Tim Fischer

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Tim Fischer

Tim Fischer.jpg
Fischer as deputy prime minister
10th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
11 March 1996 – 20 July 1999
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Kim Beazley
Succeeded by John Anderson
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Elections: 1993, 1996, 1998
In office
10 April 1990 – 20 July 1999
Deputy Bruce Lloyd
John Anderson
Preceded by Charles Blunt
Succeeded by John Anderson
Minister for Trade
In office
11 March 1996 – 20 July 1999
Prime Minister John Howard
Preceded by Bob McMullan
Succeeded by Mark Vaile
Australian Ambassador to the Holy See
In office
30 January 2009 – 20 January 2012
Nominated by Kevin Rudd
Preceded by Anne Plunkett
Succeeded by John McCarthy
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Farrer
In office
1 December 1984 – 8 October 2001
Preceded by Wal Fife
Succeeded by Sussan Ley
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Murray
In office
13 September 1980 – 18 October 1984
Preceded by Mary Meillon
Succeeded by Jim Small
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Sturt
In office
13 February 1971 – 12 August 1980
Preceded by New district
Succeeded by John Sullivan
Personal details
Timothy Andrew Fischer

(1946-05-03)3 May 1946
Lockhart, New South Wales
Died 22 August 2019(2019-08-22) (aged 73)
Political party National Party of Australia
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Branch/service Australian Army
Years of service 1968–1969
Rank Second Lieutenant
Unit 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
Battles/wars Vietnam War

Timothy Andrew Fischer, AC (3 May 1946 – 22 August 2019) was an Australian politician and diplomat who served as leader of the National Party from 1990 to 1999. He was Deputy Prime Minister in the Howard Government from 1996 to 1999.

Fischer was born in Lockhart, New South Wales. He served with the Australian Army in the Vietnam War, and on his return bought a farming property at Boree Creek. He served in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1971 to 1984. Fisher was elected to the House of Representatives at the 1984 election, representing the Division of Farrer until his retirement in 2001. He replaced Charles Blunt as leader of the National Party in 1990, and in the Howard Government served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. After leaving politics, Fischer served as chairman of Tourism Australia from 2004 to 2007, and was later Ambassador to the Holy See from 2009 to 2012.

Early history

Fischer was born in Lockhart, New South Wales, of German descent. He attended Xavier College, Melbourne. In 1966 he was conscripted into the Australian Army, was commissioned at the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville. Fischer served with 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment between July 1966 and March 1969 as a second lieutenant.[1] With his batallion, he served in the Vietnam War.[2] Fischer was wounded in the Battle of Coral-Balmoral in May-June 1968 .[3]

On his return from Vietnam, Fischer took up farming at Boree Creek, Riverina, and became active in the Country Party, as the party was then called. He represented Sturt in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1971–80, and Murray from 1980–84. He served on the opposition frontbench from 1978–84.[4]

Federal political career

In 1984, Fischer won the federal seat of Farrer in New South Wales' far west for the National Party of Australia (NPA), as the Country Party had been renamed. Within a year he was on the opposition frontbench, and soon became a popular figure in both the party and Parliament. His sometimes rustic manner and bumbling English concealed a shrewd political brain. In 1990, when an attempt by Charles Blunt to modernise the Nationals' image ended with him losing his own seat, Fischer succeeded him as leader, defeating the former leader Ian Sinclair.[5][6]

Fischer was an enthusiastic supporter of the "Fightback" package of economic and tax reforms proposed by the Liberal leader John Hewson in 1991. But he was unsuccessful in persuading the majority of rural voters, particularly in Queensland, that the proposed changes, particularly the goods and services tax (GST) was in their interests, and Labor under Paul Keating won the 1993 election. On 23 March 1993, ten days after the election, Ian Sinclair unsuccessfully challenged Fischer for the leadership.[7]

The Liberals finally regained office under John Howard in 1996. Fischer became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. The Liberals had won a majority in their own right in the 1996 election, leaving the Nationals in a much weaker position compared to previous Coalition governments. Nonetheless, Fischer was fairly active. He supported the government introducing tough gun control measures following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996, measures which were opposed by much of his party's rural base.[5]

Fischer also had difficulty with the determination of many Liberals, including the Treasurer, Peter Costello, to carry out sweeping free-market reforms, including abolishing tariff protection for rural industries, deregulating petrol prices and other measures seen as harmful by farmers' organisations. The issue of native title for indigenous Australians following the Mabo and Wik decisions also caused much political difficulty for Fischer.[5]

