Laurie Oakes has been a political reporter since 1965, and a constant presence on Australian television, but all good things must come to an end. Oakes announced his decision in a Nine News video yesterday afternoon in his usual calm, matter-of-fact tone.
“Why go now? Well because, to pinch an election slogan, it’s time. I’ve been reporting politics since 1965; I’ve been in the Canberra Press Gallery for 48 and a half years; I’ve been Nine’s political editor since December 1 1984 – the day of that year’s federal election and I’m about to turn 74,” Oakes says in the video.
Oakes says he has loved “every moment” in his political journalist career.
“It’s a job that matters, it’s full of fascinating characters, full of high drama,” he says.
Oakes will, of course, remain interested in politics – which he describes as his own form of addiction – but he’ll be watching from a distance “like most normal people” and turning his attention to a favoured pastime: reading crime fiction.
The indomitable media personality will retire at close of business on Friday, August 18 this year – just four days after his 74th birthday.
When asked if he has had any regrets over the years, Oakes admitted that he would have liked to see “politics and government from the other side”; he was offered two positions over the years, with the Liberal National Party and the Labor Party.
He’s not done making predictions about the future of Australian politics just yet; Oakes isn’t sure that Turnbull will last as prime minister, and says the current state of the LNP reminds him of the Labor Party 50 years ago.
“It’s almost as though the Libs don’t want to hold on to government; with the way they’re going, they’ll guarantee Bill Shorten becomes prime minister.”
Politicians and Australia media personalities were quick to thank Oakes for his work over the years.
“You managed to leak every big story except this one,” Barnaby Joyce wrote.
“Fearless and peerless for five decades. There will only ever be one Laurie Oakes,” Bill Shorten posted on Twitter.
“An absolute giant,” Leigh Sales tweeted. “Nobody has ever come close in my view to his impact in political reporting.”