Deputy Prime Minister - Transcript - Vale Tim Fischer AC - 22 August 2019
Today Judy Fischer has lost a husband. Harrison and Dominic have lost their Dad. The National Party has lost one of its giants and our nation mourns one of its finest. Tim Fischer AC.
The AC, in my opinion is, stands for a champion, a colossus. Tim Fischer was all of that and so much more. I love Tim Fischer, I always will.
He was a mentor, he was a friend, he was a guiding influence, he was a coach. I will remember about nine years ago when I was elected to parliament and I was driving to a dinner being hosted by Harry Jenkins, the then Speaker, and Tim rang me on my mobile. “Greetings from Rome,” he said, “Hello Friend, Hello Comrade.” He wanted to know all about my election and all about what I had planned for the Riverina, an area he was so fond of.
Tim Fischer loved country people, country people loved him. He loved Australia and Australians loved him. They rallied behind him. They knew that in Tim Fischer they had someone who deeply cared about their interests, which were his interests. Their families, which meant so much to him. Their communities, large or small, he cared deeply about them. And that night, I passed on the greetings from Rome, where Tim was carer of the Holy See, on behalf of the Australian Government.
He had so many roles in the Australian government, of course, in public life, 30 years as a Member of Parliament. Firstly for Sturt, then Murray in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and later on, from 1984 through to 2001, for the seat of Farrer. And he represented those people fiercely. But it wasn't just those electorates he represented. It was all country people that Tim stood up for. He was very much someone who knew how to make the most of the situation, long before Twitter or social media was even thought of, and it is fair to say that Tim could use a moment to get a point across, to get his face across. And I well remember when one day he was bailed up in a phone box in a little village called Collingullie, just west of Wagga Wagga, and bailed up by a cattle dog, of all things, and Tim was phoning up to let me know as the editor of the Daily Advertiser newspaper what was going on in his world that day. And of course, the fact that he had been bailed up by this cattle dog meant
that Tim could then broadcast that to the nation, and did so in a wonderful way, such that the following day they were cartoons of Tim in that phone box, still continuing on with his job, still continuing on doing what he always did as Deputy Prime Minister, and yet, out on his own, in the car, talking to farmers, talking to small business people, and then getting on the telephone box at Collingullie to phone in his thoughts for the day and getting bailed up by a cattle dog.
And Tim had this flair for the dramatic. No better shown than when Tony Bullimore, the solo yachtsman from Britain, was lost at sea and found by our Navy, by our wonderful Royal
Australian Navy, and John Major, the then British prime minister, it was 1997, congratulated the Australian government.
Tim was acting prime minister at the time, and he was on his way up to the top of Mount Kosciusko as part of TumbaTrek an initiative he started in 1985 to boost tourism in Kosciusko, and most importantly the Tumbarumba Shire. The message was conveyed by fax to a local farmer. Tim got hold of it, and at the top of the mountain he waved the facts and made great play of it, as Tim could always do, and made sure that, message in one hand, Akubra in the other, Tim, ever affable, ever the man for the moment, made sure that that message was broadcast around the world, the communications at the time - as I say, Tim had a big megaphone, he had a big voice, and he knew how to use it.
There are many Australians, because of Tim's intervention, because of his courage.
I am in Tasmanian at the moment, in April 1996, the Port Arthur massacre that took 35 innocent lives, and at the time there was gun law reform as a result of that terrible, terrible tragedy. Tim was a leader of the National Party. It was a tough time because rural people, they objected having their guns taken away from them. Tim knew that there was a national responsibility to make sure that we collected as many guns as possible to make sure that we had sensible gun law reform. Of course, in some particular areas, that was not a popular thing to do, but Tim knew it was the right thing to do and working with John Howard we undertook the difficult process of gun law reform. In these days, there are many Australians who are alive today because of that legislation change, because of that tough decision that Tim Fischer took, that courage that he showed. A lesser person perhaps might have wilted, a lesser person might have said this is a bridge too far, might have objected and we wouldn't have had the tough gun stances that we took necessarily then, and as I say again, there are many people alive today because of Tim Fischer's courage and his conviction.
He was a wonderful man, was a mental water so many young journalists, young aspiring politicians, local government mayors, I know that Ian Chaffey, the mayor of, the former mayor of Tumbarumba Shire will be particularly saddened today because Tim led that track of journalists and politicians and would be political aspirins through the mountains each and every year and I recall when I got into Parliament in 2010 at the railway station, Tim said to me, are you going to be revising the TumbaTrek, and I showed a bit of ambivalence towards it, I was keen on the idea but I knew it would take a lot of organisation. I said I was thinking of it, thinking that would kick it into the long grass. We then got on national radio and Tim said, I am pleased to announce Michael McCormack is reviving TumbaTrek, and so I had to. It grew from being a handful of people are now 150 people, again enjoy the magic of the mountains, enjoy going up into the clean air of Tumbarumba and seeing what there is to say and that will be something that I think will be a great legacy of Tim's, and certainly that
Akubra will be very fondly recalled, I know next TumbaTrek next February when we again hold that, it will be a very sad sight when we recall the wonderful moments we spent with Tim.
Of course, Tim was a great train aficionado. There is no one who knew more about rail, who knew about the importance of rail efficiency, of train gauges, electric vacation of standard models, -- electrification. I well recall just recently, my last actual conversation with him, I told him I was going to see Jacinta Allen, the Victorian Minister, and Tim quickly sent me all the rail gauges, all the specs, all the electrification modules and modems that needed to be as part of the discussions we were having about the regional rail revival, he knew the inland rail backwards, perhaps we should name the line after him in honour of him, but he wanted me to know and he wanted Jacinta to know that while he wasn't going to be at the meeting, he wanted to be very much a part of the meeting, and while Tim has left the station today, his legacy will live on. His legacy will live on in so many ways, so many people were touched by his warmth. By his humanity. By his love and compassion and loyalty and trust and friendship. That was the Tim Fischer I knew, I respected.
He loved regional Australia. He was one of the great National Party leaders. Of course he came in at a time when the party was called the Country Party, and for Tim, the country meant everything. But he always did think in the national interests, but always in the Nationals interest, but in the national interest. He had a deep love of Australia, a deep love of regional Australia and sometimes he put party politics aside because he knew that to get the job done, as in gun law reform, as in many other things, that bipartisanship was needed, and I know that when Tim left the Parliament in 2001, I know that all members, from all sides of politics were sorry to see him go. He led the National Party for nine years from 1990 to 1999 and of course retired in 2001, but never really retired. He was only a phone call away for any National Party Leader, indeed any National Party backbencher, any National Party person who was a branch member. If they wanted to know Tim's advice, he would give it to them but he would not force those ideas on them. He would give it in a free and frank and friendly way as only Tim could.
Our condolences go to his family and his wide, wide circle of friends, and as acting Prime Minister, I know I have already reached out to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Vietnam, I know Scott and Jenny and their family are also very deeply saddened that this loss. It is a loss, not just for the National Party, not just for regional Australia, but for our entire nation. Indeed I would as -- go as far to say the world because a torch of humanity has been lost today, but Tim's legacy will live on. It will always live on and, as I say, for so many of the reforms, so many of the goodness that he brought about this nation, those memories will live on.
Vale, Tim Fischer. You have been a mighty human being. We love you dearly and respect of everything that you did and we will always remember you. Thank you very much.