Life & Arts

RIP Malcolm Fraser: The member for Wannon

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After losing his first election in 1954, Malcolm Fraser held the semi-rural seat of Wannon in Victoria from 1955 until his retirement from politics in 1983

Rodney E. Lever mourns the passing of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser — a 'decent' man he knew before he left his indelible mark on Australian history.

Way back in the early fifties, I was working as a journalist for the Horsham Times in the Victorian wheat belt.

One day, a tall young man with a posh accent came into the office and was referred to me.

He told me he was standing for election in the seat of Wannon, which included Horsham and the town of Warracknabeal, where I had gone to school in wartime, and he asked me if I would do a story for the paper. Which of course I did, after a short interview.

He struck me as a nice, decent guy and I was happy to help him. He lost that election to a Labor man who had held the seat since the end of the war.

He won the next time without my aid and remained the Member for Wannon for the rest of his political life. I had moved down to Melbourne to work at the Herald and Weekly Times.

It was 30 years before I met him again. That was in Darwin when he was Minister for the Army. Malcolm enjoyed a beer and, that night, before he left to fly back to Canberra, we had a rollicking party with Malcolm issuing a challenge to all the journalists to join in a push-ups contest.

So we all lay on our chests on the floor in a row doing push-ups. One by one, everybody else pulled out leaving Malcolm and me still grunting on the floor.

I'm not going to say who won, because I don't like to skite.

As a matter of interest Malcolm is almost the same age as Rupert Murdoch. I am just a year and a bit younger than both of them.

Malcom Fraser will be sorely missed.

You can follow Rodney Lever on Twitter @RodneyELever.

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