Friday, 3 July 2009

Out of the west

Frank Devine was one of that remarkable group of bright young men who came from out of the West in early 1950's to have a big influence on Australian public life. He was not as domineeringly ambitious as Bob Hawke, as sharply incisive as John Stone nor as erratically brilliant as Max Newton. But like those Perth contemporaries Frank Devine was to be a contributor to the way his country developed.
Years as a foreign correspondent in London and Tokyo and then in the United States as an editor for the Readers Digest had rid him of any Perth provincialism. His mind was open to absorb the ideas of the world and his return to Australia to become editor of The Australian signalled that while the paper was going to continue on a conservative course it would for certain be serious and well argued.
He found room for those of us with different viewpoints provided our case was well made. He was an editor with a hand that guided rather than wielded a big stick; one who improved your words and message rather than distorted them.
There was a sense of unfairness among many of us when the Murdoch excursion into the airline business via Ansett created circumstances where he departed as editor. But Frank Devine resisted the many opportunities to vent his spleen at this example of the sometimes unfairness of life.
He continued almost to the end to write columns in his measured and engaging way that were always a delight to read even when you did not always agree with his views. He will be missed.
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