3rd May 1946 – 22nd August 2019
When Tim Fischer left Parliament before the 2001 elections I described him as one of the genuinely loved parliamentarians on both sides of the House. My period in service encompassed his – there when he came in 1984, and there when he left in 2001. His period was preceded by long service in the NSW Legislative Assembly which started in 1971. That was shortly after his service in Vietnam as an officer in the Transport section of his regiment. His service was a seminal influence on his life. Though he travelled far and wide, in and out of Parliament, he was never far from Boree Creek, the tiny town in which he grew up, nor his affection for the Australian armed forces and their veterans.
As a parliamentarian he gravitated to the committees which focussed on transport issues. As a party front bencher he was broader, taking up other interests on Veteran Affairs and Trade. He became National Party Leader in 1990, leading them until his unexpected stand down in 1999. Because of that role he was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade from 1996 to 1999. In all roles, he ventured on 41 overseas visits.
Since his passing many have referred to his “quirkiness”. His speaking style reflected an engaged machine gun. His presence, mercurial, producing an affectionate nickname in his constituency, “Two Minute Tim”, reflecting the amount of time he might be expected at an official engagement. He admitted and relished his eccentricities. His outlook socially conservative. His courage truly massive. That was on display in the public debates over post-Port Arthur gun legislation. Of all the party leaders state and federal, his selling job was the most difficult task. His support base completely disagreed with the direction. But he fought on. He worked through town meetings where outside the hall dummies representing him in effigy would be hanging. He prevailed.
When I entered Parliament, the National Party leadership of Doug Anthony, Ian Sinclair and Peter Nixon were the toughest most intelligent political tacticians. They were PM Malcolm Fraser’s right hand men. Tim was their polar opposite. But I would describe his strength as “bush authenticity”. He was proud of everything he did and fascinated by everything around him. He would talk to anyone.
I loved listening to Macca on Sunday Morning on the ABC when “Tim from Boree Creek” would come on to talk about the critical character of railways and trains. Vietnam service had given him a fascination for South East Asian and South Asian culture and politics. I recollect overhearing a conversation on his appointment as Ambassador to the Holy See, “…Well, Tim will have to give up his fascination with Buddhism and go back to the rosary.” He did the latter, not the former.
Fascinated with military history, he was infuriated with “errors” in American World War One memorials where Australian forces’ contributions were missed or inaccurately recorded. As my fellow Ambassador he was pleased to keep me advised on what I might do to rectify error. He wrote a book on General Monash. He knew whereof he spoke.
Towards the end he sold up at Boree Creek and moved to a cattle property in Victoria. He died too young with much more to give. He died though with the love of those who knew him. Hopefully that is a comfort to his wife Judy and his boys Harrison and Dominic.
He should be in our minds. He was a good example, a good man.
The Honourable Kim Beazley AC