Ulrich Ruegg Ellis was a pioneering member of the Canberra Press Gallery and a government stirrer who stretched the limits of public servants’ freedom to criticise ministers and their government.
His case came to mind as I considered the latest Australian Public Service Commission guide “Making Public Comment on Social Media”.
In April 1945 Ellis, who by then was working as deputy-director of public relations in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, wrote an acerbic letter to the Canberra Times.
It began: “Sir,—When a Minister of the Crown issues decisions with the carefree abandon of a child of three and laughs with contempt in the face of the common principles of administrative justice, it is time not only to protest but to remove him from an office which he is no longer fit to hold.”
He concluded: “As the Minister has proved himself unfit to administer his Department, the time has come for the establishment of a publicly conducted Housing Priority Committee so that the work of allocating houses can be carried out in the broad light of day.”
He signed it Ulrich Ellis, Hotel Kingston, Canberra.
Given his unusual name there was no hiding his government employment.
Housing was extremely scarce in Canberra at the time and Ellis explained that upon his transfer to the ACT in the previous year he had sought to exchange his Melbourne home with a person who had been transferred from Canberra to Melbourne.