Laurie Oakes, who started as a newspaper journalist and became Australia’s most recognisable television political reporter, is retiring as he approaches his 74th birthday.
The three-time Walkley Award-winner has had some of the biggest scoops in Australian political history, including the as yet unmatched feat of announcing the federal budget before the treasurer.
“The story that caused the biggest stink, I suppose, was in 1980 when the entire Budget was leaked to me two days before then Treasurer John Howard was due to deliver it,” Oakes said today.
“I met a contact in a hotel car park on the Sunday morning. He handed over the Budget speech and gave me 15 minutes to read it.
“So I gabbled the whole lot into a tape recorder while he went in and had a quick drink, and then I transcribed it back at the office.”
Oakes graduated from Sydney University in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts, joined the Sydney afternoon newspaper the Daily Mirror and took over state political rounds in 1965.
By the age of 25 he was the bureau chief in Canberra for the Melbourne Sun-Pictorial where he was on the spot for the dismissal of Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
Oakes joined Channel Ten in 1975 and five years later went to the Nine Network where he became an institution for his interviews with political leaders.
He’s covered 13 prime ministers, 20 elections and 51 budgets.
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