Malcolm Fraser: State funeral held for Australian ex-PM

Malcolm Fraser died following a brief illness, his office said. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Malcolm Fraser died on 20 March following a brief illness

A state funeral has been held for former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who died last week.

PM Tony Abbott and former leaders Julia Gillard and John Howard were among hundreds at the ceremony in Melbourne.

Tributes were paid to the man who led the nation between 1975 and 1983, propelled to office by a major constitutional crisis.

Peter Nixon, who gave a eulogy, said the country had "lost a unique and great Australian".

Malcolm Fraser became prime minister after the unprecedented dismissal of Gough Whitlam by the governor general over a budget impasse - a move that shocked the nation.

"The only source of hatred for Malcolm was policy issues, not people," said Mr Nixon, who served as a minister in Mr Fraser's government.

"The fact that Gough and Malcolm, who were the leaders in the toughest political contest in the nation's history, came to respect and like each other demonstrates what big men they were."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The funeral was held in Melbourne, in front of hundreds of mourners

Mr Fraser was seen as a champion of refugee rights, including the many from Vietnam who arrived after the war.

Members of Melbourne's Vietnamese community gathered outside Scots' Church to pay their respects.

"He means everything to us but mostly freedom for saving us from the refugee camp. It's a very deep loss for our community," Phong Nguyen told Australian media.

Malcolm Fraser died on 20 March, at the age of 84, after a short illness. After Gough Whitlam's dismissal, the Liberal Party leader went on to win three elections.

In office he introduced laws that returned land to Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory, created Australia's family court and protected a major part of the Great Barrier Reef.

In later years, he became a staunch critic of his own party because of its policies on rights of Indigenous Australians and refugees - eventually leaving the party in 2010.

"There were no days in his life where he woke and ceased to care about current affairs," his son Hugh told mourners at the funeral. "His sense of responsibility endured to the end."

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