When Malcolm Fraser stopped military intervention in PNG

When Malcolm Fraser stopped military intervention in PNG

Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s 22nd prime minister, died aged 84.

One little known story about Fraser’s time as Defence Minister under Liberal Prime Minister John Gorton was that he averted Australian military intervention in Papua New Guinea during the Mataungan uprising of 1970.

Gorton wanted to send Australian troops to the Gazelle Peninsula to restore order. He  intended to do this without involving Cabinet by getting the Governor-General to sign an Order In Council to authorise it.

When word got to Fraser he was outraged as he had clear principles about the circumstances in which the military should be used and he did not believe that, in this case, it was  appropriate.

Without Gorton’s knowledge, Fraser warned the Governor-General not to consider making such an order as it was unconstitutional and promptly resigned, triggering the eventual downfall of Gorton who from that time on refused to speak to Fraser. Later Fraser recalled the incident in Robin Hughes’ extensive interview with Malcolm Fraser for Film Australia, Australian Biography Online.

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