We have lost an Australian original with the passing of Tim Fischer.Tim Fischer was a dear friend. Jenny and I are deeply saddened by Tim’s passing. Together, with our entire nation, our thoughts are with Tim’s wife Judy, their sons Harrison and Dominic and his extended family and many friends.Tim Fischer was a big Australian in every sense of the word. Big in stature, big in his belief, big in his passion, big in his vision for what Australians could achieve and big in his view of Australia’s place in the world. As a result, Tim Fischer will forever cast a big shadow on our nation.Tim Fischer walked his own path with honesty and humility and that is what Australians loved about him.Tim Fischer served as Deputy Prime Minister from March 1996 to July 1999 and led the federal parliamentary National Party for more than nine years. A former NSW state MP, he was elected to the southern central NSW federal seat of Farrer in 1984 and re-elected five times before retiring in 2001.Mr Fischer, who served as Trade Minister in the Howard Government, was esteemed by his Coalition colleagues, respected by his opponents and loved by Australians everywhere as he travelled the country in his trademark Akubra hat.He was an all in conviction politician. This integrity and resolve were underlined when he stood firm with Prime Minister Howard on tough new gun laws following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. They are Tim Fischer’s gun laws too.Gun laws were not popular in regional Australia in 1996 and Tim Fischer took to the highways and byways to persuade and convince regional Australians about the need for change.I believe this was his finest moment. Australia will always be in his debt.Before entering parliament, Tim Fischer served as an Australian Army Officer in Vietnam. As a parliamentarian, he always demonstrated a deep loyalty and affection to service personnel and veterans.Later in life, he was chairman of Tourism Australia where I had the privilege to serve with him. Tim also served as national chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. From 2009-12, he served as Australia’s first resident Ambassador to the Holy See. Tim Fischer also wrote several books, including a number of books about trains – one of his great passions.My Government will be offering Tim's family a state funeral to celebrate his life and extraordinary contribution to Australia.