Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has died at the age of 73 after a decade-long battle with cancer.

Mr Fischer died at the Albury-Wodonga Cancer Centre, surrounded by close family members.

He had been battling acute leukemia for the past 10 months, and cancer generally for the past 10 years.

Mr Fischer, a former soldier who first became an MP at the age of 24, was Nationals leader from 1990 to 1999.

He was deputy prime minister in John Howard’s government from 1996 to 1999.

Mr Fischer supported Mr Howard in staring down angry rural constituents during the introduction of Australia’s tough gun laws following the Port Arthur massacre.

Joe Hockey, Australia’s ambassador to the United States, paid tribute to his legacy.

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“Any Australian that is grateful for our gun laws can thank Tim Fischer for his courage at that time. Generations to come will owe him a great debt. We will miss you mate,” Mr Hockey tweeted.

In May, when he opened a museum dedicated to his life at his birthplace of Lockhart, near Wagga Wagga, he revealed he was hoping for a remission.

“Almost in remission, not quite. I am just uplifted by this nice gallery,” he said at the time.

Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt last spoke to Mr Fischer a few days ago.

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“He was his usual pragmatic self. His passing is a great loss for his family, the Nationals and the nation,” he said.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten described Mr Fischer as a “doting dad and parent-carer, General Monash advocate, veteran, public servant, good Australian”.

AAP