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Walsh, Maximilian Sean Walsh (Max) (1937–2022)

by James Madden

from Australian

Max Walsh, n.d.

Max Walsh, n.d.

Legendary Australian journalist Max [Maximilian Sean] Walsh has died aged 84.

Walsh, who was an early champion of opening up the Australian economy long before the Hawke/Keating governments ­implemented such a change, enjoyed significant roles in both news­papers and television over five decades in the media.

Starting his career as a cadet with Sydney’s Daily Mirror in the late 1950s, Walsh was chief political correspondent of The Australian Financial Review for several years in the late 1960s and early 70s, before being appointed ­editor of the newspaper in 1974.

In 1981, he shifted to television, becoming a regular on Channel 9’s current affairs program, Sunday. He later had regular stints with the ABC, where he ­co-presented The Carleton-Walsh Report with fellow journalist Richard Carleton, and at Channel 10, where he fronted The Walsh Report.

He subsequently returned to newspapers in the mid-1980s, as a columnist and correspondent with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

In 1998, Kerry Packer sought to have one final go at reviving The Bulletin and appointed Walsh as editor-in-chief of the magazine, where he worked until 2007. The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly — who was a political correspondent alongside Walsh in Canberra in the early 1970s — said his friend had a profound effect on journalism and on Australia itself.

“Max Walsh had a decisive ­impact on Australian journalism and national life. His instinct was to challenge power and expose ­orthodoxy,” Kelly said. “As a journalist, he singularly transformed the coverage of national politics and helped to shape Australia’s ­direction in the 1980s.

“As an industry leader he was a fierce champion of editorial independence.”

Journalist Geraldine Doogue, who worked with Walsh at the ABC in the 1980s, said he was “one of the most inspirational leaders I’ve ever come across”.

“He fundamentally ‘thought big’,” Doogue said. “Max always had this belief that Australia could be more than it was. He thought there could be a brand new life for Australia if it just thought big.”

Former journalist Maxine McKew described Walsh as a “pioneer”. “We’ve lost one of the country’s most important and consequential journalists,” said McKew, who worked with Walsh on The Carleton-Walsh Report.

McKew said Walsh was a mentor to dozens of journalists. “He was particularly supportive of ­female journalists. Max would look at you and if you had a bit of talent and a bit of energy he’d give you a go,” McKew said.

“It wasn’t actually driven by a sense of feminism — he would say ‘Women work harder than men; they’re just hungrier’.”

Associate editor of The Australian Glenda Korporaal said Walsh possessed an “intellectual sharpness” and understood the connection between business, the economy and government policy “in a way that few before him had”.

“The strong intellectual arguments challenged the status quo of the business community, which then lived comfortably behind protectionist barriers,” she said.

Alan Kohler, who was first hired by Walsh in 1979 to write the Chanticleer column in the AFR, said Walsh’s advocacy for a more open Australian economy was groundbreaking.

“He got Australia ready for what Hawke and Keating ended up doing,” Kohler said.

“Hawke and Keating would have found it much more difficult to do what they did if Max hadn’t paved the way for them.”

Walsh, who had battled ­dementia, is survived by his wife, Geraldine, and two daughters.

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Citation details

James Madden, 'Walsh, Maximilian Sean Walsh (Max) (1937–2022)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/walsh-maximilian-sean-walsh-max-32368/text40118, accessed 8 July 2022.

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