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Former Australian deputy PM Tim Fischer dies at 73

CANBERRA (Australia): Former deputy prime minister of Australia Tim Fischer died at the age of 73 from an acute form of leukaemia.

Fischer started his career as a 20-year-old conscript fighting in the jungles in Vietnam and ended in the Vatican as Australia’s top diplomat.

But the Boy from Boree Creek (a tiny town near Wagga Wagga) made his greatest contribution in politics and will be remembered for the key role he played in reforming Australia’s gun laws.

By the time he entered the New South Wales parliament in 1971, at the age of 24, he had already served as an officer and platoon commander in the Australian Army.

After 13 years as the member for Sturt and then Murray, he made his move to Canberra by winning the federal seat of Farrer.

Ever the wily politician, he exploited a depleted National Party to seize the leadership in 1990.

As deputy PM, Mr Fischer stridently supported then-prime minister John Howard’s 1996 gun control laws in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, despite fierce resistance among much of the Nationals’ rural base.

The episode tested his mettle as Nationals leader, but biographer and journalist Peter Rees said it would prove to be his greatest legacy.

“Tim went to hostile meetings in rural Australia, meetings where effigies of him were hanging from light posts, and he argued the case for gun control,” he said.

“He knew the damage guns could do, having served in Vietnam.”