Loretta Barnard

About Loretta Barnard

Loretta Barnard is a freelance writer and editor who has authored four non-fiction books, been a contributing writer to a wide range of reference books and whose essays have been published across a number of platforms. A regular contributor to The Big Smoke, she also coordinates the TBS Next Gen program.

Vale Bob Ellis: the man who took on Bronwyn

Approx Reading Time-10With the passing of Bob Ellis, his achievements speak for themselves, but I’d like to highlight his vast personal conviction.


Bob Ellis is no longer with us. He died last night from liver cancer, aged 73. Over the next few days and weeks, there’ll be a great deal written about this quite extraordinary Australian.

He wrote books, articles, speeches, reviews, film and television scripts, plays, satirical pieces, political commentary. He was provocative, outspoken and a man of strong convictions. He famously fought and lost a defamation case against Tony Abbott and Peter Costello back in 1999, resulting in the pulping of the first edition of his book Goodbye Jerusalem.

I’m not going to talk about all his massive achievements. There are so many of them, and others will do it far better than I. What I want to remind people of is the man who challenged Bronwyn Bishop at a 1994 by-election.

Mackellar is a blue-ribbon Liberal seat on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It’s so blue that Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, or Mahatma Gandhi, or even Jesus Christ, could stand against the Libs there and still lose.

There was a time in the early 1990s when Bronwyn Bishop was a serious contender for the Prime Ministership. At the time, she was a senator, and to attain the top political position, she stood for the House of Representatives in 1994.

Bob Ellis was having none of it and stood as an independent against her.

The Labor Party didn’t have a candidate – indeed, they rarely bother with this part of the world – and Ellis was a long-time Palm Beach local who was well-known and respected in the area.

At one time, Bob Ellis organised a letter-box drop asking locals to contribute to his campaign against Bronwyn. People obliged with small amounts, maybe $5, $10 or $20 here and there.

Even the most dyed-in-the-wool Lefties knew he had little hope of winning. Bishop, however, was and is a somewhat polarising figure, and the thought of her becoming PM was just a bridge too far. Come election day, Ellis won over 23 percent of the primary vote, enough, he always maintained, to rein in her leadership ambitions and save our nation from a Bishop Prime Ministership.

And for that, Bob Ellis, I am eternally grateful. May you rest in peace.


Share via