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Barrie Cassidy and Jon Faine on politics, media and not retiring

Thank you. We’ve approached this with
only one rule as guidance which is there’s to be no preparation and no work
involved. We’re going to ask each other the stickiest of questions we can think
of, the questions that probably neither of us want to have to answer.
So first up Barrie, my question for you.. I had some very kind questions for you, now I’m I hear that they’re only sticky questions well I need more time to think how does
it feel that your wife Heather Ewart’s program Backroads is now well and
truly out rating any numbers you ever got for Insiders? Well give us the
timeslot! No it’s fantastic that I’m thrilled with the way that Backroads has gone, obviously. You know in the time that we you talked about
unrehearsed with this that the program is totally not without what we haven’t
rehearsed it for the moment that Insiders has started so 18 years ago I was did
politics with Jon on a Thursday morning so, we did it for 18 years and not once I
think did we ever have a phone call exchange of emails, text messages about
the issues or how we would approach it. Nothing about that was ever cooked up I
would just go into the studio and have no idea where Jon would go it can
anticipated of course and I was hoping that he would that he be on topic and
mostly he was but but I think it worked largely because we we just didn’t put
edge together and didn’t figure it all out in advance and just saw where the
conversation went and it was a well it’s a great amount of trust that I place in
you and I know that you’re going to be across it because people you see Barrie
on TV on Sunday morning what you don’t know is that he’s pretty much on duty
and on you know on song seven days a week as many hours as he’s awake he’s
just constantly keeping it cross at all so what’s it like letting go and that is
a bit of an issue for me because I mean I’m not giving away trade secrets here
but one thing and I’m sort of discussing with the ABC is maybe next year being a
an analyst across the platforms in some form or another
and I really do have to think about that because that gets me back to right well
what I left and that is that from Monday morning seven o’clock all the way
through the week you’ve got to be across everything and you never you can never
walk away from it and you never just go away for a couple of weeks and put it
behind you you just have to you get caught out it’s it’s it’s too easy to
get trapped it’s such a moving feast, so I mean that’s
a bit of an issue for me but it makes it harder now because I have
walked away from it for about eight weeks or something yeah and boy it was
easy. What do you miss what do you miss now after eight weeks so far nothing I
was away for overseas for about five weeks of it and I came back and I just
felt that that the nature of the political debate had got worse of
anything like that it just seemed to me and look don’t hold me to this because
as I said I haven’t been following it all that closely but I just get the
feeling that almost everything that the government’s doing right now in terms of
policy discussion and Lippman and in the formulation of legislation is designed
to wedge the opposition it’s it’s not there to to introduce good public policy
and a reasonable rate and and over time it’s rushed and it’s there and the media
has signed up to that because what I noticed when I got back was there was so
much attention on how the Labour Party’s responding to government policy rather
than a discussion about the government policy if indeed you do have the answer
this question I doubt you’re going to share it with 350 people in the studio
right now because you probably instead go off and charge 50 thousand dollars an
hour for a consultancy but what on earth has gone wrong? We’ve got Boris Johnson
Donald Trump we’ve got the rise of populism we’ve got duterte in the
Philippines we’ve got the collapse of so much civil debate and discourse we’ve
got the rise of populist throughout half the so-called Democratic world and
we’re sitting there going what happened any idea it wasn’t sudden it started in
Europe some time ago the rise of the right but that the Donald Trump victory
was the staggering one and it’s just as every day goes by it’s
just more bewildering that how can somebody as violent as obnoxious as
Donald Trump not only be pressure in the United States but has an even money
chance of staying president beyond the next election and it’s almost as if
America now regards their country is an economy and that’s it it’s not a
community and it doesn’t matter that their leader can behave in the way that
he does it doesn’t matter that he sends all the wrong signal to the next
generation of Americans that he’s whipping up he’s whipping up these hate
groups no he’s not doing it directly but they feel empowered by some of the
language that he uses when he says for example that that Mexicans are criminals
and the coming across the border and they’re rapists and they’re invaders and
then he seemed surprised that some maniac takes it takes a semi-automatic
gun or assault weapon and and deliberately kills Mexicans. So how is this happening you know what is happening as a society you know
in America. A leader is not there just to formulate policy and run an
economy a leaders there to be the cultural and the moral leader of a
country and it’s not happening. Boris Johnson I don’t think you could put in the
same category I think he’ll just be a bit of a buffoon and maybe a an
entertaining one at times. In Australia I think where they lost the plot in terms
of who controlled the country was when the NEG, the national energy guarantee,
scheme came up for a vote and Malcolm Turnbull hesitated and then walked away
from it. What that did, because what he feared he said about ten of his own that
the far-right led by Tony Abbott and others would vote against it and
across the floor in the parliament and they just couldn’t allow that spectacle
to happen so you get a situation where maybe 140 of 150 members of parliament
