August 19

Why The Bulletin closed




I was sorry to see The Bulletin close, although I can still remember the front page motto which lasted until Kerry Packer bought the journal.

The motto was “ Australia for the White Man.”

By  the fifties and sixties, this was the equivalent of blood curdling graffiti.

 The Bulletin was an early advocate of an Australian republic as a way of escaping from the liberal approach to immigration and race which prevailed in the British empire.

In “The art of selling a magazine,” ( The Weekend Australian, 16-17 August, 2008) Lindsay Foyle says that the story of The Bulletin was the story of Australian media cartooning; after cartoons stopped , so did the magazine.

Lindsay Foyle should know. He worked on The Bulletin in 1967-68 and from 1973 to 1991 in various roles, including art director.

..the best Australian political cartoons…

The Bulletin published some of the best Australian political cartoons over the years. 

The cartoon above showing an independent Australia looking to the US for support is , as cartoons go a little exaggerated . The UK and the US had already agreed on the increasing role of the US in the Pacific.

Mr. Foyle demonstrates that when the editors reduced the cartoons, the circulation fell dramatically. He says that when Donald ( “ The Lucky Country”) Horne was editor, he reduced Australian cartoons, and the cartoon collection in the office was put into a very large garbage truck.

Fortunately, the large collection of cartoons up to the sixties had been saved for the Mitchell Library.

After two years, Horne was sacked but reappointed some years later. When the circulation fell to 30,000 he was sacked again.

He then threw much of his efforts into an obsessive drive into making Australia a republic.

Some prominent Australian edited the journal in recent years – Peter Hastings, Peter Coleman, later the NSW Coalition leader, Trevor Kennedy, Trevor Sykes and David Armstrong.

When David Armstong, later editor-in-chief of The Australian when it went into a frenetic republican phase, took over from Trevor Sykes, circulation was nearer 130,000. It closed this year witha circulation of about 50,000


According to Lindsay Foyle, Kennedy told Armstrong, "You can't run too many cartoons."

In 1986 Richard Walsh became editor-in-chief at Consolidated Press.

Lindsay Foyle says the volume of cartoons diminished, trivia replaced news and circulation declined.


“There are many people with suggestions as to why The Bulletin finally failed early this year,” Foyle says.

“Some say it could not compete with daily newspapers or television; others suggest it was unable to compete with colour magazines in newspapers or that news-review publications do not have readership any more and what it needed was to break ideas and find new ways of understanding society. “


“There may be some truth in what they all say, but The Bulletin never was a news review magazine,” he asserts.

“It is a fair bet that if it had been running lots of cartoons during the past 20 years, it would still be running lots of cartoons.”



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