O’BRIEN, KERRY (1945– )
Kerry O’Brien made a major contribution over more than four decades to the public understanding and accountability of Australian politicians and politics. Born in Brisbane, his first experience with the media was organising furniture removals for ABC journalists. He joined QTQ9 as a cadet journalist in 1966, before working for the Queensland Times, Australian Associated Press (for which he was a correspondent in Vietnam and Papua New Guinea) and the Sydney Sun.
O’Brien reported for Four Corners (1975–77; 1985–86), covered politics and North America for ATN7, and served as Network Ten’s political editor and a national affairs columnist for Time magazine. He was also a press secretary, first to Gough Whitlam (1977) and then to Lionel Bowen (1978–79). This association with Labor, and O’Brien’s high profile, contributed to a belief held by many conservatives that the ABC—in particular, its staff—was left-leaning.
O’Brien was appointed the host of Lateline (1989–95) and then of The 7.30 Report (1995–2010) on ABC Television. He was widely recognised as one of the best and most formidable television interviewers, particularly of politicians—and, on one notable occasion, of the ABC’s controversial managing director, Jonathan Shier. In 2010, he semi-retired to anchor the ABC’s Four Corners on a part-time basis, and to conduct special interviews, including with Clive James and Paul Keating. He has also moderated federal election leaders’ debates, and from 1990 to 2013 anchored the tally-room coverage of elections for the ABC.
O’Brien received six Walkley Awards, including the Gold Walkley in 1982 for an ATN7 documentary on how commonly used chemicals adversely affect the health of Australians. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland in 2011.
REFs: K. O’Brien, Telling It the Way It Is (2003); SMH, the(sydney)magazine, 30 November 2010.