would have supported the NEG. Business leaders wanted it, industry groups wanted
it and they balked and they balked because of that. So
what happened? That gave that fringe group on the right the knowledge the absolute
knowledge that they now call the shots and when you can hold that threat
over your party and know that you’re going to get that result they now run
the country and they do and as a result you saw all of these moderates leave at
the last elections some of the best people in the
parliament over the last 20 years have gone because they’re moderates and they
just couldn’t couldn’t stomach what had happened. But over the sweep of your
working life from being in the press gallery through to working as a press
secretary and then back being a commentator you’ve seen different fads
and fashions political fads and fashions come and go is this just another one is
it just another short-term little blip on the historical horizon or is it
something bigger? Well it’s it’ll last for as long as
the current players are there and it would take either a change of leadership
or an election defeat or something to shake that out but it what really I
think changed politics for the worst was when Kevin Rudd was first elected and he
decided that every day was a separate election campaign that had to be won
every day and so he introduced these doorstops daily and and chose an issue
and went out and fought it and if you do that if you think every day is an
election campaign to be won then where’s the planning where’s the real policy
development where was the sort of three even the three-year the three-year
vision so I think that change and every leader since has adopted the same
strategy until now and now Morrison is saying that he’s not doing that but he’s
going to take a step back and I hope he’s sincere about this but what we have
to be aware of I think or at least be keep a skeptical mind over this he said
this may be an excuse on his part just to avoid accountability and scrutiny if
he replaces those insane daily doorstops in there you know leather in there vests
and so I’m with weekly news conferences more regular appearances in the media
fine but then the accountability is there but if he just walks away from it
then and then of course it’s a bad thing I want to take you back to the start up
again Jon because it just seems to me like you were you studied law and it
just seemed to me that not all lawyers are good lawyers but a thing about lawyers
is they make very good comedians have you noticed that and they make very good
broadcasters. I mean even in this town we have Ross Stephenson and Jon Faine what
was it that got you over the line? Why was it media rather than the law? I
worked, I was a practitioner for seven years so I gave it a fair shake I did
four years of commercial litigation and there’s probably people here who were
groaning inside at the mention of it but that means you’re fighting over other
people’s money in it sort of one stage I mean literally that kind of light bulb
moment I was sitting in the office I was doing a lot of heavy lifting kind of you
know arguments about money and the commissionaire. Do you remember the
commissionaire? They were usually return soldiers from World War two who would go
around town delivering documents and things and the commissionaire came in
with a trolley and a tea chest and in the tea chest was a pile a tea chest
full of documents and a whole lot of plans and architects drawings poking out
at the top of the tea chests and he said these are for you
and I had a look at them and they were the documents for a case that I had to
run acting for an engineer who was being sued along with nine other parties over
a leaking aircraft hangar at the airport and I looked at this tea chest full of
documents and I thought I’m acting for an engineer who’s got professional
insurance I’m really acting for an insurance company we’re going to
contribute somewhere between eight and twelve percent to the cost of
rectification of an aircraft hangar everyone knows that it’s going to come
down to what’s in that tea chest and I’m going to have to spend about a week just
sitting here reading the tea chest full of documents to save an insurance
company a couple of percent on rectification of an aircraft hangar
that’s leaking and quite frankly I don’t give a shit and at the same time I was
volunteering at night at the tenants union legal service and it fits
for illegal service and I suddenly realised that when I was volunteering at
night that the free Legal Centre I was much happier and much more switched on
and so a job came up to kind of abbreviate it a job came up and I left I
resigned and I went to work full time at Fitzroy Legal Service while I was there
I started doing media because part of your job at the legal service
is to be an agitator to be an activist to be an advocate for reform not just to
sort of work the system but to improve the system and so I started being called
in fact I became a bit of a media tart when people needed a dialer quote lawyer
they’d ring up Fitz for legal service and I’d pop up and I started doing some
work for well I’d started appearing on the ABC and I thought this is cool and I
met a man called Tom melambe who some of you may remember who was the producer
and presenter that the host of the law report on radio national and we did
quite a few things together including some very funny ones including a great
hoax that a story I’ll tell one day and he told me one day that he was leaving
he was going to the bar and he’s since gone on to be very successful QC in
Sydney and he said I’m leaving and there’s only three or four people I know
who could do my job and you’re one of them if you want to have a crack at it
you should and I was running out of puff at the legal service I was sort of
accepting that after three years of working seven days a week 15 hours a day
I couldn’t keep doing it much longer so I had a crack at it and I got the job
and I came to the ABC in 1989 it’s the law report producer presenter that
background in law has served you well as a broadcaster obviously but in this town
