Good Morning Fran

When, at 7.45 am or therabouts, Michelle Grattan utters the now very well known greeting, "Good Morning Fran", its time to tune into the radio..

When the world seems to be losing its head, you look for some rationality and calmness. Many Australians are trying to make sense of what is happening in their country and meanwhile the parliamentary world has descended into farce. There are two forces at large: Australia is becoming a high wage, low skill country which, outside of mining, is unsustainable and daily we witness the disintegration of one of the central pillars of national politics: the Australian Labor Party.

When things are this serious, comedy, which was the preferred way of making sense of the news for many of us, suddenly seems to be not funny at all.

Every morning on ABC’s Radio National two highly competent professionals make sense of what is going on. Because these two are old-fashioned, competent, have been there and done it all, they are eminently believable and trustable in a world seemingly spiralling downwards. When Fran Kelly asks  Michelle Grattan: “The Treasurer says this is a responsible budget, but is it a political budget?”  The country literally hangs off the answer because Michelle Grattan will tell you the truth. She will define what the truth is. She will weave out the grey areas and, most of all, give you an unbiased and objective position on things that matter.

Kelly expertly sets up her colleague and they have rapport that comes from years hoofing around parliament house with tape recorders and notepads. But something much more than the normal conversation between journalists occurs when they speak each day.

Times define what is important and which people are authoritative. Kelly and Grattan represent  a congruence of important forces of their age. Thankfully both have survived the kind of superficiality and fluff which is so often a part and parcel of the media. They have also out-performed and out-paced the boys club through sheer diligence and hard work. Grattan has also defied traditional conceptions of age and retirement. In a period of tokenism, neither Kelly or Grattan got where they are through favouritism or political correctness, they did it their way and represent a kind of triumph of feminism because they are not predictable and give all sides of a question consideration. If they get something wrong, it is because they got it wrong. For the most part they are wise, competent professionals who have tremendous value, influence and respect. And more than this Grattan, particularly, has become I think, a unique, valued, trusted national figure, more important for her counsel, opinion and knowledge than any appointed public figure I can think of.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the hounds were baying for Grattan. She came to Canberra the year before Gough Whitlam was elected to office in 1971.  As the great Alan Ramsey retired dutifully, some expected Michelle Grattan to do the same or to move over for some younger journalist.  But just as no-one has been able to adequately fill Ramsey’s shoes, no-one could fill the giant hole of Michelle Grattan if she had retired. 

Illustration by Kerrie Leishman

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