Vale Tim Fischer

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Ag Life -

As a crusty old re­porter of more than 35 years, one can’t help but be­come a tad cyn­i­cal.

I have a very healthy lack of re­spect for many, if not most politi­cians. Of course, the feel­ing is mu­tual.

I’ve been sworn at, be­lit­tled, given a lec­ture on how I’d got it all wrong, laughed at, even told, ‘I feel very sorry for your hus­band’… the list of con­de­scend­ing be­hav­iour from our sup­posed cham­pi­ons of democracy goes on.

When for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Bob Hawke died re­cently, ev­ery­one said what a great bloke he was.

I’ll never for­get in 1989 in the middle of a me­dia scrum when I asked a very pointed question about the pi­lots’ strike and Mr Hawke’s re­la­tion­ship with Sir Peter Abe­les, then owner of Ansett Air­lines.

He bent down, pushed right into my face, pointed his fin­ger at me nearly touch­ing my nose and said, ‘You wouldn’t ask such a stupid question if you knew what you were talk­ing about, GIR­LIE!’ Not so nice af­ter all.

Back then, the no­to­ri­ously hon­est and de­cent politi­cian was the se­nior La­bor Min­is­ter, the late John But­ton.

I re­mem­ber ask­ing him some tough questions which he duly an­swered and, flab­ber­gasted that he didn’t de­liver a whole lot of po­lit­i­cal spin, I re­minded him af­ter­wards that it wasn’t com­pul­sory to answer so frankly.

He looked gen­uinely shocked at the sug­ges­tion.

That kind of stead­fast, un­wa­ver­ing hon­esty was also Tim Fischer’s trade­mark. He had an in­cred­i­bly strong moral com­pass.

As deputy Prime Min­is­ter, he, like then Prime Min­is­ter John Howard, never for­got your name and al­ways treated you with re­spect.

I was work­ing with ABC TV’S 7.30 Re­port in 1996 when Martin Bryant slayed 35 peo­ple at Port Arthur in Tas­ma­nia.

I was as­signed to re­port on the sub­se­quent pro­gun rally at Sale in Gipp­s­land.

I stood be­hind Mr Howard as he stood on the podium to ad­dress the crowd.

He was clearly wear­ing a bul­let-proof vest. I have to ad­mit to also feel­ing un­safe. The crowd was an­gry and ag­gres­sive.

The Howard govern­ment had only been in of­fice a cou­ple of months and if it weren’t for the stead­fast sup­port of Tim Fischer, the rad­i­cal gun re­forms would not have got through.

He was a man who knew when to stand his ground against the groundswel­l of protest from his fel­low Na­tion­als and many of his con­stituents.

Mr Fischer was a man of habit and punc­tu­al­ity was an ob­ses­sion.

I sat next to his wife, Judy, at a lunch func­tion and he in­sisted on speaking at the ex­act al­lot­ted time even though the main course hadn’t been served. There was no stop­ping him. She laughed and said, “That’s Tim. Just get on with it.”

He used to ring ABC Re­gional of­fices very early in the morn­ing or late at night and leave a news story on the an­swer­ing ma­chine.

It would be com­plete with an in­tro­duc­tion, then with the count­down ‘three, two, one …’ and the ex­act 10-sec­ond radio grab, then a cheery farewell, ‘God bless’.

I bumped into him just short of 12 months ago when I’d made head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons in a defama­tion case.

I won’t re­veal what he said, but he put his arm around me and gave his very forth­right view of the sit­u­a­tion. Hon­est and real: a true gen­tle man.

Vale Tim Fischer. If only there were more like him.

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