in particular over those police controllers is constantly a story but
you must leave frustrated with where it is right at the moment but it came
through with that interview with Graham Ashton but yeah Graham Ashton was I mean
look he’s obviously as the police commissioner he’s a decent bloke he’s
got a bit of a shit sandwich and he’s doing the best that he can with it the
Royal Commission is going to do what the Royal commission’s got to do but it’s my
job regardless of what I might personally think of Graham it’s my job
to you know ask the questions that the community one asked no matter what I
think and that’s one of the most difficult and complex interviews I’ve
ever had to prepare for so there’s probably 10 hours of prep in that one
25-minute interview you’ve got to read all the documents you’ve got to make
sure you know what you’re talking about if you make a mistake then you destroy
your own credibility and asking the question you kind of disarm yourself so
yeah you’ve got to do that you’ve got to take on those yeah the situation at the
moment with the Royal Commission it’s almost like we need a Royal Commission
into the Royal Commission and what’s going wrong with it and you get once in
a generation you get these opportunities to clean out a police
force whether it’s Fitzgerald and Queensland or what’s gone in New South
Wales will Western Australia for that matter and if we don’t do this one
properly then we’re still going to have the same problems. It is one of the most
extraordinary stories in time surely, the whole lawyer X thing. I think it’s the most extraordinary story in the history of policing in Australia actually and
off the legal profession it’s beyond the contemplation of anybody steeped in the
culture of the law that you could be a not just successful but even very highly
regarded barrister and then engage in a fraction of what Nicola Gobbo is now
being revealed as having engaged in you know the ethical bypass here is beyond
what anyone could contemplate and the failures not just by the police to say
hang on we shouldn’t be doing this but also at other levels are I think still
to be fully explored and there’s a fair bit of legal scuttlebutt behind the
scenes and now is not the time or the place to air some of that, but I hope
sincerely hope that it all gets a thorough venting and a thorough
cleansing you you talked about how you put 10 hours preparation into that
interview the one great advantage that I had over you through that 18 year period
was that I got time to prepare interviews and I really admire radio
interview who have interviews thrust upon them sometimes you know with
moments somebody is suddenly on the line that
you’d been chasing up and away you go and are there some particular moments,
or their interviews that stick in your mind as real standouts. Total catastrophes,
catastrophe yeah well just before you get a catastrophe I do recall you filled
in for me once didn’t you I did it was that was that three of the toughest
months of my life and you’re just about exhausted and suddenly the Conversation Hour begins! There’s a perfectly good Conversation Hour in New South Wales
take it! But you you interviewed Jeff Kennett
once and he revealed in that interview but I think when he was premier he was
drinking 20 cups of coffee a day. Yep. which actually explains a few things
we’d have caffeine overdose but those sorts of things they’re absolute pearlers
when they come along. They certainly are and I mean you know there’s all the
you know we could name drop forever between the two of us we could have a
jolly time here sitting here saying so-and-so and so-and-so and I pinch
myself and I go what was I doing sitting with Jane Fonda or Mel Brooks or
Randy Newman or James Taylor, Jackson Browne, I could keep on going forever. Well I get Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne. anyway keep name-dropping. Yeah. I got
Tony Abbott too and he winked at me. He did. Could’ve done without that, but still. We
replayed that shot out of context a dozen times. But no, you do get those
opportunities but the ones that stand out are really not the celebrities
they’re the people who are just citizens who trust you to tell their story when
they find themselves in an extraordinary situation you know the the Nicole and
Jackie the daughters of the woman who took our life through voluntary assisted
dying they’re the first step you get people who say look I have no idea how
this works but I’m going to trust you to make it a safe place for me and you know
I go right back to when I started there was a woman called Sharon Gilhooley and
her son had died in a car crash and she was extraordinary she was so brave and
so bold and she took that attitude that so many do which is that something
terrible has happened to us and I really want to try and make sure it doesn’t
happen to another family and there have to be some changes to Road rules and
regulations and training and you know so on and so forth so other people don’t
suffer what we’re suffering and go through the pain we’re going through and
those are the ones they’re extraordinary and you know the the bushfires where do
we start unpacking that you know the whole communal trauma but specifically
the people who you know had their lives just destroyed in many instances and
lost loved ones well that has to be the hardest thing for a you know
running a live program to deal with those sorts of moments and of course the
Jill Maher thing was the worst thing that ever happened in this building and and
you you had to deal with that having known a really well and there’s a story
developed you would have known things that you couldn’t share and totally in
fact when you right from the start things we couldn’t say and as a human as
a friend as a colleague you really wanted to say things and yet all you
would do by doing so would be to interfere with the administration of the
law and the justice and the the right someone has to a trial and the last
thing you would want to do would be to help him so you know you just had to get
through it. It’s interesting. Time’s passed but the wounds are still there
