Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer is gravely ill in a NSW hospital after his health took a serious downward turn following his long cancer battle.
Mr Fischer has fought acute leukaemia and other cancers for a decade.
The 73-year-old is being treated at the Albury Wodonga Cancer Centre.
Mr Fischer, who became an MP at the age of 24, was Nationals leader from 1990-1999 and deputy prime minister in the Howard government from 1996-1999.
He was a minister for trade and also supported tough gun control measures introduced after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
He quit politics in 2001 and moved with his wife Judy to a cattle farm at Mudgegonga, in Victoria’s north-east.
News of Mr Fischer’s declining health has sparked an outpouring of support on social media.
Nationals MP and Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester said in a tweet he was “sad to hear” Mr Fischer was ill.
Sad to hear former Nationals leader and Deputy PM Tim Fischer is gravely ill in Albury Hospital. Tim served in the Australian Army in the Vietnam War & had a distinguished Parliamentary career. Thoughts are with his loved ones at this difficult time: deeply loved & respected man. pic.twitter.com/ljQDNl1HwE
— Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP) August 20, 2019
Others hailed Mr Fischer as a highly respected politician and a “passionate advocate for rural communities”.
Mr Fischer’s health spiral follows an interview with the ABC’s Australian Story last year, in which acknowledged his prognosis was “not good”.
“It’s as it is. At three score plus 12, you take the cards that you’re dealt with, and hope and pray,” he said.
In May, when he opened a museum dedicated to his life at his birthplace of Lockhart, near Wagga Wagga, Mr Fischer revealed he was hoping for a remission.
“Almost in remission, not quite,” he said at the time.
“I am just uplifted by this nice gallery.”
The former Australian Army conscript has attributed his condition to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam in the 1960s.
“I had operations in First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment,” Mr Fischer said.
“Agent Orange was widely used in part, but not all of the operational area.
“At least one specialist has suggested my immunity broke down a lot more quickly as a direct consequence.”