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Bob Ellis back with plans to haunt Bronwyn Bishop again in Mackellar

Bob Ellis, the colourful former Labor speechwriter and playwright credited with derailing the Liberal Party leadership ambitions of Bronwyn Bishop in the mid-1990s, has emerged from the political grave with an offer to assist Dick Smith unseat the former Speaker in Mackellar.

Mr Ellis, 73, who made the shock announcement in July last year that he only had weeks to live due to aggressive liver cancer, said his health had improved and his cancer remained in remission.

He told Fairfax Media he was ready to again work towards ending the political career of Mrs Bishop, who he described as "the worst Speaker in the history of the Westminster system".

Mr Ellis, a long-time resident of Palm Beach, believes Mr Smith, who is also a constituent in Mackellar, would beat Ms Bishop if he contested. Fairfax Media revealed last week that the entrepreneur had been approached by figures in the aviation industry urging him to run.

"If he merely put his hand up and had the hint of an organisation behind him [he would win]," Mr Ellis said.

He has offered to help launch a Dick Smith-for-Mackellar campaign and said his role could be "somebody at the end of the phone at the end of the day".


In 1994, Mr Ellis' Mackellar byelection campaign - run out of the back of his Volvo station wagon - managed to throw a spanner in the works of Mrs Bishop's switch from the Senate to the House of Representatives via the blue ribbon northern beaches electorate.

Running under the slogan "we will fight her on the beaches", the writer turned the byelection into something of a media circus but his level of support was no laughing matter for Ms Bishop and the Liberals.

Early results from the Barrenjoey and Mona Vale booths even had him on track to a possible victory and Avalon produced a 19 per cent swing in his favour, sending shockwaves through the Bishop camp.

In the end, Mrs Bishop won comfortably but the embarrassment of seeing the Liberal margin halved in Mackellar at a time when Labor was in office and voters were already falling out of love with then prime minister Paul Keating effectively ended any prospect of the new MP taking the leadership from John Hewson.

Speaking on the morning after the byelection, Mr Ellis declared: "She is now over as a threat to the nation."

Mr Ellis' wife, the TV screen writer Anne Brooksbank, ran against  Mrs Bishop in 1996 and he tried again in 1998 but got nothing like the 23 per cent primary vote he pulled in '94.

This week, he lamented the price paid in snuffing out Ms Bishop's leadership dream. "I probably caused the Howard era," he said.

Mr Ellis said in his view the Liberal Party was being splintered by a civil war between "mad old buggers and the Turnbull ascendancy" of small-L Liberals committed to democratic traditions.

As a former speechwriter for Mr Keating, Bob Carr and Kim Beazley, Mr Ellis said he would accept moderate Liberals like former NSW opposition leaders Peter Collins and John Brogden as Mackellar MP.

He believes the longer Malcolm Turnbull waits to head to the polls, the better the chance of Labor winning, particularly if Scott Morrison delivers his first budget.

"Morrison is a hopeless Treasurer. He can't get anything right and he can't add up," he said.

Mr Ellis posted on his blog in July last year that: "The news is very bad and I may have months to live but it is more like weeks." This was recently described by the Daily Telegraph as "another inaccurate prediction" from the writer.

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