but that team those of us who are still at the radio station who were together
then there’s this special understanding between us yeah same with the bush fires
you know we recently had an anniversary and there were people coming together
and they were there were colleagues here who were saying things out loud that
they’d never said and you know that makes you realise and you know we’re
just reporting it we’re not living it makes you realise the the impact it has
on the lives of those in those communities. It’s a strange thing because
two of the most memorable Insiders programs that I had it up with I had nothing to
do with politics the Black Saturday bushfires, well, happen on a Saturday
obviously and the the first footage came in from our from the chopper and it
arrived here in the studio right on nine o’clock we didn’t have the ability to
send them through and by then we’d already taken the decision Julia Gillard
as Prime Minister at the time was our guest as it just happened and so we got
rid of the panel and we brought in the emergency services people and so we had
the Prime Minister sitting with them and then we ran these pictures and none of
us had seen them and what you could see was just as far as you see burned out
homes and I think that’s the first time that we properly appreciated we knew it
was bad but to see that was utter devastation and his suddenly couldn’t
help a mentally transfer transfer that too a death toll which is clearly
the other time that we through the program out was just on that Barrie, on
that Saturday night and I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly. I was on air
that whole afternoon and into the evening and we were getting calls from
people and we knew they weren’t going to survive but what do you do we were doing
the best we couldn’t it wasn’t good enough and I’ll you know no carry that
with me forever but after I came off air and handed over don’t even know how many
hours I was there for but eventually we found other people who could come and
take over and keep the coverage going but I then went and helped answer phones
because it was all hands to the pump it just was and around about I think 11
o’clock more people arrived and I was told you need to get out of here and you
need to come back in the morning so go home and I got in the car which had a parking
ticket out the front and I drove up past the gallery and as I drove across the
bridge to Fed Square there were people partying and they had no idea and we
already knew that a lot of people had died although we weren’t allowed to say
so and I had to pull over in Flinders Street and I wept then I went home I
hardly slept came back and we had to keep going well it was about five days
before some relief people came from interstate and it yeah that whole thing
you know you must have done it too you compartmentalise between what your
professional duty and obligation is when you’re in the studio the red light is
on, you’re performing a role, you’re playing a role and people are depending
on you and then eventually you wind down and it hits you what’s been going on. The same impact happened to me but happened live on air after the
the Bali bombing and in Patty’s bar and that happened at about one o’clock in
the morning our time on a Saturday night overnight Sunday but it was back, well the internet was only just getting going, there was no 24-hour news and so that when we
got in at five o’clock or whatever the news was just starting to drift in that
had been this this bombing and it was bad but we had no idea how bad and a
woman phoned the Perth station and ask to speak to somebody
because her son, a football coach, was in Bali and she needed some information and
they put put her through to us and now executive producer spoke to her and
that’s how we made this contact and we eventually spoke with the
football coach and the feeling was that maybe 10 or 20 people had been killed. We
couldn’t really have any other assessment of that because the police
hadn’t given any of that early stage and he said in the interview oh no no it’d
be at least a hundred maybe more of being killed here
he said I’ve lost seven players from my own team and he said Australia better
brace for this he said there could be at least fifty Australians dead and there
was 88 Australians in the end I think and this was live to air and he
just sort of said and that’s the first time that we got a real appreciation of
just how dreadful it was. So what’s going through Barrie Cassidy’s mind while
you’re trying to think about all of the logistics and the you know the sort of
craft part of keeping a TV program going live to air? Yeah, you don’t focus on
anything other than what he’s saying. Do you process it at all? Yeah you’re processing it and what you say next matters of course I’m in but I remember saying to him I it
was just a really I don’t know I needed something to say and I just said
football clubs and like family mate, I know I know what you you know I know
what you’re saying but what what did that mean you know but that’s that’s the
best I could offer up its that was an extraordinary morning that but again it
did it had nothing to do with politics because we were the only program on air
and we had to deal with it. I take me back to when you worked for
Bob Hawke and sadly and Bob Hawke has only recently departed and apropos of
that you’ve been away yes you know Blanche has put a whole lot of his
personal effects up for auction? Yes I saw that. Are you going to bid for
anything? No. I actually got my fair share of some stuff at the time. Do you want to fess up now! There’s quite a bit of sporting
memorabilia he was that he wasn’t interested in I think she said hasn’t
she that she consulted with the family and they’ve all had a go at it then and
this is the what’s left over after the scramble. Yeah, well that’s okay. You could just send
it down to the op shop. You can make $250,000 out of it. Look, can you, is that it? On Hawke, or is there something else? I’m gonna get out that light you know no way so
first of all how was the wake now when the wake was was wonderful I thought
