RAMSEY, ALAN C (1938– )
Alan Ramsey joined Sydney’s Daily Telegraph as a 15-year-old copy boy in 1953. Just two years later, working on the Mt Isa Mail, he scored his first scoop, talking his way into the guarded hospital room of Michael Jorgensen, who had been bashed in a police cell and who would later die of his injuries. Ramsey’s dogged reporting of the case led to an internal inquiry and a Commission of Inquiry.
Ramsey went on to report for the Northern Territory News, and from Papua New Guinea and London for Australian Associated Press. He was one of a handful of journalists who accompanied the first Australian troops to Vietnam in 1965. Ramsey lived with the troops at their airbase, never losing his conviction that a war correspondent’s duty was to tell the truth about the conditions and dangers faced by the troops. During his time in Vietnam, his reporting consistently got under the skin of military authorities, including that on substandard equipment given to the troops. In 1965 he was thrown off the airbase.
When he joined the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery for the Australian in 1966, Ramsey was just 28, but with 13 years of journalistic experience. His famous shout of ‘You liar!’ from the gallery of the House of Representatives in 1971 followed a story Ramsey had written setting the scene for the demise of Prime Minister (Sir) John Gorton and the ascension of (Sir) William McMahon.
Ramsey was deputy editor of the Australian from 1969 to 1971 under his good friend Adrian Deamer. After falling foul of Rupert Murdoch, he worked at Nation Review, the National Times and Time Australia. From 1978 to 1983, he was a speechwriter for Labor leader Bill Hayden.
Ramsey joined the Sydney Morning Herald as a political columnist in 1987. Until his retirement in 2008, his Saturday column was a must-read for political junkies, often summing up what Ramsey believed were the most interesting, scandalous or inspiring things said in politics that week. It provided a window for the rest of the country into the hot-house of politics, often in the subject’s own words.
Throughout his 43 years in the Press Gallery, Ramsey never lost his passionate commitment to what he believed was best in Australia. He never held back from arguing for it, nor did he ever refrain from railing against those he believed were letting the country down. Selections of Ramsey’s columns were compiled in A Matter of Opinion (2009) and The Way They Were (2011).