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Wednesday, 16 October 2019
Page: 140

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet) (16:31): It's an absolute privilege to speak in support of the condolence motion for Tim Fischer. I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Tim not as a member—his departure coincided with my arrival—but as a staff member in this place, during the time I was working for Alexander Downer. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, that you were working in this House at the same time with the great Tim Fischer. We interacted a great deal, in particular because my then employer, Alexander Downer, was the foreign minister and Tim Fischer was the trade minister. The two of them made an odd couple, the very urbane Alexander Downer and the very earthy man from Boree Creek with his hat.

Tim traded on that, of course. He was anything but unsophisticated. He presented in the simplest manner, but he was the most thoughtful and erudite of individuals. But, above all else, he was extraordinarily capable and decent. He brought many qualities to this place. I think that in 20, 30 or 40 years time he will be viewed as one of the most loved, admired and respected people who have served in the new Parliament House in its first half-century-plus of operation. It was an absolute joy and a privilege. He always greeted us by name. The fact that he knew the staff and paid respect to the staff, I think, was simply evidence of the way he treated everybody in his life and in his electorate.

There are many achievements. I only want to speak of two. One is his service in Vietnam alongside other brave soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment—1RAR—between July 1966 and March 1969 as a second lieutenant. As Tim would often reflect, too many of these brave soldiers would never return. He was himself wounded in the Battle of Coral-Balmoral. He brought recognition of that to this place, but he also brought the sense of dedication, service and humility of the Australian digger to this place. He was a proud representative, but never an ostentatious one, of the veterans' community. There are many members in the parliament who have served, and in particular within the current staff of the parliament, whether it's attendants or whether it's people in all sorts of different roles. Tim honoured every one of them for their service and honoured every one of them through his service.

The second thing, which in a way is a curious juxtaposition, is, following the tragedy of Port Arthur, what could not have been the easiest of paths to take, he stood up for gun control in Australia. This came at enormous personal cost. Many in the rural Australian constituency felt that this was taking away a long-held right to access to guns for work on farms and elsewhere, and Tim worked through this problem. He was absolutely committed to supporting John Howard in that endeavour. It was an achievement of the government and an achievement of the parliament, but, above all else, it was an achievement of John Howard and Tim Fischer together.

When we look for leadership from those who are elected to this place, we find it in that example. It is one of the finest exemplars of real leadership. Real leadership is where somebody identifies something which is in the national interest or an interest above and beyond their own, but, at their own cost, nevertheless they pursue the higher goal. That is what he chose to do, and many lives, I believe, have been saved in Australia because of the decisions of that time. It was the worst of national tragedies. It was the best of national responses by the people, by all of those who were emergency service workers and by our great and wonderful medical community, but it was perhaps most embodied in the nation-changing developments that came and could only have been facilitated by Tim Fischer taking the stand he did and working with then Prime Minister John Howard.

To Tim's family, I want to thank you for lending him to us for quite an extended period of time, but he left here early to be with that family and to return that service to them. And, all of those who knew Tim, whilst we mourn him, celebrate him.