there was some really powerful speeches no not the public one the private one oh
afterwards afterwards maybe five or six hundred people crammed into a pub in
down at or near Kings Cross and it was just pandemonium. Everybody telling
stories and very few of them truthful. The most memorable of which? Was, it was just a chance to see because you don’t always get a chance to stay with
the people you work with you know all those years ago and it was great to
catch up with so many of them but the people who work with Hawke when I was
there now a lot of them are public figures still and I think that was a key
to he success really he gave public servants their head to run the run the
place and and that’s why there was a big focus on policy because the public
servants see really the chief of staff or the public servant now their
political operatives but you know people don’t like like Rod Sims and Sandy
Hallway who ran the Olympic Games and a whole bunch of them have gone on and
Peter Harris who runs the Productivity Commission, Dennis Richardson who’s
probably one of the most senior public ambassadors that Australia’s ever had. These were the
sort of people that were working in his office at the time and it was just great
to catch up with with all of those I want to ask you though so that we can
can change the tone just a little. Tell me an awkward moment, a really
embarrassing moment. Something that you you know that happened to you while
you’re on air. No. You know it would have been public at the time, so just reminisce. Remind us of it You know, you get your your
favorite moments Jeffrey Archer. Anybody here at Jeffrey
Archer fan? Well Lord Jeffrey Archer the disgraced
perjurer and prisoner for people who don’t know he was a very influential
conservative figure in in politics and business in the UK he was phenomenally
wealthy he also wrote these bodice-ripping thrillers and he was
publicly accused of having betrayed his marriage and had an affair he sued for
defamation he won collected even more money and later it was found that he
completely perjured himself he was then prosecuted for perjury and sent to
prison. While he was in prison he wrote a book came out and did the book tour and
came to Australia we were offered an interview and I went you beauty you bet
and he came in sat down and started talking about the book and I said I
don’t wanna talk about the book I want to talk about prison and being a
perjurer and he said no no I’m not talking about that and I said well I
don’t care if you don’t want to you’re in my studio and you have to anyway no
no no no that’s not what I’m here for I said I don’t care what you think you’re
here for, answer my question and he turned from the microphone looked out
through the double glass that his publicist and said why was I booked on
this show? It was a mistake and that went to air it was hilarious. So yeah. The
most awkward moment for me didn’t happen on Insiders but on News Breakfast because I
actually, in the early stages, hosted it with Virginia Trioli and
there was one morning when and look everybody was you know had their their
training wheels on it was very early days.
Virginia’s reading the news at the screen and she got to the end of the
bulletin and said that’s the latest news Barrie. Some guy in the meantime had come and sat next to me, and I look up at the autocue and it died and there was
nothing there except this guy now I don’t know whether you saw that moment
at the BBC where the taxi driver just walked into a building and they grabbed
him and shuffled he mean aboard and sat him down they thought he was the guest
and he was just sort of and and he said that that’s what this guy was would have
felt like something what do I do and I said to him so good morning
so what’s going on in your region and he said well the stock market’s dived overnight and I though, ah the finance guy! So that was that was difficult. But the you know
there’s a famous famous 3LO as it used to be called the story of along those
lines Doug Aiken some of you may well
recall our Drive presenter over many many years for about nine years Doug Aiken and same thing happened someone was wheeled into the studio in the computer
screens died at exactly the same time and he actually said live to where he
said who are you and what are you here for. I should have done that. The other
difficult moment was a Saturday night and in because in Melbourne we don’t
have the people to call on that you might have in Sydney and I had it was
seriously more than the man flu that was I had a really sore throat
very bad headache but I said I don’t know whether I can do this I went and
saw a mate of mine who’s a doctor and I just said look I can’t be replaced can you do to
help me out and he he gave me something he said that’s for the if when you wake
in the morning whatever your biggest problem is if it’s a headache take this
over the Panadine Forte or something and and and if the throat is the problem
take this but don’t take both right and I said yeah right, and I woke up the next
morning and they were both equally as bad and I took both and went into work
and at about seven o’clock I just turned to Kate Torney who was the executive
producer at the time and I said I can’t stay awake I just can’t stay awake and
my head hit the desk I woke up about 45 minutes later in the hands of paramedics
and I’d been out to it for 45 minutes and in that time the executive producer
the first thing she did was ring Heather and my daughter who were
actually in the country and it took them a couple of hours to come in
she then rang Jim Middleton and organised a replace host and then she
got on with preparing the program. Just leaving you there. Yeah and well the
paramedics are still treating me and when I woke I looked around and once I’d
sort of process what was going on I said I’m feeling better I think I can do
these and Kate Torney said no you’re not! So I was a scratching that day. Is it
true Barrie that from time to time you’ve been live to air on national television
and just a bit distracted between nine and ten o’clock? A sporting event perhaps.
