Malcolm Turnbull

US senator McCain 'a truly great man': PM

US Senator John McCain had a long and valued relationship with Australia. (AAP)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to US Senator John McCain on Sunday, reflecting on the "true friend of Australia" after the war hero died of cancer.

US Senator John McCain has been remembered as a "true friend of Australia" by new Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

McCain died at the age of 81 on Sunday surrounded by family at his Arizona home, after battling brain cancer.

The prime minister paid tribute to the man he says "was a true friend of Australia, who was committed to strengthening the alliance between our two nations".

"He was a man of great courage and conviction. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Cindy, and all the McCain family during this time," Mr Morrison tweeted on Sunday.

Mr Morrison's predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, lauded Senator McCain as a great friend of Australia.

"Thank you @SenJohnMcCain for your courageous life. America has never had a more heroic and determined champion," he tweeted.

"And Australia has never had a stauncher American friend. Rest In Peace."

Australia's Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey also paid his respects to the war hero.

"How terribly sad to hear that Senator John McCain has passed away," he wrote on twitter.

"People who love justice, democracy, freedom and courage will mourn this loss of an American legend."

Labor leader Bill Shorten lauded the "true patriot" for being a loyal friend to Australia and a defender of liberty around the world.

"US politics will be poorer for his passing but is better because of his contribution," he tweeted.

"We honour his memory and offer our condolences to his loved ones."

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer said Vietnam veterans would salute "the real bravery of John McCain" who spent more than five years in prison as a prisoner of war.

"(US President Donald) Trump once said of McCain who was frequently tortured by the Vietnamese: 'He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured... perhaps he was a war hero," Mr Fischer said in a statement to AAP.

"This slur should be withdrawn, this son of an admiral, US pilot and senator deserves salutations for his life time of dedicated work."

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