it’s any surprise that the one led to the other.
I have no scientific evidence for my belief, no psychological, sociological or even political insight. It’s just a personal observation. And perhaps it’s not even a very sophisticated way of thinking. Maybe I’m just clinging to my rage, because if I don’t, then that’s just one more piece of Dad that doesn’t exist anymore. An essential piece. Perhaps I’m directing my rage towards a man I don’t even know because it’s easier than asking yet another question of my father and my relationship with him.
Whatever the reason, I thank Malcolm Fraser for his continued commitment to human rights, but I harbour no fondness for the man.