At the age of 90, journalist, novelist, and government press secretary David Barnett passed away in Canberra.
At the height of the 1975 crisis and in the immediate aftermath, when Fraser led the Liberal Party in opposing then-prime minister Gough Whitlam and obstructing supply in the Senate, Barnett served as Fraser’s press secretary in both the opposition and the administration.
After Fraser won the 1975 election, he worked as press secretary for seven years before going back to journalism in Canberra’s Parliament House’s press gallery.
In an interview with ABC in 2015, he praised Fraser, saying, “He was a wonderful worker.” He was not very kind to us either. In the course of the job, both his and my hair actually became grey.
Soon after John Howard led the Liberals to victory in the 1996 federal election, Barnett left the cabinet and went on to write a biography of the former prime minister. Together with his wife, Pru Goward, a fellow journalist who went on to become the federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, a Liberal member of the NSW Parliament, and a minister in the state government, Barnett co-wrote the book John Howard: Prime Minister.
Howard said in a statement on Sunday morning that Barnett was a crucial advisor to Fraser and that his passing signified the passing of a major player in the national media.
Howard declared, “I counted him as a good buddy.
When Barnett was in his 80s, according to his coworkers, he was still contributing to the Yass Tribune, a local newspaper in regional New South Wales. He had begun his career in journalism in 1949 as a copy boy for The Sun in Sydney.
In 1955, he moved to Britain and began working for wire services and newspapers in places including Cyprus, France, Japan, India, Kenya, and other countries after serving as a cadet correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald. He submitted stories to Reuters, Agence France Presse, Australian Associated Press, and East African Newspapers.
In 1971, he went back to Australia and established the Canberra office of the Australian Associated Press.
His first wife, Maureen, as well as his wife, two daughters, Susan and Alice, and two grandchildren, Andrew and Nicholas, all survive him.