Tim Fischer - Federal Political Career

Federal Political Career

In 1984 Fischer won the federal seat of Farrer for the National Party of Australia (NPA), as the Country Party had been renamed. Within a year he was on the opposition frontbench, and soon became a popular figure in both the NPA and the Parliament: his sometimes rustic manner and bumbling English concealing a shrewd political brain. In 1990, when an attempt by Charles Blunt to modernise the NPA's image ended with his losing his seat, Fischer was elected NPA leader, defeating the former leader Ian Sinclair.

Fischer was an enthusiastic supporter of the "Fightback" package of economic and tax reforms proposed by the Liberal leader Dr John Hewson in 1991. But he was unsuccessful in persuading the majority of rural voters, particularly in Queensland, that the proposed changes, particularly the goods and services tax (GST) was in their interests, and Labor under Paul Keating won the 1993 election.

The Liberals finally regained office under John Howard in 1996. Fischer became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. The Liberals had won a majority in their own right in the 1996 election, leaving the Nationals in a much weaker position compared to previous Coalition governments. Nonetheless, Fischer was fairly active. He supported the government introducing tough gun control measures following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996, measures which were opposed by much of his party's rural base.

Fischer also had difficulty with the determination of many Liberals, including the Treasurer, Peter Costello, to carry out sweeping free-market reforms, including abolishing tariff protection for rural industries, deregulating petrol prices and other measures seen as harmful by farmers' organisations. The issue of native title for indigenous Australians following the Mabo and Wik decisions also caused much political difficulty for Fischer.

Further trouble for Fischer and the NPA came with the rise of One Nation, a right-wing populist party led by Pauline Hanson, a disendorsed Liberal candidate who was nonetheless elected member for the Queensland seat of Oxley at the 1996 federal election. One Nation had its greatest appeal in country areas of New South Wales and Queensland—the NPA's traditional heartland. For much of 1997 and 1998, it looked as though One Nation might sweep the NPA out of existence. In the 1998 election campaign, however, Fischer strongly counter-attacked One Nation, mainly on the grounds of their "flat tax" economic policies, and succeeded in holding the NPA's losses to one Senate seat in Queensland.

Read more about this topic:  Tim Fischer

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