Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died at the age of 73 following a decade-long battle with cancer – just days after it was revealed he was “gravely ill” and being treated in Albury Wodonga Cancer Centre, according to multiple reports.
Tributes have been pouring in from well-known Aussie figures and fans, with Bill Shorten leading the charge and writing on Twitter: “Vale Tim Fischer. Doting dad & parent-carer, General Monash advocate, Veteran, Public Servant, Good Australian.”
Meanwhile, PM Scott Morrison shared a photo alongside his own tribute, writing: “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… 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. Jenny and my thoughts and those of our entire nation are with Tim’s wife Judy, their sons Harrison and Dominic and his extended family and many friends.”
Thank you Tim, we loved you very much. pic.twitter.com/RfUnIXysbH
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) August 22, 2019
Leigh Sales added: “I’ve been thinking a lot about Tim Fischer this week and the words that keep coming to mind are uncommon decency. He cared so much about policy issues that affect Australian lives, especially for people outside the cities. He was a lovely person. Vale.”
While Andrew Leigh added: “Tim Fischer has passed away. He did many things in his career, but I’ll always remember him as the man who stood up to the extreme right to pass gun laws that still save around 200 lives every year. Here he is at the 2018 launch of Parliamentary Friends of Gun Control. #auspol.”
Tim Fischer has passed away. He did many things in his career, but I'll always remember him as the man who stood up to the extreme right to pass gun laws that still save around 200 lives every year. Here he is at the 2018 launch of Parliamentary Friends of Gun Control. #auspol pic.twitter.com/5U7vVfClsS
— Andrew Leigh (@ALeighMP) August 22, 2019
Meanwhile several fans shared their thoughts on social media, with one writing: “Much saddened to hear of the passing of Tim Fischer. A wonderful Australian with a heart of gold. RIP,” while another added: “Vale Tim Fischer. Even when I disagreed with you, you were always one of the very few politicians who seemed more concerned with his constituents and the country than with your own fame or profit.”
The 73-year-old, who has faced a tough fight with acute leukaemia for 10 years, revealed just months ago that he had turned to chemotherapy to fight the disease. And ABC News Breakfast host Michael Rowland took to social media on Tuesday morning to share an update on his condition and sent his best wishes to the much-loved former politician.
In a post shared on Twitter he wrote: “My thoughts this morning are with former deputy PM Tim Fischer, who is gravely ill in Albury hospital. I am told he is putting up a brave fight. That’s the Tim everybody knows.”
It followed an initial report by The Australian claiming Fischer was gravely ill, suffering from the effects of his 10-year cancer fight.
My thoughts this morning are with former Deputy PM Tim Fischer, who is gravely ill in Albury hospital. I am told he is putting up a brave fight. That’s the Tim everybody knows. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/D7WUdEvsNg
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) August 19, 2019
Late last year Fischer appeared on ABC’s Australian Story where he admitted his prognosis was “not good”, with hope and prayer keeping him strong throughout the difficult time.
“It’s as it is. At three score plus 12, you take the cards that you’re dealt with and hope and pray,” he told the program back in November. It’s not the ex-politician’s first cancer fight as he was previously diagnosed with bladder cancer, prostate cancer and two melanomas – however this is the most serious.
The devastating news back then forced both Tim and his wife Judy to focus on the possibility of him not being around in the future. Judy admitted: “Obviously when you’re facing an illness as serious as what Tim is going through at the moment, it does focus your mind on what happens in the future.”
Tim revealed on the show he believed the health blow could be down to exposure to the chemical Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam in the 1960s.
“What’s going to happen if you’re not there?” As former Deputy PM Tim Fischer battles serious illness, he takes solace in knowing his autistic adult son Harrison has found his place in the world.#AustralianStory pic.twitter.com/JDU4zCWbqL
— Australian Story (@AustralianStory) November 11, 2018
Meanwhile, his son Harrison, who has been diagnosed with autism, found it more difficult to discuss his father’s condition. He told the show in November: “I struggle to think about what he says with that, because it’s a bit sad that Dad’s not well and he could die any day, probably … It makes me feel really upset.”
At the time Tim had only just begun a new round of chemotherapy in Melbourne and while his prognosis remained unknown, he said he had hope knowing that his sons Harrison and Dominic, will be successful and happy. “I’m just so happy that Harrison has reached a degree of tranquillity and positive approach to his life,” he added on the program. “I will eventually leave this planet Earth, sooner or later, in the knowledge that Harrison is now far better placed than he was 10 years ago or 20 years ago.”
Tim served as Nationals leader between 1990 and 1999 before retiring from politics in 2001 to support Harrison. The former pollie and his wife first found out Harrison was autistic when he was just five-years-old, and Tim recalled the doctor’s “negative” tone while relaying the news at the time – apparently telling them it was unlikely he’d ever hold down a job or be able to live independently.
What’s your memory like? Harrison Fischer can rattle off AFL stats back to 1982! His flair for numbers and an incredible memory are part of his special talents as a young man with #autism | Watch ‘Call Me Harrison’ Monday #AustralianStory pic.twitter.com/dog7OSmUKH
— Australian Story (@AustralianStory) November 11, 2018
“It was shattering, it was disappointing, it was challenging. And initially I pushed back against it in a somewhat crazy way,” Tim explained on Australian Story.
It led to Tim realising he also had a mild form of autism himself, having had an unusual lifelong fascination with railways and transport. For Harrison, that fascination lies in politics – but unlike his father, he’s a Labor supporter.