Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who led the country from 1975 to 1983, died Friday, Reuters reported. He was 84.
The country’s 22nd prime minister died peacefully in the early hours after a brief illness, his office said in a statement, without giving details.
Fraser joined the House of Representatives as its youngest member, aged 25, in 1955.
He became prime minister 20 years later when the governor general sacked Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam for his inability to pass budget bills through the Senate.
Long seen as an enemy by Whitlam’s center-left party, Fraser distanced himself from his conservative Liberal Party in the 1990s and 2000s, opposing its determination to retain the British monarchy, detain asylum seekers in offshore camps and join the United States in waging war on Iraq.
He quit the party in 2010, and Labor came to embrace the man it had for years seen as its nemesis.
Former Labor prime ministers Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Paul Keating issued statements mourning Fraser, with Rudd describing him as “a compassionate Australian who cared for people at home or abroad who had little or nothing to protect them”.
Fraser described Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year as a “dangerous politician”.
In a statement Friday, Abbott said Fraser “held true to the belief that his actions were in the best interests of Australia” and praised his campaign against apartheid in South Africa.
Fraser’s illness did not slow his use of social media to comment on subjects from climate change to cricket to the Israeli election.
His final message, on Wednesday, was a link to an article calling for Australia to improve relations with China.
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