As she wraps up her career at ABC’s 7.30, Leigh Sales has revealed her true thoughts on the Australian Prime Ministers she has interviewed during her time at the current affairs program.
In a tell-all interview where she answers questions from herself, published in the Sydney Morning Herald, the veteran journalist segued into her thoughts on prime ministers with a joke about her “useful” contact list.
Asking herself if her friends would have preferred she’d have chosen a more useful profession, she answered: “Tell me about it; my car broke down the other day and I called the only handy bloke I know. My contacts list otherwise is full of useless types like writers, actors and former prime ministers”.
Sales wrote that she hopes the prime ministers she’s interviewed would laugh at her joke, before revealing that despite the “interviews [she’s] subjected them to”, she’s gotten on well with all of them.
“It’s hard to explain but I have this odd fondness for all of them. There’s something about everyone who’s done that job that kind of stabs me in the heart. It is such a hard job. I don’t think people understand how tough it is if they’re not in proximity,” Sales wrote.
“I have a lot of respect for anyone who steps up to do it. All five of the PMs during my tenure at 7.30 – six now with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – regularly came in for interviews and I respect them for it.”
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On Scott Morrison, Sales said he never “shied away” from her grilling interview style.
“Contrary to the myth that he never showed up for interviews, Scott has been interviewed by me more than any politician in the federal parliament – between Lateline and 7.30, easily upwards of 50 times,” she revealed.
“He never shied away from a tough interview and he was never anything but professional and courteous. I wish him well in the next leg of his life and I look forward to speaking to him when the dust settles.”
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Sales reflected on her interviews with Malcolm Turnbull, saying he was a “larger-than-life figure”.
“I think of him as a larger-than-life figure, just because he’s led such an extraordinary life, from the Spycatcher trial at the start, right through to becoming PM. His analysis on any topic is astute and engaging. He is a hilarious storyteller, between his voice and the way he uses language, he can have tears rolling down your face,” she said.
She revealed Tony Abbott “argues his corner well and he is never thin-skinned about it”, while Julia Guillard “set the gold standard” for a professional and pleasant career.
Of all the former prime ministers, Sales divulged she still has a relationship with the “stunningly smart” Kevin Rudd.
“I ring him sometimes on background to ask for his insights on foreign policy or political strategy and I always hang up the phone and go, ‘Wow, he connected those dots brilliantly’. His latest book on China is outstanding,” she revealed.
Sales will conduct her final interview with 7.30 on Thursday, June 30.