Did You Know
Did You Know
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has died aged 84.
A statement from his office said Mr Fraser, who led the nation between 1975 and 1983, died after a short illness.
He became its leader in controversial circumstances, after the unprecedented dismissal of PM Gough Whitlam.
Once in office, he championed the rights of Indigenous Australians and refugees, a stance that put him on a collision course with his own party in later life.
The statement from his office said he "died peacefully in the early hours of the morning" on Friday.
"We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him, but ask that the family be left in peace at this difficult time," it added.
The constitutional crisis that led to Mr Fraser becoming prime minister in 1975 formed an integral part of his image in Australia.
As leader of the opposition he blocked finance bills for government programmes, forcing Governor-General Sir John Kerr to dismiss Mr Whitlam as prime minister.
Mr Fraser was then appointed caretaker prime minister at the head of a Liberal-Country Party coalition government until an election in December, which he won by a landslide.
Gough Whitlam's dismissal shocked the country and, with Mr Whitlam calling on his supporters to "maintain your rage", sparked off protest strikes and violent demonstrations.
Malcolm Fraser pictured in 1978
Malcolm Fraser pictured in 1978, three years after becoming prime minister
In office, Mr Fraser continued some of the reforms begun by Mr Whitlam, including the introduction of legislation that returned land to Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory.
Other achievements during his three terms of office included the creation of Australia's family court and the federal court of Australia. The Fraser government also launched the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), a government-funded multilingual broadcaster.
Mr Fraser was staunchly anti-apartheid, and campaigned during his leadership against the racial segregation in South Africa.
In later years, following his defeat by Labor's Bob Hawke in 1983, Mr Fraser adopted the mantle of the elder statesman and he became a key figure in humanitarian and diplomatic circles.
He was a staunch critic of his own party, particularly under John Howard's leadership between 1996 and 2007 because of the party's policies on rights of Indigenous Australians and refugees.
He became so disenchanted with the Liberal Party that in 2010 he renounced his membership.
Australian Prime Minister and current Liberal leader Tony Abbott, often a target of Mr Fraser's criticism, praised the former leader for his "unwavering" opposition to apartheid and "deep interest in the advancement of indigenous people".
"In a long and active retirement, he maintained a keen interest in our country's direction," Mr Abbott said.
'A politician of principle'
Tributes to the former prime minister poured in from Australian politicians across the party divide.
As he was about to give a speech about taxation on Friday, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey paid tribute to Mr Fraser and passed on his condolences to the former Liberal leader's family.
"Quite obviously, these events just indicate how in one way or another we all stand on the shoulders of those before us," said Mr Hockey.
"Right or wrong, many people have contributed to public life over a long period of time that have helped to build a better Australia and unquestionably he was one of them. So we pass on our condolences."
Education Minister Christopher Pyne said: "Vale Malcolm Fraser. A life dedicated to the service of our country. We will be poorer without him. Thoughts are with his family."
Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens senator for South Australia, called him a "politician of principle and a leader of compassion", adding that she was "devastated" by the news.