Tim Fischer

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.

Tim Fischer

Fischer as deputy prime minister
10th Deputy Prime Minister of Australia
In office
11 March 1996  20 July 1999
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byKim Beazley
Succeeded byJohn Anderson
Leader of the National Party of Australia
Elections: 1993, 1996, 1998
In office
10 April 1990  20 July 1999
DeputyBruce Lloyd
John Anderson
Preceded byCharles Blunt
Succeeded byJohn Anderson
Minister for Trade
In office
11 March 1996  20 July 1999
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byBob McMullan
Succeeded byMark Vaile
Australian Ambassador to the Holy See
In office
30 January 2009  20 January 2012
Nominated byKevin Rudd
Preceded byAnne Plunkett
Succeeded byJohn McCarthy
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Farrer
In office
1 December 1984  8 October 2001
Preceded byWal Fife
Succeeded bySussan Ley
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Murray
In office
13 September 1980  18 October 1984
Preceded byMary Meillon
Succeeded byJim Small
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Sturt
In office
13 February 1971  12 August 1980
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byJohn Sullivan
Personal details
Timothy Andrew Fischer

(1946-05-03)3 May 1946
Lockhart, New South Wales, Australia
Died22 August 2019(2019-08-22) (aged 73)
East Albury, New South Wales, Australia
Political partyNational Party of Australia
Military service
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Years of service1966–1969
RankSecond Lieutenant
Unit1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
Battles/warsVietnam War
Service number2784385

Fischer was born in Lockhart, New South Wales. He served with the Australian Army in the Vietnam War. On his return he bought a farming property at Boree Creek. He served in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1971 to 1984. Fischer 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 life

Fischer was born in Lockhart, New South Wales, of German descent, the son of Barbara Mary (van Cooth) and Julius Ralph Fischer.[1][2] He attended Xavier College in Kew, Melbourne. In 1966 he was conscripted into the Australian Army and commissioned at the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville. Fischer served with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) between July 1966 and March 1969 as a second lieutenant.[3] With his battalion, he served in the Vietnam War.[4] Fischer was wounded in the Battle of Coral-Balmoral in May–June 1968.[5] 1RAR and the 1st Australian Task Force were awarded Unit Citation for Gallantry for their actions Battle of Coral-Balmoral and Fischer was entitled to wear the citation insignia.[6]

Upon his return from Vietnam, Fischer took up farming at Boree Creek, in the Riverina, and became active in the Country Party, as the party was then called.[7]


State politics

Fischer represented Sturt in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1971 to 1980 and Murray from 1980–84. He served on the opposition frontbench from 1978 to 1984.[8]

Federal politics

In 1984, Fischer won the federal seat of Farrer in the 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.[9][10]

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), were 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.[11]

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 on automatic and semi-automatic weapons following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996 alongside then-prime minister John Howard, measures which were opposed by much of his party's rural base.[9][12]

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.

In pushing to permanently extinguish native title rights of indigenous Australians following the Mabo and Wik decisions, Fischer attracted much criticism.[9]

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.[13]

In 2001, shortly before the expiry of his last parliamentary term, Fischer made public his support for an Australian republic in the future.[14]

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.[15]

In 2014 it was revealed on the ABC program A Country Road that sometime before the 1998 federal election, Fischer, then National Party leader, had met with his deputy John Anderson and former minister John Sharp for a luncheon at which they were surprised to learn from each other that they all intended to retire at the forthcoming election. They agreed that it was not a good idea for all of them to retire at the same time, as it could give a negative image to the party which at the time was battling against perceptions that its future was uncertain. In the end, only Sharp retired, with Fischer and Anderson delaying their own retirements and successfully recontesting the election.[16]

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).[17]

Post-political career

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.[9]

Fischer served as chairman of Tourism Australia from 2004 until 2007. He was made a fellow (FTSE) of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) in 2000.[18] He served as chairman and a patron of the Crawford Fund, an initiative of the ATSE supporting international agricultural research, from 2001 to 2006. He was vice-chair and chair of the Crop Trust (2013–2017) and a "vigorous supporter" of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.[19] He served as national chairman of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.[20] He also served as founding Patron of Australia for UNHCR (2001-2006),[21] an Australian charity that raises funds for the UN's refugee agency.

