Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been remembered as “a big Australian” whose political leadership on gun law reform in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre had saved lives.
The former Leader of the Nationals, Vietnam veteran, Ambassador to the Vatican, father and husband died on August 21 after a long battle with cancer. He was 73 years old.
The former Nationals leader was admitted to the Albury Wodonga Cancer Centre in NSW in recent weeks after battling cancer for the past decade.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia will offer the family a state funeral.
“We have lost an Australian original with the passing of Tim Fischer,” he said.
“Tim Fischer was a big Australian in every sense of the word. Big in stature, big in his belief, big in his passion, big in his vision for what Australians could achieve and big in his view of Australia’s place in the world. As a result, Tim Fischer will forever cast a big shadow on our nation.
Mr Morrison said one of his greatest legacies was gun law reform.
“He was an all-in conviction politician. This integrity and resolve were underlined when he stood firm with Prime Minister Howard on tough new gun laws following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. They are Tim Fischer’s gun laws too.
“Gun laws were not popular in regional Australia in 1996 and Tim Fischer took to the highways and byways to persuade and convince regional Australians about the need for change.
“I believe this was his finest moment. Australia will always be in his debt.”
Tim Fischer was a dear friend. Jenny and I are deeply saddened by Tim’s passing. Tim Fischer was a big Australian in every sense of the word. Big in stature, big in his belief, big in his passion, big in his vision for what Australians could achieve…
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) August 22, 2019
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce added to the tributes on Thursday, telling The New Daily that Mr Fischer was “the quintessential National”.
Despite Mr Fischer’s ailing health, Mr Joyce was shocked to learn of his death. He said he left a message for him just 24 hours earlier.
“He had served his nation from conscription and then returned out of dedication,” Mr Joyce said.
“He was first thought of as apolitical anomaly and then held in highest of political respect
“He was an essential component of John Howard being the second longest-serving prime minister in our nation’s history.”
Australia has lost one of its finest today with the passing of Tim Fischer AC. Tim was a giant of the National Party. He embodied loyalty, kindness & courage. Regional Australia had no better friend. Heartfelt thoughts & condolences with Tim’s wife Judy, sons Harrison & Dominic. pic.twitter.com/a6UsjNDgg4
— Michael McCormack (@M_McCormackMP) August 22, 2019
Mr Fischer also worked to improve support for autism, a condition he and his son Harrison had.
‘‘He had a erudite understanding of some of the most peculiar facts and figures and he was driven by a laser-like compass for what is right and wrong,’’ Mr Joyce said.
Farewell Tim Fischer. A passionate Australian who always put his country first, as a soldier, MP & deputy PM & as Ambassador. Always curious, generous, loving & enthusiastic especially about trains & John Monash! Our love & sympathy are with Judy & their sons Harrison & Dominic.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) August 22, 2019
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten said Mr Fischer was a simply a “good Australian”.
“Vale Tim Fischer. Doting dad and parent-carer, General Monash advocate, veteran, public servant, good Australian,” he said.
Vale Tim Fischer. Doting dad & parent-carer, General Monash advocate, Veteran, Public Servant, Good Australian. https://t.co/yd0UhJah8m
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) August 22, 2019
Mr Fischer credited his son Harrison with helping to keep his spirits up as he battled ill health. The former Nationals leader and his wife, Judy Brewer, decided he would leave politics after Harrison’s diagnosis.
“We were told, ‘your son has autism. He’ll probably never live independently, he will probably never have a job, he will probably never be able to do the other things that other children or adults do’,” she said.
A good bloke, a character and a high-achiever – Tim Fischer will be sorely missed by all of us. But the greatest loss will be felt by Judy, Harrison & Dominic. My thoughts are with you.
— Julia Gillard (@JuliaGillard) August 22, 2019
Launching a museum dedicated to his life at Lockhart, near Wagga Wagga, this year, Mr Fischer spoke of his hopes for a full recovery from leukaemia.
‘‘Almost in remission, not quite. I am just uplifted by this nice gallery,” Mr Fischer said in May.
Mr Fischer had battled cancer for 10 years, starting with a bladder cancer diagnosis, then prostate, two melanomas, and finally, acute myeloid leukaemia.
Mr Fischer is survived by his wife, Judy, and sons Harrison and Dominic.