On a Sunday morning? On the other side of the globe. An area of great personal interest. Very rarely sometimes those sporting events can interfere if they’re being
played internationally somewhere and it happens to hit our time slot and that
can be difficult when I was doing Offsiders as well, I mean that was
crazy because I had a responsibility to stay in touch with with everything. Tell us the story of outsiders because, in fact, you and I both equally the
the parents of off-site although your role is somewhat more significant than
mine we are parents Jon for a long time had
his Christmas party in his backyard in Fitzroy and I was there on one night
just before Christmas and I was in a conversation around a barbecue with
Gerard Whateley, Roy Masters, John Harms and Gideon Hague and Tim Lane and I’m
listening to this conversation and I thought there’s a program in this and
because our studio was open, and without are giving away too many secrets we have
the you open up a studio but you might spend three hours you have the crew in
for three hours when you pay them for four or whatever we thought well we can
do this and it won’t cost us any extra money and so I put the idea up and we
went ahead with it but of course I then had to host the thing and that
was madness it went on for quite a few years but it meant that I’d come in on a
Sunday morning and and because the politics is kind of settled, I focused
almost entirely on the sport which develops overnight obviously and that’s
what you have and so the producers at that Insiders weren’t at all happy about
that arrangement because they couldn’t get me here for a moment but it did enable me to do exactly what you said I’d stayed in touch with all the overseas
sport and so that where you got the reputation for caring more about the
sporting results than what was going on in the national capital. I think that’s
probably where it happened Jon I don’t think it was just me wandering off and
watching sport and I should be focusing on the program so what are the what are
the chances reincarnated Barrie Cassidy becomes a full-time sports
analyst and reporter? No I started out in sport in the country I was a sports
reporter and mainly covered Aussie Rules in the bush but I then didn’t get
another crack at it really until but when the World Series cricket started I
was just a general reporter in the newsroom for some reason it was round to
me to cover all of that so that gave me something in the middle of my career but
it was only when Offsiders started that I got an opportunity from very really for
the first time you might remember and I’ll say this bigger this is in the
context of how Jon Faine in particular and by the way let me just say that he’s
one of the most fearless not only interviewers but broadcasters that Melbourne
has ever had that’s for certain he doesn’t mind who he offends in the
interests of the story and and you might remember you went into bat, as I did,
and the rest of the ABC when Sydney took away our sports segment in the Melbourne
news and we’ve got this terrible package from Sydney every night that it’s really
gonna tell me he’s gonna tell this story well know the story that I was gonna
tell it’s we had a protest out the front and and around the corner came all of
these labourers, these brickies labourers and the building workers and who was leading
them? Do you remember who it was? No it was the guy ran the Grand Prix and and
all those years. Ron Walker, Ron Walker led them and we couldn’t
believe it yeah you’re right and and anyone Ron Walker turned up at this
event and we lost that fight, but we’ve had a lot of other fights happen but
when Insiders started I insisted that it had to be done out of Melbourne when I told
them I was leaving I wanted some sort of guarantee that it would continue to be
broadcast out of Melbourne because we have, Melbourne has Micallef and The Weekly and News Breakfast of course and Tom Gleeson Hard Chat and Backroads, so
there are some programs but the bulk of them come out of out of Sydney and it’s
just too easy for them to take a program away and move it up to Sydney because
it’s convenient to them so we do we do go in to bat, but one thing that you’ve
always had the courage to do as well is to take on ABC issues and just in that
context I’ve got a question it’s more of a
comment but it comes from Leigh Sales. She said thanks for the feedback. but you were prepared to call that out
because you felt it was inappropriately dealt with. And so do I, that the interview was done in his restaurant gave him some advantage some control over it in sort of a visual sense so but I remember
when Michelle Guthrie was sort of in those declining months that you had a
real go at her while she was still Managing Director. Yep, on several
occasions including once at a lunch at the Press Club where she was speaking
and then she tried to avoid taking questions afterwards and I yeah I was
prepared to state publicly that I didn’t think she was doing a good enough job
and I wanted her to do a better job on behalf of the organisation I got a bit
of career counseling about that and I might say I brushed it aside and said
well I understand it’s foolish in one way maybe a little short-sighted in
another on the other hand if it’s ever a choice between being liked and being
respected I’d rather be respected and if the managing director of the ABC is
effectively letting down the ABC then it shouldn’t be just people outside who say
it but we have to be capable of being just as just as tough on our own as we
are in everybody else and yet from time to time I’m pretty tough on other people
I have to be just as tough on myself and I hope I am and just as tough on some
people who I might then be standing next to in the queue at lunchtime and yeah
that can be a bit awkward but I’d like to think and you know I’ve sent messages
to Leigh saying this, that we need to understand and distinguish it’s like we
you know that Police Commissioner it’s the difference between personal and
professional it’s about hang on this is our job it’s part of what we’re required
to do it’s not a personal criticism it’s about the direction of a program or it’s
about a particular approach to holding people to account. The best and worst
managing director of the ABC has had let’s start with the worst
Jonathan Shier even us even worse than Michelle Guthrie. Absolutely.
