‘To pinch an election slogan, it’s time’: Laurie Oakes retires

Nine’s longstanding political editor, Laurie Oakes, is set to retire just before his 74th birthday.

Oakes has been reporting federal politics since 1965 and became Nine’s political editor on December 1, 1984, the day of the 1984 federal election.

Since then the three-time Walkley Award-winning journalist has interviewed international and local politicians, becoming one of Australia’s best known political journalists.

Oakes will officially retire on August 18

During his career he broke stories including the Kirribilli leadership pact between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, the leak of the entire 1980 federal budget – which Oakes said was the story that caused the “biggest stink”.

In 2015, the veteran political editor warned the Australian media had become complacent in fighting threats to press freedom, at the Melbourne Press Freedom Dinner.

He has also previously criticised bloggers at the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in 2011arguing they were threatening to “push the mainstream media into a race to the bottom”.

Commenting on his departure, Oakes said it was time.

“Why go now? Well to pinch an election slogan, it’s time. I’ve been reporting politics since 1965, I’ve been in the Canberra Press Gallery for 48 and a half years, and I’ve been Nine’s political editor since December 1 1984 -the day of that year’s federal election and I’m about to turn 74,” he said.

A young journalist at Nine

“I’ve loved every moment of being a political journalist, it’s a job that matters, it’s full of fascinating characters, full of high drama.”

“I’ll stay interested in politics but I’ll watch it from a distance like most normal people.”

Oakes described politics as an “addiction”.

“But now I’ll be able to devote more time to reading crime fiction,” he said.

“That will be my equivalent of a methadone program.”

Commenting on the future of Australian politics, Oakes said he wasn’t sure if Turnbull would survive.

“The Liberal Party at the moment seems have gone a bit troppo with this really nasty internal brawl over same sex marriage,” he said.

“The current turmoil in the Coalition is closely tied to the leadership struggle between Mr Turnbull and Tony Abbott.

“The way they’re going, they’ll guarantee that Bill Shorten becomes prime minister,” he added.

“And to give Mr Shorten credit, by the way, he’s proving a pretty clever politician in the way he’s exploiting the situation.”

His final day will be August 18.


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