Further trouble for Fischer and the Nationals came with the rise of One Nation, a right-wing populist party led by Pauline Hanson, a disendorsed Liberal candidate who was nonetheless elected member for the Queensland seat of Oxley at the 1996 federal election. One Nation had its greatest appeal in country areas of New South Wales and Queensland—the Nationals' traditional heartland. For much of 1997 and 1998, it looked as though One Nation might sweep the Nationals out of existence. In the 1998 election campaign, however, Fischer strongly counter-attacked One Nation, mainly on the grounds of their "flat tax" economic policies, and succeeded in holding the Nationals' losses to one Senate seat in Queensland.[8]

In 2001, shortly before the expiry of his last parliamentary term, Fischer made public his support for an Australian republic in the future.[9]

As an MP, and later as leader of the Nationals, Fischer often had a rather hectic schedule of visits to various rural National branch meetings, and other relevant functions and gatherings. As a result, he earned the affectionate nickname of "Two-Minute Tim" - often he would arrive, speak to the gathering for a few minutes (ie. the "Two-Minutes"), grab a quick bite to eat while chatting to some of the attendees, then have to head off to the next stop on his schedule.

Family life and post-political career

Fischer in 2013

In 1992, Fischer married Judy Brewer, and they had two sons called Dominic and Harrison.[5]

In 1999, he surprised his colleagues by resigning as party leader and as a minister, and by announcing that he would retire at the election due in 2001. His decision to quit politics was motivated partly by the demands of his family, in particular that his son Harrison has autism (Fischer himself claimed to have "high functioning" autism).[10] After his retirement, he returned to farming at Boree Creek, and became involved in charity work, assisting organisations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Fred Hollows Foundation and Autism New South Wales.[5]

Fisher served as chairman of Tourism Australia from 2004 until 2007. He was made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (FTSE) in 2001. He served as Chairman of the ATSE Crawford Fund supporting international agricultural research from 2001 to 2006. In the 2005 Australia Day Honours Fischer was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), "For service to the Australian and New South Wales Parliaments, to advancing the national interest through trade liberalisation and rail transport development, to supporting humanitarian aid in developing countries and to fostering openness and acceptance of cultural difference in the community."[11]

Fischer is noted as a tireless advocate for rail transport and is probably Australia's best known railfan. He had a childhood hobby of studying rail gauges of the world. Since retiring from politics he continued his association with rail as Special Envoy to the Adelaide to Darwin railway line and travelled on the first freight train and first Ghan passenger train to Darwin in 2004. The V class GT46C locomotive V544, owned and operated by Pacific National, is named after him. In 2007 he led the Rail Freight Network Review into rail freight in Victoria, as commissioned by the Victorian Government.[12]

In 2008–2009, Tim Fischer hosted the series of A.B.C. podcasts "The Great Train Show", covering a wide range of railway topics from around the world and within Australia.[13] On 21 July 2008 Tim Fischer was nominated by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as the first resident Australian Ambassador to the Holy See.[14] Tim Fischer worked closely with the Vatican on all aspects of the canonisation of Australia's first Roman Catholic saint, Mary MacKillop.[15] He retired from the post on 20 January 2012.[16]

In August 2013, following the shooting death of Australian baseball player Christopher Lane in Oklahoma, Fischer called for a tourism boycott of the United States to protest the activities of the National Rifle Association and what he felt were overly lax American gun laws.[17]

In 2014 it was revealed in the ABC programme A Country Road: The Nationals that sometime before the 1998 Federal election, Fischer, then National Party leader met with his deputy John Anderson and former minister John Sharp for a luncheon and were surprised to learn from each other that they all intended to retire at that forthcoming election. All three of them did not think it was a good idea for all of them to retire at the same time as it did not give a positive image to the party which is battling against perceptions that it does not have a certain future. In the end only Sharp retired with Fischer and Anderson delaying their own retirements by successfully recontesting the aforementioned election.[18]

In October 2018, Fischer was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. He died on 22 August 2019.[5]


