Tony Abbott is a member of an exclusive club: prime ministers with a former life as a professional journalist. Abbott's journalistic career wasn't as long as that of John Curtin -- who started as a copy-boy at The Age before a long career editing left-wing newspapers -- nor is he as associated with the trade as the Labor hero, who wore his Australian Journalists Union badge every day while in office. Journalism for Abbott was always more diversion than devotion. Yet his reporting offers a fascinating glimpse into Abbott's personal story and the development of his political, social and spiritual views.

Abbott's journalistic career began in the mid 1980s, when he was training to be a priest at St Patrick's Seminary in Manly. A Rhodes scholar, former student politician and boxing champion, Abbott had always been a man of ideas. Journalism was an ideal forum for someone who relished kick-starting debates, challenging accepted wisdom and being at the centre of attention. After writing for the Catholic Weekly, Abbott came to the attention of The Bulletin which offered him a bigger audience and the chance to express his ideas more freely. Owned by Kerry Packer, the magazine was one of the most influential in the country, selling round 90,000 copies a week. It was a must-read among the political, media and academic elites.