With Jonathan Shier, I’ll just give it a quick story about Jonathan Shier. Insiders started and Max Uechtritz was the correspondent in London and
he phoned me up, I was in Brussels and he said that he’d just been appointed head
of news and you’ve been banging on about a Sunday morning program and now is your chance you know I’ve been talking to people about this idea I had for Insiders and so he then said go ahead put your head together with a few other people
and come up with something and we came up with it with it with a plan and and
they said right well you’re gonna have to cut short your time in Brussels go
home and I was home within three weeks so I come home with the whole concept
ready to go and Max Uechtritz said look this is a little difficult just leave it with me
I’ll deal with it but Jonathan Shier has decided you’re not hosting it. And I said hang on it’s my idea I said well yes but you gave it to the ABC so it’s now for
the ABC to decide who hosts I said what who’s hosting it he said Paul Kelly is
hosting it and I said what happens to me and he and he said well when I put that
– Jonathan Shier he said well find a role for Barrie, so I think he was the biggest
clown that ever ran the organisation. I think Mark Scott was probably the
outstanding managing director and I do see a bit of Mark Scott in in David
Anderson as well but who is that our current managing director, but only new in the job. Yeah but I thought Mark Scott had your back the whole time you felt that. And he got it. He understood what the organisation existed for and David
Anderson certainly is displaying that as well. I think Sammy’s going to take over in a
moment but can I just ask you what you’ll be doing this time next year? I
have no idea. If I did know I’d tell you. I don’t have any plans and I’m not going
to do a Christopher Pyne or a Julie Bishop and start kind of you know lining
things up while I’m still working for an organisation that requires absolute
independence impartiality and an avoidance of conflicts of interest and
I’m not passing judgment on them for a moment no fabulous
for me but it would be wrong for me to use my position at the ABC to try and
line up work for when I leave but I do have some simple criteria I want to be
useful, stimulated and at least occasionally paid and if I can find
things to do that meet those criteria and I never see an alarm clock with a
four on it again yeah then I’ll be pretty happy. Look you know
I’ve got other things that happen in my life I’ve got elderly parents and I want
to be able to spend more time with them I’d love to spend more time traveling
with Jan we have a two and a half nearly three year old granddaughter and they
live in a very remote part of Australia in Arnhem Land we wouldn’t mind getting
back up there a bit so there’s a shed full of projects waiting to be done
yeah there’s you know grease under the fingernails still to come so there’s
lots and lots of things that I’m looking forward to doing but yet staying engaged
may well be part of it I know I’m going to miss the place incredibly. You don’t
spend 30 years working in an organisation and 23 years just doing the
same thing and walk away and not feel a little bit of a twinge about it. But
that’s that’s the decision I took. All that sounds great and I am all that I
have locked in at this stage at RMIT for whatever reason appointed me in adjunct
professor I’m a very academic type by the way I’m just I’ll absolutely smash
this. So what does the adjunct actually mean? What it allows me, well it’s honorary for a start. I think that’s a bit of a worry. But what it does it
enables me to quite regularly talk to aspiring journalists and talk to them
about the profession and also about the politics and how it works and so that’s
that’s something that I can that I can do I think and I’ll really enjoy but
beyond that I I’m not giving it away I um I’ve got an idea. It’s only an idea. For a program? Yeah it won’t be a program that pins me down the way that Insiders
did so that I’m locked in every weekend for the whole year and so it would be
more occasional but I don’t want to really go into any
detail because I might fall flat on my face and look I put a proposal to ABC
management as well I’ve said that I think what we urgently need is a 20 part
series about car and automotive museums in the world. But there doesn’t seem to be much interest. Whatever happened to that car museum that you campaigned for, for so long? Yeah we’re still working on that, don’t you worry. it’s on the back burner. Hey look Sammy J’s loitering
with intent. Hey can I just start by saying a round of applause for Jon Faine and
Barrie Cassidy No notes, no autocues. That was an hour
of just a finely balanced discussion unrehearsed my hat goes off to you or it
would if I were wearing one but right now it is time to hand it over to the
floor I think Michelle Guthrie has the first question. No, not there? This is a time for hands. And I will sprint towards you. Good on you, okay
right at the back thing hello my friend what is your name? My name is Peter. Now Peter, if you’re asking Jon a question do not ask him how he is first. He hates that it holds
up the radio program okay. Firstly I just want to say thank you to both you
for everything you’ve done I found your description of world
politics even more depressing than I had anticipated
and I would like each of you to tell me one positive thing that we can look
forward to in the next five years. I’m happy to go first because Barrie’s
looking a bit stuck for words and I actually expect there to be a reaction
you know I wasn’t great at physics but for every reaction what is it for every
force there’s an opposite reaction so I actually think we saw this after Hillary
Clinton lost the election the level of engagement in the United States soared
and likewise the same things happening in the UK and I would like to think that
the reaction to some of the chaos is people say actually you know what it’s
