Condolence Motion: Hon. Tim Fischer AC

16 Oct 2019 speech

I would like to record my deep sadness at the death of the Hon. Tim Fischer AC on 22 August 2019 and pass on my sincere condolences to his wife, Judy, and sons,Harrison and Dominic, for their very, very great loss.

The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have outlined Mr Fischer's incredible contribution to thisplace and to the nation as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia; as Leader of the National Party for many years;as the Minister for Trade—most famously, I think, taking his akubra and our Aussie spirit overseas to visit so many countries and friends and trading partners; and also as the member for Farrer. His public service also encompassed serving two tours of Vietnam during the Vietnam War and serving as a state member of the New South Wales parliament as the youngest ever elected Country Party MP in New South Wales. After his service to this place, he also served our nation through his roles at Tourism Australia and the Royal Flying Doctor Service and as Ambassador to the Holy See.

Today I would like to briefly relate two personal experiences with Mr Fischer that I believe, in a small way, demonstrate the great intellect and passion he had for the National Party, his party; for the coalition between the National Party and the Liberal Party; for policy; as well as his care for others and his great enthusiasm for life, which so many people have reflected on in their memories of him.

Some years ago now, while studying at Flinders University, which is in the heart of my electorate, I contacted Mr Fischer to seek an interview with him about the Liberal-National Party coalition, the histories of our party and his experiences as leader. I hadn't met Mr Fischer before and so I wasn't sure whether I would get a response or not. He responded, as I think he probably did with every interview request, almost immediately and generously
agreed to an interview. He let me know that he'd soon be travelling to Adelaide and so suggested that we could conduct the interview at the end of the meeting that he was having. So we did. We chatted for probably about 30 minutes, at which stage Mr Fischer said, 'Look, I've got to get to the airport, but why don't we continue the interview in the taxi on the way to the airport?' So I said, 'Fantastic—that would be great, thank you.' We then
got to the airport and he was still chatting, so he said, 'Look, why don't you come in and keep interviewing me in the lounge while I'm waiting for my plane?'

Some two hours later I had extensive interview material from Mr Fischer across not just the importance and history of the Liberal-National party coalition and government and his experience but also the future of our parties, how we could keep them strong and what we could do. It's lucky that the interview was conducted in the age of digital voice recorders, because if it had been on tape I probably would have run out, such was the amount of information that he was able to give me. He was so incredibly thoughtful, passionate and enthusiastic. It was an absolute privilege to be able to speak with him.

I just wanted to mention that because he was a staunch coalitionist. He was a great leader of the National Party and he was so at a very challenging time for the party. The National Party had recently, just before Tim Fischer became its leader, gone through the challenges of the Joh for Canberra campaign and a split in the National Party. They were still very much piecing the party back together, and he played a huge role in that. This was in 1990, when we were still deep in opposition and wouldn't come to government for another six years. His leadership in keeping the coalition relationship strong through that very challenging time was a very significant one. We saw evidence of that when we came to government and he became Deputy Prime Minister and worked so closely
with the Hon. John Howard to lead both our parties.

The other personal experience with Mr Fischer I wanted to contribute today occurred more recently. In March this year, I contacted him on behalf of one of my wonderful young students in my electorate of Boothby, Fletcher Luscombe. Fletcher and his dad, Adam, who's an incredible community volunteer and contributor, came to see me to talk about Fletcher's research project for his year 11 and 12 studies. Fletcher was very keen to talk to whoever he could about gun reform, as a focus of his research project looking into the leadership that was needed on that issue, the relationships that had to be managed, how they formulated the policy, how they came to the outcome and how they communicated what they were doing to the public, because, as we know and others have
reflected, it was an incredibly controversial policy change for the Liberal Party and the National Party to make and to manage with many of their core voters and constituents. Once again I emailed Mr Fischer. He responded almost immediately and said that he would be delighted to assist Fletcher with his studies and with an interview. He suggested that he could be interviewed within the next 48 hours. We made that happen. Mr Fischer emailed me to let me know that. I emailed him back and thanked him most sincerely, and he took the time to wish me the very best of luck for the election and the federal budget—my correspondence with him happened in March. He was always thinking of others. He was always incredibly enthusiastic about his interactions, his contribution
and his experiences. It was quite infectious. I think anyone who had the privilege of speaking with, interviewing or knowing Mr Fischer couldn't help but be inspired by his enthusiasm for life. With the benefit of hindsight, he must have been very ill when he was helping Fletcher, which demonstrates what an absolutely remarkable Australian he was—how caring, kind, compassionate and very generous he was.

I reiterate my very sincere condolences to his family. We have lost a great Australian, but the incredible work that he did, the incredible person that he was and the memory of him will live on forever in this nation.