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Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died aged 73 after a decade-long battle with cancer. The 73-year-old had been battling acute leukaemia and cancer for 10 years.

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Former deputy PM Tim Fischer dies aged 73
Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died aged 73 after a decade-long battle with cancer. The 73-year-old had been battling acute leukaemia and cancer for 10 years.

 

Born on 3 May in 1946 in Lockhart, regional New South Wales, the popular politician was always proud to come from a dusty small town and go on to - at one point - becoming acting prime minister.

Mr Fischer was just 20 years old when he was conscripted into the Army - serving as an officer, and a platoon commander in Australia, and Vietnam.

But his passion for the rights of regional Australians led him to politics and he was elected into New South Wales state parliament, and then federal parliament in 1984.

Mr Fischer became an MP at just 24-years-old, going on to become the widely-respected leader of The Nationals from 1990-1999, and also served as Trade Minister.

From 1996, Mr Fischer acted as Deputy Prime Minister under John Howard.

He often said over the course of his life, he was most proud of supporting Mr Howard on the gun control legislation, as well as the Darwin-Adelaide rail link.

His time in the military often influenced his politics and discouraged the US from starting a war with Iraq.

Mr Fischer also tackled the notion of climate change long before it was in the international spotlight in the '90s by acknowledging Australia's need to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Prime Minister got it exactly right in saying those claims were exaggerated, but we accept the need to work constructively to overcome the greenhouse gas emission problems, and we’ll continue to do that as we head towards the Kyoto conference in December," he once said. 

In 2001, He surprisingly quit politics. It was rumoured he did this to spend more time with his two sons – Harrison who is autistic, and Dominic.

He had told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007: "I overreacted to leaving Parliament and probably took on a few too many things," he said. 

Mr Fischer will be fondly remembered as a train fanatic with an extraordinary ability to memorise rail facts and timetables.

But perhaps he was better known for his trusty Akubra hat - whether he was in a suit and tie or a button-down shirt, the Aussie staple was never out of reach. 

After politics, Mr Fischer served as chairman of Tourism Australia, before becoming the country's first resident-in-Rome ambassador to the Vatican and was there for the announcement of Australia's first saint - Mary McKillop.

On ABC’s Australian Story last year, his family opened up about his oldest son’s diagnosis and the independence Harrison had gained during early adulthood so far.  

Mr Fischer went on to realise he, while never formally diagnosed, believed he was “high-functioning” with autism.

He battled four different cancers over his lifetime which he “thanked Uncle Sam for" – blaming the exposure of the chemical Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam.

“Agent Orange was widely used and it was suggested his immunity broke down more quickly as a direct consequence,” he told Australian Story last year.

In May, when he opened a museum dedicated to his life at his birthplace of Lockhart, near Wagga Wagga in NSW, he revealed he was hoping for remission.

He shared his life-long passion for trains with Australia by hosting three radio programs, writing several books and took part in many television documentaries.

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