Fischer was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the 2005 Australia Day Honours' List in recognition of his contributions to Australian politics, trade liberalisation, rail transport development, support of humanitarian aid, and to fostering community acceptance of cultural differences.[22]

On 21 July 2008, Fischer was nominated by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as the first resident Australian Ambassador to the Holy See.[23] Fischer worked closely with the Vatican on all aspects of the canonisation of Australia's first Roman Catholic saint, Mary MacKillop.[24] He retired from the post on 20 January 2012.[25]

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.[26]

Personal life

In 1992, Fischer married Judy Brewer. They had two sons.[9]

Fischer was noted as a tireless advocate for rail transport and was probably Australia's best known railfan. He had a childhood hobby of studying rail gauges of the world. After retiring from politics he continued his association with rail as special envoy for 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.[27]

Between 2008 and 2009, Fischer hosted three series of ABC Local Radio podcasts The Great Train Show, covering a wide range of railway topics from around the world and within Australia.[28]

In October 2018, Fischer was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. He died on 22 August 2019 at the Albury-Wodonga Cancer Centre in East Albury, New South Wales at age 73.[29] Fischer himself attributed the illness to exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam.[9] Fischer was given a state funeral, which was held in Albury on 29 August 2019.[30]


RibbonAwardDate awardedNotes
Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)26 January 2005[22]
Australian Active Service Medal 1945–1975with VIETNAM clasp[31]
Vietnam Medal
Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal1977
Centenary Medal1 January 2001[32]
Australian Defence Medal
Anniversary of National Service 1951–1972 Medal[31]
Vietnam Campaign Medal (South Vietnam)
Grand Cross of the Order of May (Argentina)[33]
Grand Cross of the Order of Bernardo O'Higgins (Chile)
Grand Officer of the Order of the Southern Cross (Brazil)
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX (Holy See)2012[31]


  • 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. "Mr (Tim) Timothy Andrew Fischer (1946-2019)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  2. Rees, Peter (1 August 2002). Boy from Boree Creek: The Tim Fischer story. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781741153750.
  3. 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
  4. "Veteran Search Result: Fischer, Timothy Andrew". Nominal Roll of Vietnam Roll Veterans. Department of Veterans' Affairs. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  5. "Veterans remember Battle of Coral-Balmoral". SBS News. Australian Associated Press. 11 May 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  6. Chester, Darren (13 May 2018). "Gallantry award for service during the Battles of Coral and Balmoral" (Press release). Department of Defence (Australia). Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  7. "Our history". National Party of Australia.
  8. "Mr Timothy Andrew Fischer". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  9. Norman, Jane (22 August 2019). "Tim Fischer, former Nationals leader and deputy PM, dies from leukaemia, aged 73". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  10. Shanahan, Dennis. "Obituary: Tim Fischer, 1946-2019". The Australian. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  11. Connors, Tom (24 March 1993). "'Kind' challenge won by Fischer". The Canberra Times via Trove: National Library of Australia.
  12. Dalzell, Stephanie (22 August 2019). "'Many Australians are alive today because of Tim Fischer'". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  13. "Tim Fischer obituary: singular political character who rose to become Australia's deputy PM". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  14. Fischer, Tim (28 July 2001). "Tim Fischer reignites Republican debate with new referendum options". AM (Interview). Interviewed by Hamish Robertson. Australia: ABC Radio National. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  15. Davey, Paul (22 August 2006). "The Nationals: The Progressive, Country, and National Party in New South Wales 1919-2006". Federation Press via Google Books.
  16. Ewart, Heather (presenter) (15 May 2017). "Episode 3". A Country Road: The Nationals. Australia. 59 minutes in. ABC TV. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  17. Fischer, Tim (13 December 1999). "Tim Fischer tells of life with autism". AM (Interview). Interviewed by Kieran McLeonard. Australia: ABC Radio National. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  18. "Meet our Fellows". Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  19. Chartres, Colin (22 August 2019). "Vale Tim Fischer". Crawford Fund. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  20. Vanstone, Amanda (22 August 2019). "Vale Tim Fischer". Royal Flying Doctor Service. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  21. "Australia for UNHCR Annual Report 2006" (PDF). 23 August 2019. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  22. "Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) entry for The Honourable Timothy Andrew FISCHER". It's an Honour, Australian Honours Database. Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 January 2005. Retrieved 22 August 2019. 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.
  23. Maiden, Samantha (21 July 2008). "Tim Fischer announced ambassador to the Holy See". The Australian. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  24. "Speaker Profile of Tim Fischer at The Celebrity Speakers Bureau".
  25. "Arriverderci Rome. Welcome Home Tim Fischer". Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. Sydney, Australia. 20 January 2012. Archived from the original on 19 March 2014.
  26. "Tim Fischer, Australian Politician, Urges Boycott Of U.S. Following Christopher Lane Shooting Death". HuffPost Australia. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  27. "Victorian Rail Freight Network Review" (PDF). Victorian Department of Transport. December 2007. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  28. Fischer, Tim. The Great Train Show (Podcast). ABC Goulburn Murray: ABC Local Radio. Archived from the original (streaming audio) on 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  29. "Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer dies". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 August 2019.
  30. Moyra Shields (29 August 2019). "Tim Fischer farewelled at state funeral in Albury as 'titan of regional Australia'". Australia: ABC News. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  31. "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.
  32. "Centenary Medal (n/a) entry for The Hon. Timothy Andrew Fischer". It's an Honour, Australian Honours Database. Canberra, Australia: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 1 January 2001. Retrieved 22 August 2019. For service as Deputy Prime Minister and to expanding Australia's international trade
  33. "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.
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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