I thank the Deputy Speaker for the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of the Honourable Tim Fischer to our nation. I had the pleasure of knowing Tim Fischer. In fact, before I came to this place, he appointed me chair of what was then referred to as the area consultative committees. They were an organisation that preceded the RDAs, or regional development authorities, that we have now, and I think the ACCs arrived just after the OLMA committees. So my relationship with him goes back some time, and I'm grateful for the invitation that he extended to me to be part of the Central Queensland group, chairing the subcommittee of the then ACC. I then went on to chair the south-west region that went from Toowoomba out to Birdsville.
Next year will be my 10th year in this place, and there have been many condolence motions in this amazing chamber, and people have reflected on many of those. I have not spoken on many condolence motions, but I felt it necessary to come and pay my respects to Tim because he is a man I had great affection for and knew personally—a man who deserved all the praise from a number of commentators on both sides of this House and from the journalistic gallery, the fourth estate. His contribution to this place honours his family, his wife, Judy, and the two boys.
Without going over a lot of what has already been said, Tim's contribution to this country is unmatchable. As a politician, you try and take the best from people and model yourself on others. What resonates most with me is that Tim had a saying that people can smell bulldust coming a mile away. Just being your authentic self was a characteristic that would endear you to the Australian character.
I try and do that. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but nevertheless Fischer did it beautifully. He often was referred to as 'awkward', 'quirky', 'rustic' and many other descriptors, but he just kept on coming.
He started his political career after serving some time in the Army. He spent a considerable time, 13 years, in the New South Wales state parliament and after that made his way into the federal arena. After serving on the backbench, he made his way to the frontbench and then became the leader of the party. Whether or not you were a National Party member, a train enthusiast, an avid bushwalker or a person who lived in regional Queensland, you might have come across Tim Fischer. He was respectfully known as 'Two-Minute Tim' because of his busy schedule—in a regional precinct, he would often just drop in to touch as many people in a community as he could as he travelled through, be it at the pub, the CWA or if he just saw a group of cars. He would drop in, say g'day and give his best, just to let the community know that he had gone through. His name Two-Minute Tim was in respect of the time that he would spend with different groups, just to let them know that he was there and he had touched them.
The other thing Tim had going for him was the workload that he got through. That military training, that military discipline, the work ethic, the code that's instilled in you in the military that you don't let the person next to you down—he brought all those qualities to parliament. He brought those qualities to this place when he represented his constituents. If we, as members of this House, can take those qualities away with us, I can assure you they will serve us well.
Tim, after he finished here, went on to do a number of things, but the most notable was his contribution to Rome, as our Ambassador to the Holy See. Many times I insisted that people in my electorate who were travelling to Rome should drop in at the Vatican and ask for Tim. I said that he would always be up for a personal tour and to look after them. I caught up with him some years later. Whilst he was complimentary about the fact that he got to meet some beautiful people from regional Queensland, he said, 'You kept me busy over there!' But the people returned with only good messages from their personal tours with Tim. If he could not, for whatever reason, give the personal tour, he ensured that one of his staff made those people who had travelled across this planet to the other side of the world feel that they were the most important people. That was the quality of the bloke. He was a man of incredible integrity.
In closing, I acknowledge Judy and the boys, Harrison and Dominic. Thank you for the sacrifice you made, of the time that you would have spent with Tim, so that Tim could spend that time with his community, with the party, with the parliament and with the Australian people. It is you who made a sacrifice. I acknowledge that contribution. Thank you. Vale, Tim Fischer.