Obituary: Bob Ellis, writer

Born: 10 May 1942. Died: 3 April 2016, aged 73.

Author wrote 19 books and speeches for Australian Labor Party. Picture: AP
Author wrote 19 books and speeches for Australian Labor Party. Picture: AP

Australian author, journalist and speech writer for the centre-left Labor Party Bob Ellis died at his Sydney home of liver cancer on Sunday, his son said. He was 73 years old. “He died, as was his wish, at home. His family were by his bedside,” Ellis’ son Jack wrote on his father’s blog “Table Talk.”

“The camaraderie of his regular readers has been a source of tremendous joy to him these past few years. Thank you all,” he said.

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Ellis’s accomplishments include the screenplay for the acclaimed 1978 Australian movie Newsfront and the autobiographical 1992 movie The Nostradamus Kid.

He wrote 19 books including best-selling Goodbye Jerusalem that was pulped in 1998 after then conservative government ministers Tony Abbott – who later became prime minister – and Peter Costello sued for defamation.

Born a Seventh Day Adventist in the New South Wales state country town of Lismore on May 10, 1942, Ellis became a political writer through his opposition to Australia’s military involvement in the Vietnam War. He was outspoken about his left-wing views.

“Anyone in journalism who has experience or travelled winds up on the left. The right is a product of ignorance or a sealed-off, world ignorance,” Australian Broadcasting Corp quoted him as saying. 
Labor Party leader Bill Shorten said he called the Ellis family to share “the deep sense of loss the Labor family feels”.

“Bob’s writing moved people to tears and drove others to litigation. At every turn he confounded and delighted, he shocked and awed,” Shorten wrote. “There was truly no such thing as a dispassionate Ellis piece.”

Ellis is survived by his wife, author Anne Brooksbank, and three children.