Aug 4, 2017

Laurie Oakes hangs up boots, shonks and scoundrels breathe a little easier

Laurie Oakes has called it a day, leaving a trail of explosive political scoops in his formidable wake.

Emily Watkins — Media reporter

Emily Watkins

Media reporter

Press gallery doyen Laurie Oakes has announced his retirement, at 73, from the Nine Network after almost 50 years reporting on federal politics. The legendary correspondent will finish up on August 18, telling Nine he’ll find it hard to give it up, but he is looking forward to spending more time reading crime thrillers.

Oakes is famous for his scoops — he received the 1980 budget days before it was released, he revealed Labor’s plan to accept a cash donation from Iraq’s socialist party in 1976, and he released the details of a leadership pact made between Paul Keating and Bob Hawke in 1988.

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15 thoughts on “Laurie Oakes hangs up boots, shonks and scoundrels breathe a little easier

  1. zut alors

    Oakes is the walking encyclopaedia on Australian Politics over the past five decades. His ability to smell a story & to know when a reporter is being used by a politician are skills which cannot be taught.

    The crime thrillers won’t be a fraction as sensational as the grubby realities unfolding in Oakes’ standard working day in Canberra.

  2. klewso

    Oakes will leave a void all of Murdoch’s Muppets couldn’t fill – void as they are.

  3. Venise Alstergren

    It’s not often a journo becomes a class act. Oakes is one such. He will be missed.

  4. Julie Jones20

    Gareth Evans wrote a book before Kernot HE didn’t mention the affair.
    So is that ok for blokes or is the real reason because Kernot made unflattering g comments about Oakes and he retaliated in that wway
    What a sook!
    Mind you I always read his articles

  5. Itsarort

    Never rated him. And his spies were always a little selective in the their telling.

  6. AR

    August 18th? hmm, mayhap his last scoop will be Talcum’s defenestration?
    The Abbottrocity’s self cumbustion?
    A revelation that bumBoil Shlernt is not one of the Lizard People, despite all the evidence?

  7. Jack Robertson

    One of the better ones, I suppose, but I suspect we think so as much just because other journalists tell us so, as anything. Brace yourself for the endless collegiate laurel pieces, each really just self-flattering acts of individual byline narcissism. Contemporary hacks writing suckhole pieces about their ‘great’ elders is perhaps only marginally less obvious a mode of self-aggrandisement than retired politicans penning fulsome biographies of their generational predecessors.

    Most of Oakes’s big stories were the result of passively received leaks. Is it great ‘truth to power’ journalism if someone (with a political agenda, natch) drops the budget in your postbox? Is it ‘keeping the bastards honest’ if someone words you up on a secret leadership pact between PM and Treasurer, and you dutifully become both obedient conduit and thus active agent of ‘the breaking news’ ? As for the Kernot-Evans Walkley, I thought that story was pointless and craven and juvenile. Might have been in the public interest had he broken it when both were still serious Canberra players. But as it was it came across as meanly and shabbily and trivially as when that chinless redhead Army fop who once banged Princess Di flogged her letters, years down the track, ‘coz he was broke. Tawdry tack dressed up as public interest record-straightening.

    Yeah, I’m a thorough grinch on the Meeja nowadays I know, and Oakes was probably pretty good. But really, if he was ‘the best’ of the gallery of his generation/our times/’…the nation has ever seen’ (Gary Linnell over-reaching in the SMH)/’truth to power’ merchant (Michael Idato swooning, ibid.)/etc/no doubt ad nauseam until (at least) the 18th, then to me that says more about the fundamentally corrupted nature of political reporting as a genre and mode than anything else. No doubt Oakes was honourable and professional and a yuuuuge networker. But really, the nature of the popular mass media he worked in – commercial TV, short form print reporting/analysis, the adversarial pantomime of the one-on-one six-at-max-minute interview – ultimately subjugated whatever were his loftier truth-as-vocation aspirations, as it always does, and for them all.

    I just don’t think ‘journalism’ as we know it – and as Oakes represents, indeed supposedly as a paragon – can ‘do’ truth any more (least of all ‘to power’). I think ‘journalism’ is unfixably broken now. And I think Big Loz knows it; is calling it a day now not because he’s disillusioned with ‘politics’, but because he senses that the jig is up with his whole life’s work. We’re all Laurie Oakes now – and what do you know, it’s just not that hard to be him, or at least a good enough facsimile.

    The currency is devalued. Or maybe, properly valued, at last. Time to get out with your laurels intact while you can.

    1. zut alors

      Uncomfortably on target, Jack.

      Coincidentally, I have just re-read Groucho Marx’s autobiography where he describes his obsession with the stock market prior to the Wall Street crash of 1929. One fatal morning his broker called & uttered five words: “Marx, the jig is up.” Before Groucho could reply the phone went dead. Perhaps Oakes has pre-empted the crash of journalism.

      1. Jack Robertson

        What a great read. He is endearingly candid about his losses. (‘Being taken to the financial cleaners wasn’t a total loss. In return for my two hundred and forty thousand dollars, I got galloping insomnia…’)

        Marx would be high on my dinner party wish list. Both of them, even. (Now there’s a conversation starter…)

        1. Dog's Breakfast

          Invite me to that one Jack.

          I’ve certainly read some Marx Brothers books in my youth, but can’t recall Groucho’s. Will have to look for it.

          Agree with your general sentiments re Oakes etc. The only two real journalists working for the public good in msm, that I can think of, are Kate McClymont and Adele Ferguson. Michael West now branching off on his own and I wish him luck in that.

          The Press Gallery is a goldfish bowl, largely, and although the stakes are high, the subject matter is mostly vaudeville.

          1. zut alors

            The autobiography was first published in 1959, ‘Groucho & Me’

            Another excellent read is ‘The Groucho Letters’ – Marx was a prolific & highly entertaining correspondent.

    2. klewso

      For me what stood Oakes out from most of the rest of the human dross that forms our political press gallery was that he could apply the blow-torch to any bum – he didn’t necessarily have any favourites, if they earned it they got it?
      A contrast with the majority of the assembly of predominantly conservative slappers of today’s gallery of press galahs, peddling barrows of their own politics and opinions, playing party games and favourites.

    3. Ruth Rowan

      Good one Jack.

  8. shea mcduff

    Oakes is the best the Press gallery had to offer?
    Depressing thought.

  9. PG

    Michelle Grattan leaves him for dead as far as I am concerned.

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