Tamie Fraser fought back tears as she discussed her late husband Malcolm Fraser’s legacy during a speech today to mark the announcement that the Majura Parkway Bridge over the Molonglo River is to be named in the ex-Prime Minister’s honour.
A respected humanitarian in later life, Malcolm Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party soon after Tony Abbott became Prime Minister in 2009. He died at the age of 84 in March 2015 after a short illness.
In Canberra for the celebration of the bridge’s opening today with Mrs Fraser were daughters Phoebe Wynn-Pope and Angela Marshall and grandson Sandy Marshall.
They stole the show from the many local politicians – including Chief Minister Andrew Barr, ACT Senator Zed Seselja and Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann – who had gathered on the Majura Parkway bridge to mark the completion of the final stage of the $288 million, 11.5km project linking the Federal and Monaro Highways.
Mrs Fraser inspired smiles all round from the first line of her short speech.
“It’s very nice of you to thank me for coming up here,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have missed it for quids. On behalf of my family I want to say how really happy we are to be part of this celebration today.”
She went on to discuss the many connotations of the word “bridge”.
“We think of the bridge overpass between widely different views, a bridge between peoples, the bridge that has made itself felt by joining the Federal Government and the Government of the Australian Capital Territory, which from history I know never quite, often doesn’t work as well, and it can bring about understanding,” she said.
It was during the next part of her speech that she verged on tears.
“While my old boy’s bridging efforts had a few holes in them at times, his core purpose in life, and much of his legacy, was to endeavour to bridge the many differences at both national and international, at many levels, that he encountered throughout a long life in the public arena.
“I do thank the government for taking this opportunity to name the bridge after him, and I am proud that it’s a bridge, and we all are.”
Mrs Fraser and her family then unveiled a sign bearing these words:
Malcolm Fraser Bridge
Jointly funded by the Australian and ACT Governments
The Right Honourable Malcom Fraser AC CH (1930-2015)
22nd Prime Minister of Australia
In office, he championed Aboriginal land rights and inclusive multicultural policy; adopted a progressive stance on the environment; and was a passionate reformer in later life who fearlessly promoted a raft of humanitarian causes.
The family led politicians and teams who had worked on the planning and construction of the bridge on the first walk across it, before returning to take the first drive over it together. They were whisked straight on to the airport.
Malcolm Fraser will not have a Canberra suburb named after him because the suburb of Fraser, named for Federal Member for the ACT between 1951 and 1970 Jim Fraser, has long existed. It was gazetted in January 1974.
Mr Barr described the Parkway as the largest infrastructure project in ACT history, and noted it was completed ahead of schedule, and well-timed given Singapore Airlines’ international flights into Canberra commence in September. He hoped it would facilitate a boost to freight distribution market between this region and South-East Asia and noted it ensured faster commutes for resident and visiting drivers and cyclists.
The dual carriageway was closed southbound to all but VIPs for several hours for the opening ceremony today, causing traffic headaches for drivers in the area.