FORMER deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been remembered in the Jewish community as a stalwart advocate of the legacy of Sir John Monash, campaigning relentlessly for the World War I visionary to be posthumously promoted to the supreme Australian rank of field marshal.
Fischer, who led the Nationals and served as deputy PM and trade minister in the Howard government from 1996-99, and became Australian ambassador to the Holy See, died last week from an acute form of leukaemia, aged 73.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said Fischer “was known and widely admired as a politician of great integrity. Unlike many of his peers, he eschewed self-promotion, dedicating his life to the betterment of his family, his community and his country”.
He “campaigned tirelessly” for Monash’s posthumous promotion in rank, said Wertheim, and while “the campaign did not bear fruit”, it educated new generations about Monash’s achievements.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg expressed his sadness at “the passing of a great Australian and a good friend”.
He added, “He was much loved and deeply respected, inspiring us all with his enthusiasm and his leadership. I had the privilege to launch his book [Maestro John Monash] … and his passionate quest to have Monash, our greatest citizen soldier, posthumously promoted to field marshal [is] a cause I share and a goal I hope will one day become a reality.”
During his time in cabinet, Fischer controversially attacked Israel’s actions in Lebanon and criticised Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.
But in 2014, he drew plaudits for Maestro John Monash, in which he asserted Australian-born Monash was overlooked for field marshal due to prime minister Billy Hughes’s disdain for him, amid wider community suspicion of German Jewish migrant families.
“The ignorance over the huge contribution to this nation by John Monash never ceases to astound me,” Fischer had told The AJN.
Reviving his campaign for Monash’s promotion this year, Fischer had said Boxing Day 2019, the centenary of Monash’s return to Australia after WWI, would be an ideal date to announce his promotion.