Former deputy PM Tim Fischer dies aged 73

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died aged 73 after a decade-long battle with cancer.

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer.

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died aged 73. Source: AAP

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died aged 73 after a decade-long battle with cancer.

The 73-year-old had been battling acute leukaemia and cancer for 10 years and was receiving treatment at the Albury Wodonga Cancer Centre.

Born on 3 May in 1946 in Lockhart, regional New South Wales, the popular politician was always proud to come from a dusty small town and go on to - at one point - becoming acting prime minister.

Mr Fischer was just 20 years old when he was conscripted into the Army - serving as an officer, and a platoon commander in Australia, and Vietnam.

Former ambassador to the Holy See Tim Fischer at the National Press Club in Canberra, 2012.
Source: AAP

But his passion for the rights of regional Australians led him to politics and he was elected into New South Wales state parliament, and then federal parliament in 1984.

Mr Fischer became an MP at just 24-years-old, going on to become the widely-respected leader of The Nationals from 1990-1999, and also served as Trade Minister.

From 1996, Mr Fischer acted as Deputy Prime Minister under John Howard.

He often said over the course of his life, he was most proud of supporting Mr Howard on the gun control legislation, as well as the Darwin-Adelaide rail link.

Tim Fischer, left, in Peshawar, 200 kilometeres west of Islamabad.
Source: AAP

His time in the military often influenced his politics and discouraged the US from starting a war with Iraq.

Mr Fischer also tackled the notion of climate change long before it was in the international spotlight in the '90s by acknowledging Australia's need to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Prime Minister got it exactly right in saying those claims were exaggerated, but we accept the need to work constructively to overcome the greenhouse gas emission problems, and we’ll continue to do that as we head towards the Kyoto conference in December," he once said. 

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer on the world's oldest operational steam locomotive during a visit to New Delhi in 1999.
Source: AAP

In 2001, He surprisingly quit politics. It was rumoured he did this to spend more time with his two sons – Harrison who is autistic, and Dominic.

He had told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007: "I overreacted to leaving Parliament and probably took on a few too many things," he said. 

Mr Fischer will be fondly remembered as a train fanatic with an extraordinary ability to memorise rail facts and timetables.

But perhaps he was better known for his trusty Akubra hat - whether he was in a suit and tie or a button-down shirt, the Aussie staple was never out of reach. 


Tim Fischer during his term as Trade Minister at the Australia-Chinese Business Council in 1999.
Source: AAP

After politics, Mr Fischer served as chairman of Tourism Australia, before becoming the country's first resident-in-Rome ambassador to the Vatican and was there for the announcement of Australia's first saint - Mary McKillop.

On ABC’s Australian Story last year, his family opened up about his oldest son’s diagnosis and the independence Harrison had gained during early adulthood so far.  

Mr Fischer went on to realise he, while never formally diagnosed, believed he was “high-functioning” with autism.

He battled four different cancers over his lifetime which he “thanked Uncle Sam for" – blaming the exposure of the chemical Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.

Tim Fischer with a picture of Sir John Monash, after legislation was introduced to parliament for Monash to be posthumously promoted in ranks.
Source: AAP

“Agent Orange was widely used and it was suggested his immunity broke down more quickly as a direct consequence,” he told Australian Story last year.

In May, when he opened a museum dedicated to his life at his birthplace of Lockhart, near Wagga Wagga in NSW, he revealed he was hoping for remission.

Former Nationals leader Tim Fischer on his first tractor at Gunyah Museum in Lockhart, NSW.
Source: AAP

He shared his life-long passion for trains with Australia by hosting three radio programs, writing several books and took part in many television documentaries.

Former Nationals leader Tim Fischer and his wife Judy at the 10th anniversary dinner for the Howard government in Canberra, March 2006.
Source: AAP

Published 22 August 2019 at 12:34pm
By Charlotte Lam