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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 2053


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (12:37): Peter Harvey was a distinctive voice in Australian journalism—that deep, gravel voice; the famous sign-off, as the member for Fraser just quoted: 'Peter Harvey, Canberra.' We all know it; we have all done it—whether we were schoolchildren in a playground, whether we were at a barbecue or whether we were at a very important meeting. Businessmen and women alike—we have all done the Peter Harvey sign-off. As the member for Fraser just indicated, it has become synonymous with Canberra. It has certainly helped place the national capital on the map for a generation of Australians who grew up with Peter Harvey's news reports and succinct comments at the end of the Sixty Minutes show each Sunday evening.

Sometimes the issues of the day were controversial, and when people were up in arms Peter Harvey would come out with a succinct, reasoned and measured comment that would really put issues into perspective. I do not want to get too political but Warren Truss, the Nationals' leader, has that same ability of putting something into perspective—of taking an issue and really bringing it down and enunciating it in such a way that you think, 'Well, yeah, he's right, you know', when everybody else may be thinking something different.

Born 16 September 1944 in Belleuve Hill, Sydney, Peter Harvey became one of the nation's most respected and revered journalists in his long career with the Nine Network. He actually began his journalism cadetship at the Sydney newspaper the Daily Telegraph. He won a Walkley Award in 1964. A Walkley Award is the highest pinnacle that a journalist can achieve. He worked at radio stations 2UE and 2GB before moving to London, where he worked for BBC radio. He then went on to the Guardian, the very respected British newspaper, where he received the British reporter of the year award. He worked with the American Newsweek magazine as a reporter in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was such a controversial time and such a turbulent period in global history, yet Peter Harvey was there and he was reporting it with that measured and balanced view that he always had over any issue.

He was a member of the press gallery here in Canberra for some 20-plus years. As his daughter, Claire—now Deputy Editor of the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney—said, her father's love of 'the Nines', as he called the network, is something now etched into the nation's memory. That he was such a good journalist was shown by the fact that he was able—and not many can do it, mind you—to work across the three mediums. He went from print to radio and the airwaves and on to television. He certainly excelled in all three spheres of reporting and in all three spheres of the media.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have this week rightly and justly paid tribute to Peter Harvey's infectious enthusiasm for the news and for making sure that the news was balanced and fair. We certainly live in an age when there are so many different forms of media—social media and traditional print journalism and radio and TV, of course. Peter Harvey was able to cross all those mediums but do it in a very balanced and very fair way. A lot of aspiring journalists and young people who are entering the industry could learn a lot from the legacy that Peter Harvey left behind. He was always measured, always fair, always balanced—reporting both sides of the story. Even when he did his wonderful comment pieces, he always made you sit back and think: 'Yes, that is so. I hadn't thought of that aspect of that story and, yes, Peter Harvey, as always, is right.'

I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that much of Peter Harvey's appeal to the Australian people was his unique turn of phrase. I love journalists who have that unique turn of phrase. Adam Walters, who was my best man, works in television in Sydney and started in newspapers. He was a bit like Peter Harvey: he went to radio and ended up in TV. He also has that wonderful, unique turn of phrase—almost cheeky, perhaps, sometimes. Aside from the balanced reporting they make you laugh at the end of the story, as Peter Harvey did when he referred to the Canberra Summernats festival as 'a kind of Floriade for revheads'. Wonderful stuff!

What I think people will perhaps most remember of Peter Harvey was his very distinctive sign-off at the end of stories, which, as the Prime Minister indicated, has become synonymous with the city of Canberra. He was proud of Canberra. He was proud of the press gallery and he was proud of his years at Channel 9. One of his first stories as a journalist here in the nation's capital was the dismissal on that fateful 11 November day in 1975. From that point on, Peter Harvey covered the rough-and-tumble of politics, the challenging policy debates, and even the more humorous stories which come out of this place, with poise and with dignity. He made sure that he was accurate, too. That is something that journalists could learn a lot from—the way he reported the news. He did not go for the story if he was not sure of the facts. He made sure he got it right. He made sure he reported it in a way that would be measured and balanced.

I join with other members in passing on our sincere condolences to his wife, Anne, his children, Claire and Adam, as well as his extended family and friends. Those friends are many, as they should be. I did have the pleasure of meeting Peter Harvey in this place once. He was one of those people who had great presence—those people who, when you do meet them, almost have an aura around them. You see them on the small screen and you grow up listening to their voice, but when you see them you are almost in awe of the fact that you are in their company. He was taking drinks to his friends. His friends, as I recall, were younger journalists. There was Peter Harvey doing something to help younger people.

The other thing that I have learnt whilst doing some research for this particular speech, is that Peter Harvey believed in mentoring young people. He certainly had an eye and vision for the future of his industry, and he wanted to make sure that the young journalists who were coming through were, perhaps, shaped by his experience and by what he had learned over the many years that he had broadcast, and over the many years that he had been in the printing trade—in newspaper reporting.

Peter will remain in the nation's hearts for evermore, with that lovable catchphrase etched into the nation's memory. Vale Peter Harvey, Canberra.