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Fri, 1 Mar, 2019Shannen Findlay

Veteran TV reporter Mike Willesee passes away aged 76

Veteran TV reporter Mike Willesee passes away aged 76

 Legendary Australian reporter Mike Willesee has died after battling throat cancer for over three years.

The iconic journalist was renowned for his interview style and willingness to go to new boundaries with his work.

For over 50 years, Willesee has been a constant in the lives of Australians, starting his career with ABC before going to become a high-profile face on both the Nine and Seven Networks.

His career began with ABC’s This Day Tonight before he moved onto Four Corners.

Willesee fronted a number of memorable current affairs program, including his own Willesee At Seven.

In November 1971, he hosted the famously loved TV program on Channel Nine – A Current Affair.

While he hosted the program, he launched the career of young comedian Paul Hogan and famously cornered then Liberal leader John Hewson during the 1994 Federal Election campaign with a question on GST.

"If I buy a birthday cake from a cake shop, and GST is in place, do I pay more or less for that birthday cake?” he asked Hewson.

Political experts contribute the politician's long winded answer as the turning point which lost him the 1993 election.

His uncompromising interview style to give long pauses in between his questions to make his interviewees squirm became his trademark.

On Friday afternoon, tributes began to flow in from the Australian media and community.

Fellow veteran reporter and former colleague Ray Martin commended Willesee’s interview style.

"You give a politician a moment's silence and they feel like they had to talk," Martin said.

"They often said things they didn't want to say to Mike Willesee.

"But he had charisma and there was a touch of class about what he did in his journalism."

 

In an interview with ABC’s Australian Story two years ago, Willesee revealed to having throat cancer.

“I was getting sick and I had a lot of pain in one side of my jaw. It was cancer. The prognosis wasn’t very good. Six to 12 months,” he said.

Despite his diagnosis, the veteran vowed to remain busy and told Australian Story: “The thing that drives me on most, and this is interesting, because I do have cancer, is that I don’t want to start looking backwards. You know, I always want something coming up.

“I’ve tried my hand at writing. I want to do some more of that. And I intend to do more work on television.

“I always want to have something in front of me that I can do well.”

Willesee was married to Miss Australia Joan Stanbury and had two children, Michael and Katie.

He later married actress and model Carol Brent in 1976, and had three daughters, Amy, Lucy and Jo.

In 1999, Willesee went on to marry television make-up artist Gordana Poljak and had a son, Rok before divorcing 11 years later. 

What is your memory of Mike Willessee? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.