Kerry O’Brien can be at ease; the ABC coverage he anchored for elections is solid and remains in place. In a record-breaking seven hour broadcast, the ABC simply dominated. It had an average 1.7 million from 8pm to 10pm, clearly out rating Seven (485,000) and Nine’s (817,000) carnival-like offerings, Laurie Oakes’ and his rotating tie (a bid to foil Sportsbet’s betting market on what colour tie he’d have on — a highlight of the night) notwithstanding.
Disappointing was Nine’s use of its chairman, Peter Costello, as a commentator (and boy he got it wrong by calling a Coalition win — narrow, mind you — early in the night). Costello was there because had had been used in the past by Nine on its election night coverage, but he is now very much yesterday’s man, with less relevance than John Howard.
Seven’s panel featured the surly Mark Latham and a snarly Alan Jones, though the bombastic panel did deliver some laughs. Jones accused co-panellist and Turnbull-backing politican James McGrath of being “captain of the bed-wetters” who caused the Coalition to shift leaders (McGrath’s response: “I actually don’t care what you think, because you’re not a friend of conservatives, you’re not a friend of the Liberal National Party … You’re the king of the bed-wetters actually. You are actually a grub.”)
Later on, Sam Dastyari invited senator-to-be Pauline Hanson to join him for a halal snack pack (chips, meat and sauce layered in a styrofoam container — a greasy speciality of Sydney kebab shops). She refused. “Not happening. Not interested in Halal, thank you … I don’t believe in Halal certification.”
On the ABC, much of the interest came from Scott Morrison’s persistent insistence the Coalition was doing just fine. Penny Wong joined Chris Uhlmann in smiling wisely at Morrison’s “bar-lowering” (her words) in defiance of what was showing up in the count. Morrison did himself no favours with his performance. He has an inability to relax.
The ABC got 1.717 million national viewers for the first part of the coverage, including more than half a million on News 24 — an all-time high. But the battle for hostess of the night between Leigh Sales (7.30) and Annabel Crabb (Kitchen Cabinet) was fearsome and amusing at times, and off-putting at others. It was hard to work out if these two competitive journalists and good friends were dual anchors, as we get on News Breakfast, or whether Leigh Sales was the anchor and Crabb there for colour and insight (if so, what were Chris Uhlmann and Barrie Cassidy doing?).
The night’s award for accurate coverage and analysis goes to Barrie Cassidy. Cassidy’s persistence in arguing that the vote was heading to an inconclusive result (as the night went on), fell on deaf ears, at times (meaning the rest of the ABC panel) — until they woke up and stopped listening to Morrison’s flawed analysis.
Additional reporting by Myriam Robin