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Olympic champion, premier, MP Fahey dies

John Fahey is being remembered for his exuberant leap of joy when Australia was awarded the Sydney Olympics, as tributes flow for the former NSW premier and federal politician.

News broke on Saturday of Mr Fahey's recent death from leukaemia. He was 75.

New Zealand-born Mr Fahey dedicated almost two decades of his life to public service, leading NSW as premier from 1992 to 1995.

He was elected state member for Camden in 1984 but after his term as premier, made the switch to federal politics in 1996.

Mr Fahey went on to serve as a minister in the Howard government before retiring from politics in 2001.

He then became the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency between 2007 and 2013, and chancellor of the Australian Catholic University from 2014.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to Mr Fahey's "hard head, soft heart" approach to governing.

The prime minister said Mr Fahey, a Catholic and a southwestern Sydney rugby league player, wasn't a "typical Liberal".

"He broadened our outlook and connected us with an ever widening aspirational population," Mr Morrison said in a statement.

"He was notoriously slow at working a room but that reflected the deep connections John formed with so many he met. John Fahey gave everyone his undivided attention."

"His cheery and cheeky smile was what always left his impression on you, long after the topic or issue had passed."

Former Prime Minister John Howard said Mr Fahey was a "close and valued colleague".

"John Fahey gave so much to public life," he said in a statement.

Mr Fahey's composure through his lung cancer struggle and his devotion, along with his wife, to caring for their late daughter's children "cemented the affection and admiration of their many friends".

Mr Fahey led a major overhaul of the industrial relations system as a NSW minister and appointed the state's first minister for the status of women.

He also played a key role in the successful bid for Sydney to host the Olympic Games in 2000.

President of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates said the country owed Mr Fahey an enormous debt of gratitude.

He says few Australian will forget Mr Fahey's enthusiastic jump for joy as Sydney was announced the host of the games.

"It was amazing. It showed all the pent up anxiety we all had, and it just all came out. He was so very proud of being the leader of that bid," he told reporters on Saturday.

Mr Fahey is also remembered for crash-tackling a student who fired blank shots at Prince Charles at Sydney's Darling Harbour in 1994.

Former NSW Premier Nick Greiner, who appointed Mr Fahey a minister, said he had an incredible ability to get along with people right across the political spectrum.

"(He was) a very authentic, very humble guy who was a terrific leader, because he was able to get on with everyone," he told the ABC.

"In many ways he was a bit of a boundary spanner."

His extensive political achievements aside, Mr Fahey was a compassionate boss, his former chief of staff Greg Barns said.

"John will be remembered very fondly by Australians because of his decency and because he was very successful in his political life and achieved much for many people," Mr Barns, who worked for Mr Fahey between 1996 and 1999, told AAP.

Mr Fahey is survived by wife Colleen, two of his children and grandchildren. His youngest daughter died in a car crash on Boxing Day 2006.

A state funeral is expected to be held at Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral.

© AAP 2020