We’re calling on Crikey readers to send in the best hard-hitting questions of all time. Here’s a sample of what we’ve got.
Heather Ewart enters the “tough TV questions hall of fame” with her 7.30 Report interview with John Elliott last night when she put it to him that he was a drunk.

Heather said that many of his friends and colleagues had identified the drinking as a problem, but Big Jack was defiant to the last, claiming it has no impact on his behaviour and that “nothing has changed in 20 years”.

HEATHER EWART: One criticism or complaint that comes up time and time again amongst old friends or former colleagues of yours that I’ve spoken to is that your drinking has in some way contributed to things that have gone wrong.

JOHN ELLIOTT: I think that’s nonsense.

EWART: Do you accept that in any sense?

ELLIOT: No.

EWART: You like a drink, though?

ELLIOT: Yes, but it hasn’t changed in 20 years.

For the full 7.30 Report transcript click here

Michael Schildberger asked Hawkie a similar question in the 70s in which the then ACTU boss admitted that it was an issue.

We all remember Mary Delahunty asked Jeff Kennett “when are you going to stop playing around?” in 1992 but it was never put to air and Crikey certainly doesn’t believe there was any basis to the question.

All of which leads us to a list of famously hard-hitting TV questions.


Subscribers have responded with some corkers unleashed by journalists:

Kerry O’Brien to John Kerin, who was briefly Treasurer after Keating’s challenge failure sent him to the backbenches: “When are you going to resign?”

Kerry O’Brien to Jonathan Shier in June 2001: “Jonathan Shier, how much more time do you think you could reasonably expect to demonstrate to the public that you can actually do this job?”

Tricky Dickie Carlton after the Silver Bodgie had ousted Bill Hayden as Leader of the Opposition in 1983: “Do you have blood on your hands tonight, Mr Hawke?”

Tricky Dickie Carlton in an interview for 60 minutes with Shirley MacLaine: “Is there anything you don’t believe in ?”
Shirley: “Keep up the good work.”

Paul Lyneham to Andrew Peacock: “What’s the dollar value of Australia’s GDP?
Peacock: “Um, er, …”

A Perth ABC radio announcer asked John Howard in 1998 if it was true that the price of heroin would go down under a GST.

Norman Gunston to John Gorton on being shafted by the party circa 1976:

“Was there a plot against you or did everyone think you were a drongo at
the same time?

Liam Bartlett in WA has had a dream career run since he asked the former Premier, Richard Court: “Are you a wimp?”

Ray Martin asked John Hewson, what the words were to Advance Australia Fair, Dr Hewson mumbled away and needed regular prompting by Ray.

George Negus to Maggie Thatcher: “Some people say you are ruthless and autocratic….”
Maggie Thatcher: “Who, George? Who said that? Name them, please….”

Norman Gunstan to the ambulance driver who follows the horses roound the course at Flemington: “Are you ever tempted to win?”

Tracy Curro to Pauline Hanson: “Are you Xenophobic?”
Pauline: “Please explain?”

Kerry O’Brien to John Howard following revelations that Howard’s Office had drafted questions about O’Brien’s contract with the ABC to a Senate Estimates hearing: “That’s all the questions I have for you Prime Minister. Are there any questions you wish to ask me?”
Howard: “(nervous laugh)”

Quentin Dempster to Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen, during the
FitzGerald Inquiry: “Mr Premier, what do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers?

Bjelke Petersen: “Eh…”

Quentin Dempster to Queensland Premier, Russell Cooper, just after he rolled Joh: “Mr Premier, what do you understand by the doctrine of the separation of powers?”
Cooper: “Eh…”

ABC Perth to Opposition Leader Andrew during a live interview in 1990 after he sacked his Senate deputy leader, Austin Lewis: “Are you annoyed at what he said? Have you ticked him off? Have you rung him up?”

Peacock: “This is an extraordinary interview. I don’t believe it. I
just gave you the scoop of the day. I said to you that on arrival in Perth I
rang Senator Lewis and dismissed him. Did you get the message this time?”

Paul Barry to Kerry Packer on Four Corners: “Who controls cricket in Australia?”
Packer [muttering]: “Jesus Christ..” [as in “piss off”, not that Our Lord controls Australian cricket]

Neil Wiese to acting Prime Minister John Anderson on ABC Radio Adelaide in January 2000 after a protest: “How did you feel eating your breakfast this morning after watching police systematically baton-charge men and women and how did you explain it to your young children?”
Anderson: “Well, er….”

Richard Carleton and Premier Askin (many, many years ago) on radio.
Askin: “We have built this, we have built that…”
Carleton: “But wasn’t the money budgetted by the previous Labour Govt?”
Askin: (ignoring) “We have built this, we have built that…”
Carleton: “But Premier, wasn’t the money budgetted by the previous Labour
Govt? etc…”
Askin: “You’re a Stooge! Your’e nothing but a labour party Stooge!” (Crash! Bang!)
Carleton: “Premier Askin has now left the studio!”

Bob Hawke to Jane Singleton: “Ya carnt just have a TV star running the country!”
Singleton: “I’d like to ask President Reagan about that.”

Richard Carleton to Bilynda Murphy (mother of Jayden Leskie) and Greg Domaszewicz, on 60 Minutes: “Who are you people?”

Laurence Costin (from then 3DB) to Yannick Noah at the post-match press conference for the 1987 Australian Tennis Open at Kooyong: “Yannick, you’re French but you’re black!?”
Noah: (very unamused) “I was born in French North Africa.”

Roy Slaven to Jana Wendt on Club Buggery: “What do you think of Witness, since you left?”
Jana: “I haven’t watched it.”
Roy: “You bloody have!”

Mike Willesee to John Hewson on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair: ” If I buy a birthday cake from a cake shop and GST is in place do I pay more or less for that birthday cake?”
Hewson: “Well, it will depend whether cakes today in that shop are subject to sales tax or they’re not, firstly. And they may have a sales tax on them. Let’s assume that they don’t have a sales tax on them, then that birthday cake is going to be sales tax free. And of course it would be exempt; there would be no GST on it under our system. One with a sales tax on it today would attract a GST and then the difference would be the difference between the two taxes whatever the sales tax rate is on birthday cakes, how it’s decorated, because there will be sales tax perhaps on some of the decorations as well and of course the price will reflect that accordingly.”

Send in your contributions to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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