Tim Fischer
Tim Fischer. (Image: AAP/Alan Porritt)

The late Tim Fischer was always a maverick, eccentric even, especially in his early days as a state MP in New South Wales parliament, when his penchant for media attention saw him featuring more often in Stay In Touch than in the politics section of The Sydney Morning Herald. A trainspotter, shy, Catholic, prone to anachronism -- he is famously said to have urged his staff "don't fax that, it's the last copy!" -- and a Vietnam veteran, Fischer became a politician in the early '70s and stayed one until the eve of the 21st century, retiring as deputy prime minister in 1999. When he did, he quipped that the media had only just stopped referring to him as "idiosyncratic", which told him it was probably time to go.

But from the perspective of 2019, however, Fischer looks not just eccentric, but like a visitor from another planet. Fischer's passing has been an opportunity to rightly hail his achievement, with John Howard, of reforming Australia's gun laws and implementing a national gun buyback scheme against furious resistance from regional communities, in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre.