A week out from the 2010 federal election, something was bugging Julia Gillard. The country's first female prime minister was about to face the music, the polls were razor tight and the media clamour was deafening.

Gillard desperately wanted to take the temperature of one man in particular, so much so that she'd buzzed him 24 hours earlier for a premature heads-up. With her plane idling on the tarmac at the northern New South Wales town of Ballina, the PM hit the mobile again. Sunday Telegraph editor Neil Breen, then in charge of Australia's highest-selling tabloid newspaper, was on the other end of the line.