“From Politician to Author”

Air Disaster Canberra – the plane crash that destroyed a government

Previous Event: 11th July 2013

by permission of Andrew Tink

“From Politician to Author”

Andrew Tink talks about his career change and his new book "Air Disaster Canberra" – the plane crash that destroyed a government

Andrew Tink
Former shadow Attorney General, shadow Leader of the House in the New South Wales Parliament and author

Andrew Tink – 11 July 2013


Andrew Tink served as shadow attorney general and shadow leader of the house in the course of his nearly two decades representing the seats of Eastwood and Epping in the NSW Legislative Assembly.  On 11 July he talked of his transition from politician to author.

His training as a barrister equipped him for many aspects of being a parliamentarian.  Another relevant gift, that of holding an audience with persuasive language, was evident during his talk.  But he confessed that the long, thankless period in opposition had resulted in something akin to “burn out” in his case.  An added challenge has been his ongoing battle with health ailments.  Nevertheless, by the end of his political career he had developed an ability to write well for any circumstances;  for example, drafting most of his own press-releases whilst in politics – a key challenge in getting one’s message across succinctly.

Andrew has had a life-long interest in reading and history.  So the attraction to try his hand at a new career of writing for publication seemed a promising possibility.    Initially he began researching the career of Lord Sydney, aka Tommy Townshend, the politician responsible for the First Fleet and after whom our city is named.  Unfortunately publishing interest was minimal.  So he turned to writing a biographical history of William Charles Wentworth which has been successfully published by Allen and Unwin in 2009.  It subsequently won ‘The Nib’ CAL Waverley Award for Literature in 2010.  Andrew then found a publisher interested in a history of Lord Sydney, which took him surprisingly to a library in Michigan, USA, where an extensive collection of Townshend’s papers and documents are held.  Lord Sydney:  the Life and Times of Tommy Townshend was published in 2011. 


Visiting a forgotten memorial of an air crash in Canberra in 1940, Andrew’s interest was aroused.  Three key members of Robert Menzies’ first cabinet and several senior military and public officials perished in the crash.  With two successful books to his name, Andrew began delving into the records.  In his thorough and discerning way he uncovered the background to a significant turning point in Menzies’ career.  He lost key support in cabinet and leadership of the coalition government in 1941.  Andrew postulates that Robert Menzies and not John Curtin may have been Australia’s war-time Prime Minister had this unfortunate event not intruded onto the political scene.

Not content with following the documentary trail, he researched the possible causes of the crash of the Hudson bomber.  This type of aircraft could apparently stall in certain flight situations where other aircraft at the time would not.  Could it have been that the pilot at the time of the crash was not the RAAF officer on board, familiar with the Hudson’s idiosyncrasies, but the Minister for Air, a former fighter pilot, flying the Hudson for the first time?  We will never know for certain but Andrew makes a good case for the possibility.

We were entertained and stimulated by Andrew Tink’s description of how he writes and researches his books, including with a hair-raising flight in a restored Hudson bomber.  His latest book is Air Disaster Canberra:  the plane crash that destroyed a government (UNSW Press, 2013).

Thank you, Andrew.  The age-challenged among us were encouraged never to give up!