FITZGERALD, THOMAS MICHAEL (1918–93)
Tom Fitzgerald was one of the most influential financial journalists of his time, yet his struggle for editorial independence and non-dogmatic economic analysis often kept him apart from mainstream journalism.
Fitzgerald studied economics at the University of Sydney (1936–40), where he was exposed to the new work of John Maynard Keynes, then volunteered for bomber navigation during World War II.
Fitzgerald’s history of political dissent—from both sides of politics—began when he was working as a financial journalist at the conservative Bulletin. Editing its stablemate, the Wild Cat Monthly, from 1948 allowed considerable independence. When he applied for the position of financial editor at the Sydney Morning Herald in 1950, Fitzgerald was instead given the position of ‘commercial editor’. He formally took over as financial editor in 1952, and remained in the position until 1970.
In 1958, he borrowed £5000 and joined George Munster to launch Nation, a fortnightly encouraging broad discussion of Australian life from new, more critical writers. Attempts by Sir Frank Packer and Rupert Murdoch, amongst others, to indirectly control the journal via financial support were resisted. Eventually, readership fell and Nation was sold to Gordon Barton and subsumed into Nation Review (1972).
After a brief, unhappy period as editorial director of Murdoch’s the Australian (1970–72), Fitzgerald began working for the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. He was also a consultant to the Department of Minerals and Energy under the Whitlam Labor government, producing the highly controversial Fitzgerald Report, which identified tax breaks and loopholes by foreign-based mining companies. In 1975 he became executive officer to H.C. Coombs’ Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. He was economic adviser to NSW Premier Neville Wran from 1976 to 1983.
Fitzgerald contributed invited articles to the Herald, Quadrant, the National Times, Australian Society, the New Internationalist, Bowyang and other publications through the 1980s, and book reviews for the Herald into the 1990s. Fitzgerald’s writing presented the evidence in a practical, non-ideological way before grappling with conceptual issues to make sense of it all. His set of six Boyer Lectures for the ABC (published as Between Life and Economics in 1990) gave an account of Australia’s economic policy journey until the 1990 recession. His project on the intellectual capital of wartime prime minister John Curtin remained uncompleted at the time of his death on 25 January 1993.
REFs: T. Fitzgerald Papers (NLA); K.S. Inglis (ed.), Nation (1989).