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Kakistocracy finds it hard to go the distance

Death of Chris Ashton, an exemplary journalist

Chris Ashton and Ambassador Ana Pisano Ashton  2016
Chris Ashton and Ambassador Ana Pisano Ashton,  2016


NOOSA - Christopher Philip Mackenzie (Chris) Ashton – journalist, author and broadcaster – has died in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Chris had a long association with Papua New Guinea as a young man and it was there he forged a remarkable career.

His reporting, especially during PNG’s pre-independence years, defined him as a journalist of rare intellect and insight, his writing transcending the day-to-day labours of a journeyman reporter.

Chris was the son of Phil Ashton, the youngest member of the Ashton brothers’ polo team which dominated the sport in Australia in the 1930s.

He first visited PNG aged 19 in 1960 and returned frequently. He knew the country well, as the linked article on the gaining of independence shows.

Chris Ashton PNG
Chris as he was in PNG when we were all very young

After completing a bachelor's degree in social anthropology at Trinity College, Oxford University, in 1968, he returned to PNG for a protracted stay.

During this long residency he wrote for Pacific Islands Monthly and many overseas news agencies, newspapers and magazines, produced radio documentaries for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (as it then was) and wrote and edited a number of books including ‘Markham Tom’, the memoirs of Tom Leahy.

In 1992, Chris was commissioned to write ‘Geebung: The Story of Australian Polo’ for the Australian Polo Council, a sport with which he was very familiar.

He had briefly been a player himself, his career highlight marking Prince Charles and scoring the winning goal in extra time playing for Oxford University against Cambridge.

Geebung’ reignited his interest in polo and he set off on the pursuit of polo around the world, combining his coverage of the sport with travel writing.

We would catch up from time to time, never for long even though we had said we might do something together, somewhere, someday…. the day that never came.

The last time I heard from Chris, many years ago, he was off to Buenos Aires to marry Ana Pisano, an Argentine career diplomat who had served in Sydney and Washington DC.

He married Ana who went on to serve as Acting Ambassador to Ireland and then Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile Chris continued his writing on polo – very popular in Argentina– and reported on the sport for magazines in the USA, UK and Australia.

He is survived by Ana and his siblings Katherine, Alison, John and Susan.

It has been noted in the press that a gathering to celebrate his life will be arranged.

Vale Christopher Philip Mackenzie (Chris) Ashton, 1941 – 2021, journalist. And a very good one at that.


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Sean Dorney

An absolutely lovely man and a great journalist. He was a regular member of the NBC’s Meet The Press-style weekly program.

Bill Brown MBE

I think Chris Philip Mackenzie Ashton first wandered into Panguna at the end of 1968. He was 27 years old, affable, full of joi de vivre, and he got his stories.

After that, he visited Bougainville whenever events warranted his first-class journalism.

We met him many times in Port Moresby during 1974 and 1975. A barbeque at Sapphire Creek on Boxing Day 1974 when he and I listened to a transistor radio broadcasting a description of Cyclone Tracey blowing Darwin away is stamped in my mind.

Bernard Corden

During his tenure in PNG with Reuters, Chris became a close friend of my late brother, Ron Corden.

I met him briefly at a function in St Ives in Sydney back in 1985. He was extremely articulate and a wonderful person.

Rest in peace.

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