Gallery veterans have been perusing the
debate about Kerry O’Brien and the late great Paul Lyneham with some
interest. One observer thinks the timeline might be a little different
from the one laid out by Kerry yesterday, so we’ve gone back and had a
look:

September 26, 1995: Brian Johns announces new national 7.30 Report to be hosted from Sydney by Kerry O’Brien.
November 15, 1995: Nine confirms that Paul Lyneham has defected from the ABC after 28 years.
November 16: Daily Telegraph
quotes O’Brien saying: “Paul and I were once very close friends. We’re
not any more. There’s something sad about that but there was something
inevitable about it”.
November 22: Lyneham goes public lashing out at new 7.30 Report.
November 30: Lyneham formally departs ABC.
December 14, 1995: O’Brien debuts as national 7.30 Report launched.
Late January 1996: Lyneham’s three-year contract at Nine commences.
January 29, 1996: Liberals announce that John Howard will refuse to have Kerry O’Brien moderate an election debate.
January 31, 1996: Parties agree to Ray Martin moderating election debate on Nine after ABC insisted on O’Brien.

This is how a cover story in The Age’s Green Guide opened in November 1995:

One subject that is taboo with Kerry O’Brien is his
reportedly acrimonious relationship with fellow political journalist
Paul Lyneham. “Look. I’ve made one public comment about my relationship
with Paul and there is no percentage in my going any further than
that”, he says. “It is essentially a private matter”. Last week, he was
more candid. He told Sydney’s Telegraph Mirror newspaper:
“Paul and I were once very close friends. We’re not any more. There’s
something sad about that but there was something inevitable about it.”

Lyneham
leaves the ABC at the end of the month to join the Nine Network.
Tension between the two former friends was reignited by the shake-up of
the ABC’s news and current affairs programs, which meant Lyneham and
O’Brien, the new national anchor of The 7.30 Report, would be sharing the big political interviews.

It
seems O’Brien thought the program’s new format could accommodate two
political heavyweights, himself in Sydney and Lyneham in Canberra, and
that the revamped 7.30 Report would expand political coverage, especially in an election year. Lyneham, however, thought otherwise.

Finally, a member of the press gallery in December 1995 writes:

It
was certainly very big gallery gossip in 1995 that Kerry wanted to take
Lyneham’s role and the big political interviews as well, and Lyneham
complained about this.

I was a young journo when one day, for no
reason whatsoever, Howard, then the opposition leader, came into my
office to say hello. Grasping for something to talk to him about I
asked whether he’d heard that it had just been announced Kerry was
replacing Lyneham in the political interviews on The 7:30 Report. Howard’s face turned black as thunder and he stormed out of my office muttering: “That’s bad news, that’s very bad news”.

CRIKEY:
It was disclosed after his death that Paul Lyneham was a member of the
Young Liberals in his youth, but anyone who remembers those demolitions
of Andrew Peacock would have thought otherwise. However, John Howard
remained a fan and even invited him to The Lodge for cosy dinners with
Laurie Oakes. Lyneham told the story that as they tucked into a rather
plain meal at The Lodge that included carrots and peas mixed together,
the PM floated the idea of Laurie becoming general manager of the ABC.
We can only presume it was a joke.

Peter Fray

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