JCW advised me that Don Fraser died on 17 March. This will mean nothing to most of my readers, but it will to some.The funeral notice reads:
DONALD JOHN FRASER 6 September 1934 Glasgow, Scotland to 17 March 2016 Canberra, Australia
Suddenly, while working on his companion computer.
Dear, dear husband of Corille.
Beloved father and father-in-law of Helen, Douglas, Kenneth, Meryl and Liz.
Fond and inspiring grandfather of Lizzy, Cassie, Harley and Yssa.
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
The funeral service for Don will be held inDon was my Division Head in the Australian Department of Industry and Commerce, then Industry Technology and Commerce, from around mid 1983 to some time in 1985. This was a golden period in my memories of my own life, for we had a window to bring positive change about. And we did, if no where near as much as we hoped.
the Chapel of Norwood Park Crematorium,
Sandford Street, Mitchell on Tuesday, 22 March 2016.
We failed in our primary dream of creating a global sustainable future for Australia in the high technology industries, of a major Australian base in the global electronics, aerospace and information industries. It is hard to sell a dream, an aspiration, within our institutional structures, harder now than it was then. But we did achieve smaller tangible results. One was the removal of tariffs on computer products. This did not mean that Australians could buy computers at global prices, market imperfections made that difficult, but it did mean that Australian Government tariffs were removed.
Don played an important role in the process. Very early in my reign as newly established branch head in a newly established branch, my senior director Michael Blake sat me down to explain Don to me. Michael was a key figure in the evolution of our ideas and the person who crafted the strategy for removing tariffs on computer products. Don was, he said, into time management. Be organised, present your ideas and recommendations. Don't waste his time. I adopted this approach and it worked well.
Don was very busy, working with Bob Samarcq and his team on the Button Car plan. 2tanners, who worked with me at the time, argued several years ago that the obsession with cars sucked the life out of our plans, that we were not able to get the funding that we needed to start and build new things because of the obsession with the past. There is a fair bit of truth in that. But that is not Don's fault.
In retrospect, the freedom that Don (and the Department) gave us was quite remarkable. A graduate clerk could come to me or a Director on the Monday with an idea or a problem that they considered to be important, and we could have it on the Minster's desk by the Friday. Obviously questions of trust were important, we were trusted, but there were no decision layers. I was the final decision point and bore the responsibility. Everything I did was transparent, documented, could be challenged or reviewed, but it was my decision.
I had no idea that any of this was remarkable until, after a long break, I moved back into the public sector as a contractor within the NSW system. I found the decision reporting systems incredibly complex. By the time I jumped in June last year, there were seven reporting/decision layers between me and the minister within the new mega department. It was quite hard to get new ideas up the chain, especially those that didn't quite fit in with existing plans or KPIs.
In private life, Don was a stalwart supporter of Canberra Repertory Company for over thirty years. This is, I think, how JCW met him. His wake is to be held at the Rep's Theatre 3.
My commiserations to Corille and his family and also to all Don's friends.