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Bob Ellis

1942 – 2016

Bob Ellis (1942-2016) was a journalist, columnist, screenwriter, film director and playwright. His screenwriting credits, Newsfront, Goodbye Paradise, Maybe This Time, Fatty Finn, Top Kid and The Paper Boy all won major prizes, as did his collaborations with Paul Cox, Man of Flowers and My First Wife. His writing for the stage includes a collaboration with Michael Boddy, The Legend of King O'Malley.

A long time adherent of the Labor Party, Ellis was answerable for the sensational 'Abbott and Costello' defamation case in March 1999. Finding that assertions made in a short passage of his 1997 book Goodbye Jerusalem: Night Thoughts of a Labor Outsider were false and defamatory, the judge ruled that Ellis's publisher, Random House, pay compensation of $277,500 to Liberal politicians Peter Costello and Tony Abbott and their wives. Ellis claimed to recall anecdotes he had heard about the couples after meeting Abbott at the launch of Subhuman Redneck Poems, a book by Ellis's friend of 40 years, Les Murray. In 1998/9 Murray and Ellis were the subject of a documentary film, Bastards From the Bush, in which they reflected upon the way Australia had changed since they met at the University of Sydney in the 1950s. Following the Random House payout, a biography of Murray by Peter Alexander was pulped, because of the publisher's fears of a similar legal fracas over passages of that work. Ellis capped the annus horribilus of 1999 with a humiliating paternity suit.

Updated 2018