OrderAustraliaRibbon.png Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) 26 January 2005[11]
Australian Active Service Medal 1945-75 ribbon.png Australian Active Service Medal 1945–1975 with VIETNAM clasp[19]
Vietnam Medal ribbon.png Vietnam Medal [19]
QEII Silver Jubilee Medal ribbon.png Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977[19]
Centenary Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Centenary Medal 1 January 2001[20]
Anniversary of National Service Medal (Australia) ribbon.png Anniversary of National Service 1951–1972 Medal [19]
Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon with 60- clasp.svg Vietnam Campaign Medal (South Vietnam) [19]
ARG Order of May - Grand Cross BAR.png Grand Cross of the Order of May (Argentina) [21]
CHL Order of Bernardo O'Higgins - Grand Cross BAR.png Grand Cross of the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins (Chile) [21]
Order of the Southern Cross Grand Officer (Brazil) Ribbon.png Grand Officer of the Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil) [21]
Order Pius Ribbon 1kl.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX (Holy See) 2012[19]


  • Fischer, Tim (2000). Seven days in East Timor: Ballot and Bullets. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86508-277-6.
  • Rees, Peter; Fischer, Tim (2003). Tim Fischer's Outback Heroes: and communities that count. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86508-831-0.
  • Fischer, Tim (2004). Transcontinental Train Odyssey: the Ghan, the Khyber, the Globe. A personal guide to the great transcontinental railways of the world. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74114-450-5.
  • Fischer, Tim (2005). Asia & Australia: tango in trade, tourism and transport. University of New England Press. ISBN 978-1-86389-922-2.
  • Fischer, Tim (2011). Trains Unlimited. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-7304-9740-0.
  • Fischer, Tim (2018). Steam Australia: Locomotives that Galvanised the Nation. NLA Publishing. ISBN 978-0-64227-929-3.


  1. ^ Ellery, David (1 July 2015). "Tim Fischer says public servants 'played god' with Vietnam National Service ballot". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 August 2019. He served as a 2nd Lieutenant with 1 RAR from July 1, 1966, to March 31, 1969
  2. ^ "Veteran Search Result: Fischer, Timothy Andrew". Nominal Roll of Vietnam Roll Veterans. Department of Veterans' Affairs. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Veterans remember Battle of Coral-Balmoral". SBS News. Australian Associated Press. 11 May 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Mr Timothy Andrew Fischer". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Norman, Jane (22 August 2019). "Tim Fischer dies from leukaemia, aged 73". ABC News. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  6. ^ Shanahan, Dennis. "Obituary: Tim Fischer, 1946-2019". The Australian. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  7. ^ Connors, Tom (24 March 1993). "'Kind' challenge won by Fischer". The Canberra Times.
  8. ^ "Tim Fischer obituary: singular political character who rose to become Australia's deputy PM". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  9. ^ "AM Archive - Tim Fischer reignites Republican debate with new referendum options". ABC. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Tim Fischer tells of life with autism". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 December 1999. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  11. ^ a b "FISCHER, Timothy Andrew – Companion of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Victorian Rail Freight Network Review" (PDF). Victorian Department of Transport. December 2007. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  13. ^ "The Great Train Show – ABC Goulburn Murray – Australian Broadcasting Corporation". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  14. ^ Samantha Maiden (21 July 2008). "Tim Fischer announced ambassador to the Holy See". The Australian. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  15. ^ Speaker Profile of Tim Fischer at The Celebrity Speakers Bureau
  16. ^ Staff writer (20 January 2012). "Arriverderci Rome. Welcome Home Tim Fischer". Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. Sydney, Australia. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Tim Fischer, Australian Politician, Urges Boycott Of U.S. Following Christopher Lane Shooting Death". HuffPost Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  18. ^ A Country Road: The Nationals Episode 3
  19. ^ a b c d e f "An audience with Pope Benedict XVI is the final act in Tim Fischer's posting as Australia's first Rome-based abassador to the Vatican. Picture: Romano L'Osservatore". The Australian. 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  20. ^ "FISCHER, Timothy Andrew – Centenary Medal". It's an Honour database. Australian Government. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  21. ^ a b c "Hon Tim Fischer AC, former Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador to the Holy See". Saxton Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 2 April 2014.


  • Rees, Peter (2001). The boy from Boree Creek: the Tim Fischer story. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-534-0.

External links

New South Wales Legislative Assembly
New title Member for Sturt
Succeeded by
John Sullivan
Preceded by
Mary Meillon
Member for Murray
Succeeded by
Jim Small
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Wallace Fife
Member for Farrer
Succeeded by
Sussan Ley
Party political offices
Preceded by
Charles Blunt
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Succeeded by
John Anderson
Political offices
Preceded by
Bob McMullan
Minister for Trade
Succeeded by
Mark Vaile
Preceded by
Kim Beazley
Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
Succeeded by
John Anderson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Anne Plunkett
Australian Ambassador to the Holy See
Succeeded by
John McCarthy
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