up to us so I don’t see I don’t see Trump as he’s not the disease he’s a
symptom the reason you’ve got him is what you’ve got to inquire into and the
reason you’ve got him I think is because people have disconnected and they’ve let
the whole thing go on remote control and we have to get back control people have
to actually get out of their their comfort zone and realise that if you
don’t maintain this piece of machinery it’ll seize up. This notion though that
people are disconnected you know I get that to an extent but we can’t either
airbrush the fact that a lot of people are racist and they’re biggots and they only need
that kind of a nod from the senior position to come out in
all of their glory and that’s what happens while they’re now
the Ku Klux Klan almost disappeared in the 90s now there are 25,000 of them in
the United States and why they suddenly feel emboldened look you talk about
positives and I hope there are positives but if you look at climate change is
there any any prospect of a more awakened attitude towards climate change
around the globe in the next five years probably not so you can’t look there. You
look at the asylum seekers who are sitting on Manus Island and Nairu are they likely
to be there in five years time I tell you what every prospect so I wouldn’t
look there for anything particularly positive. Barrie you’re bringing the mood down. Can you think of one positive please! Okay. We haven’t had a prime minister sacked between
elections now for quite a long time and I don’t think that’ll happen but you
know even there you consider we say we don’t like this notion of sacking prime
ministers between elections Julia Gillard took over from Kevin Rudd an got
re-elected albeit in a minority government but she got re-elected. Malcolm
Turnbull took over from Tony Abbott and got elected only just but he got elected
Scott Morrison took over from Malcolm Turnbull and got elected so you know if
you don’t like it vote against it but people are not but
at least I think there will be whether you like it or not there’s going to be
or whether you like the direction of politics in Australia or whatever I
think we’re about to have a far more stable period than what we’ve had for
the last ten years. Well that’s positive-esque! I’ve spent a bit of time listening
to you both and Jon particularly is never able to give an opinion of his own
because it’s an ABC policy I’m sure so now you’re going away from the ABC is it
likely that either of you two gentlemen will now become actively involved in
politics yourselves in some way and take an interest in policy from your own
perspective. I certainly won’t get involved in politics I was given that
opportunity many many years ago and my response was that there’s really only
one seat in the country that I would want to represent and that
was the one where I grew up and have some kind of attachment to Indi and
they’d already embraced the idea of independence and I’d miss the boat
anyway but not at the time when I made the offer it was a very safe coalition
seat but. Hang on. I’ve never heard this before. Were you offered
preselection? Not in Indi though. You see, I was I was offered a seat north of Canberra and Goulburn was the centre of
it at the time and I said, well look, all I know about Goulburn is that I’ve taken
a couple of slow horses there for races I don’t think I’m the right person but
that didn’t matter to them you know that’s not the way it works they just
wanted a candidate. Who were they? The Labor Party. This is when I was working
for Bob Hawke. At the time when you were press secretary? Yes and I’d never been a
member of the Labor Party by the way never had been. That seemed to escape
them but because I worked for Bob Hawke they felt that I was a likely candidate
but no I didn’t do it and and I did say to them that Indi would be the
only seat would’ve contemplated representing but as as for more broadly
and what you say without going to politics I can see me getting more
involved in the public debate over some issues once I’m free of all the
restrictions that the ABC obviously naturally places on me. Sammy: So were you to stand
Barrie and then win and then have to stand again I think back to you Barrie
would be a great slogan! It wouldn’t have meant much 30 years ago!
Sammy: Jon, to follow up, yourself? I find the cut and thrust and the intrigue
in the numbers games and the strategies absolutely addictive and if there’s the
prospect of an attempt to season grass power and the Citroen Car Club then I
can well see that I may well achieve elected office of the highest status
there. No, the idea of betraying everything you’ve said for the last 30
or so years of your professional life in some sort of vanity project strikes me
as being ridiculous quite frankly. I said before I want to be useful, stimulated,
I’m not sure how useful most politicians actually are. I have been on air with
multiple premiers over the years and have received text messages on my phone
while the premier is being interviewed from backbenchers saying I can’t get
answers on this can you ask? And a question and most members of Parliament are
incredibly frustrated at how little influence and how much little power they’ve
actually got. I’m interested in the machine and I’m interested in making the
machine work for you, for us and if there’s something I can do that helps to
lubricate the machinery I’m very happy to do that but that’s not partisan it’s
about democracy as a as a piece of equipment. Gentlemen I’m going to end if
I may sincerely I turned 18 in 2001 my first chance to vote watching Barrie’s
new show at the time went to uni listening to Jon Faine it’s an absolute
thrill and an honor to share the stage with two of Melbourne’s most prominent
broadcasters. Thank you you’ve been an amazing audience thank
you for coming along ABC see you again shortly. Thank you.

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