Image for Bio-Morph – experiments in simultaneous biography: Kerry O’Brien

KERRY O’BRIEN: My next guest is a former law clerk, union boss and press secretary to Gough Whitlam.  He’s the Government Whip who gives politicians a tongue-lashing. Thanks for joining us, Kerry O’Brien.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Good to be here, Kerry.

KO’B: You were born about a month short of your sixth birthday…

KO’B: That’s correct. As a Cancerian I was eager to explore and this nourished my interviewing technique. Having the patience of a Virgo helped me to be a benchwarmer in the Senate.

KO’B: But you’re noticeably not a Libran.

KO’B: That’s a cheap shot, Kerry. I’ve been interested in balance all my life. For starters, I’m a non-believing catholic. Then I see-sawed working as a press secretary in Canberra with being a union researcher in Sydney. In 1983 I came to Tasmania to head the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union. It’s around this time I was recruited by the ABC.

KO’B: “Recruited” is a charged word.

KO’B: Not at all. It’s well known that Auntie was a public relations wing of the Labor party at the time. I remember John Pilger and I were working on a program about Latin American revolutionaries for the littlies called “Bananas in Bandanas”. Then Jonathan Shier came in and ruined everything.

I moved from “Lateline” to “The 7.30 Report” in 1995. There was some conjecture that because I’d worked for Gough and was running on a Labor senate ticket that I might have a bias.

KO’B: And do you?

KO’B: Absolutely not. I have only twice referred to the ALP as the ABC during election telecasts.

KO’B: You’ve also called that program on Friday evenings “The Collectives”...

KO’B: Slip of the tongue.

KO’B: … and referred to the ABC as the Australian Broadcasting Comrades.

KO’B: Look, I admit I did struggle with balance for a while. Then I began to see that all pollies were the same, no matter which side of the ideological divide. They were all seduced by spin, enslaved by the polls. They spoke in a laconic drawl and were bald. It was an epiphany. Every Thursday night at 7.57.

KO’B: Despite fourteen years of experience in the senate you failed to gain preselection in 2010.

KO’B: Again, it was all about bias. The left didn’t consider me biased enough. All because I turned my back on them and got cosy with the right. Now I call that balance.

KO’B: From upper house to outhouse. Thank you, Kerry O’Brien. And in a renewed commitment to impartiality the ABC has confirmed the presenter of the new-look “7.30” will be Maxine McKew.

Kerry O’Brien