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RIP Peter Harvey........

Peter Harvey was THE most respected journalist in Australia and set the bar for both professionalism and gentlemanly manners.  He was NEVER out of line with his interviews, he always handled himself with such poise and aplomb.  He was quite frankly the gold standard of reporting.

He will be sadly missed. 

For my American friends, he was basically the Dan Rather of Australia.

Peter Harvey, 1944-2013

A voice never forgotten  ... Peter Harvey. A voice never forgotten ... Peter Harvey. 

It was probably the most listened to silence on television. The pause between "Peter Harvey" and "Canberra" never stretched so long as to be overly dramatic, but it was there and everyone heard it. The "Peter Harvey" and "Canberra" bits were in that deep, rich voice that said viewers were in the hands of a news master.

Comedians made jokes about the pause and voice and Mike Carlton created a radio character called "Peter Gravey" to send up Harvey and his voice. He might even have been called "The Voice" if John Laws hadn't got their first. Harvey thought it was all very amusing and liked to joke that the "bitumen" baritone tones were because he was Barry White's love child, "I'm just a lot paler than Dad."

Harvey was like that, calm, coolly amusing, never given to hysterics, it was just the news, folks. One reviewer said his smile was rare enough to call for "an action replay".
Others said his delivery was as though Harvey had swallowed a "handful of Mogadons" but the public kept listening, even when he did the weekly "Mailbag" segment on 60 Minutes, a gentle position that did not require a reporter of his calibre.
Harvey, a boy from Bondi, a place he never stopped missing, began his career as a copy boy at The Daily Telegraph in 1960. By 1964 he was a cadet reporter and that year he shared a Walkley Award (with three others) with a story about the shooting of a greyhound trainer at Randwick. Harvey, ever reticent to blow his own trumpet about his work, said later about Australia's highest media award, "That was a good thing to happen. I was 19 at the time. It was nice."

The following year, he went to work for the American magazine Newsweek as a reporter in Vietnam during the war. He was honest enough to admit to being "terrified" there, "I was very frightened all the time ... I left Vietnam totally depressed about the prospects of the war being won."

There was a brief stint back in Australia on 2UE but soon enough he was off again, to London to work on the Guardian. There he took the British Reporter of the Year Award twice, once with a story about drug trafficking from Turkey through Marseilles then and with a story about security and the lack of it in Government departments in Whitehall. The second story lead to a change in UK law.
Back in Australia in 1975, Harvey went to work with the 2GB-Macquarie network in Canberra but was quickly lured away to Channel Nine by Gerard Stone. He covered many of the biggest new stories the country has ever seen in politics as well as doing general interest, such as the 90th anniversary of the Anzac's Gallipoli landing, the 60 anniversary of the end of World War II from France, the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War and the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.

Of course, one of the biggest stories, for him and everyone else, was just months after he joined Nine's Canberra bureau - the Whitlam dismissal in November, 1975.

Harvey was one of the few journalists considered close to Malcolm Fraser, although Harvey always said it was because he was so tall, "I think it was probably because I was one of the very few people he could actually have eyeline contact with in crowds. Malcolm Fraser wasn't close to anyone. I think Tamie Fraser was the only person close to Malcolm Fraser." Harvey didn't want to be too close to any prime minister anyway. "One should never confuse being close to a prime minister or a politician with an absence of shrieking at them ... no reporter has a place for temper tantrums. ... As far as I am concerned, the office of the prime minister, whoever is prime minister is, demands respect."
In Canberra, Harvey had connections and could read events. He broke the news that John Howard had lost the leadership of the liberal Party in 1989, a story that started with a tennis match, or rather the lack of one. Harvey was an enthisuastic tennis player and was bemused when a regular game was cancelled. Then he couldn't find a Liberal Party man anywhere to make up the numbers for another game. Among the major missing where a couple of Andrew Peacock supporters. Curiouser and curiouser.

Harvey took his thoughts to Laurie Oakes, Channel Nine's political editor. Oakes was was intrigued and started ringing around. Howard's press secretary blustered and denied. Other reporters mocked Harvey and Oates and big press names stated confidently that Howard was on his way up. Soon enough, Howard was removed from his position. His press sectretary had told him about Harvey's thoughts but Howard had refused to believe it.

Of course, Harvey wasn't always perfect. In 1986 he reported some early balance of payment figures. Alas for his great scoop, the figures turned to be merely a revision of the previous figures, but it was a rare mistake from such a journalist.

There were rumours in 1990 that Harvey might leave reporting and become John Hewson's press secretary, but Harvey chose to stay on in the work he loved.

In 1994, Alan Ramsey credited Harvey as being the one who saw that there was something not quite right about Alexander Downer's claims to have had nothing to do with the League of Rights, a far right and anti-semitic political organisation, and had passed on his thoughts to Laurie Oakes. Downer, then leader of the Liberal Party, tried to ignore the whole affair, but lost the party leadership in January the following year.

In 1997, Harvey relocated to Sydney but stayed with Channel Nine. The following year saw a quadruple by-pass but Harvey soldiered on and in 2003 he signed on to present the 60 Minutes Mailbag segment.

In 2005, he celebrated 30 years with Channel Nine. A supposedly low-key celebration turned into a party with 200 people and Kerry Packer toasting Harvey. A few notable at the station didn't make the party though - they were on air covering the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
In 2011 and Harvey was on the move again, to Queensland to report on the floods. After seeing the devestation, he took part in a telethon with other of Channel Nine's big names to raise money for the victims.

In October 2012, Harvey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Vowing to fight the condition, he went back to work for as long as possible. He appeared on 60 Minutes on February 24 and was admitted to hospital a few days later. The news flashed around Australia, appearing on almost every news site on the internet, and a Twitter account #weloveharves was immediately full of good wishes. Even the prime minister went to air to express her sorrow.

And the last word should go to Harvey, "Always run like you're coming second by refusing to ever accept that it's down and out or anywhere near it. Keep the stories relevant and of value. Stay up to date and always run harder than the competition."

Peter Harvey is survived by his wife, Anne, and children Claire and Adam.

Harriet Veitch
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