He’s known for being one of the most powerful people in Australian television, is Logie award winning and is well respected by the leaders of our country. David Speers, Political Editor at Sky News has been at the helm of the Sky News Canberra studio for almost two decades and as he and the team prepare for the election on Saturday night, provides us with insight into his world, on and off the camera.
Q. This is your 7th year of covering a federal election. What makes this election different from the others?
I think the biggest difference at this election is the scale of unhappiness with politicians in general. Anger at the political class isn’t new, but it’s grown a lot lately. Both sides are to blame for the way they’ve churned through Prime Ministers and generally put their own interests before voters. It will be interesting to see how this manifests on Saturday. Expect a good result for independents, Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson.
Q. This year you’ll be hosting the federal election from the state-of-the-art Sky News Canberra studio – now one of the biggest studios in Canberra. What should viewers expect to see on the night?
This new studio of ours is amazing. I’m like a kid in a candy store, especially on election night. We’ll explain the results as they come in, but also bring the best political minds in the business to our coverage. If you really want to understand what’s happening and why, Sky News is the only place to watch.
Q. Are you able to provide any insight into what happens behind the scenes on election night?
Election nights are a huge operation. So much planning goes in to developing maps, graphics and data systems. Candidates, commentators and reporters across the country are booked in for specific times to cross to the main desk. Then the plan usually goes right out the window as the story unfolds. We always follow the story. Sometimes there are heated disagreements between panelists, which can spice things up. It’s an emotional night for many who’ve just finished a grueling campaign. Managing all of that while remaining calm and keeping the viewer front of mind isn’t always easy.
Q. How do you prepare for long hours on set?
I’ve been hosting state and federal election nights for nearly 20 years. The longest stint I’ve done in the chair is about 8 hours. It actually takes a lot of energy to stay sharp for that long. So plenty of coffee, lollies and fruit. Fortunately we’re well looked after by a terrific team! I spend as much time as I can beforehand studying key seats and working out where I want the conversation to go. I also try to take some time on Election Day to get out and soak up the atmosphere. It’s a wonderful celebration of democracy.
Q. What’s next on Sky News once we find out who the next Prime Minister will be?
There’s always something next. Who’s in and out of Cabinet? Who’s going to be Opposition Leader? Who’s going to quit politics after losing the election? And then we turn our attention to next year’s US Presidential election!
Q. What has been one of your most memorable interviews over the course of your career?
I didn’t win any awards for this one, but back in 2013 Julia Gillard was fighting for survival against Kevin Rudd, who wanted his old job back. The leadership speculation had reached crisis point and the then Prime Minister called me down to her office for an exclusive interview. We had to sneak in, so no other media or politicians would see us. Gillard was under enormous pressure, but showed extraordinary steel in that interview. She called a special leadership vote and made her pitch. It didn’t save her, but that interview was memorable for me. A Prime Minister, facing imminent political death, fighting to the end.
Q. What are three things to know about his year’s election to sound smart around the watercooler or at a BBQ?
Scott Morrison (win or lose) really beat everyone’s expectations in his ability to campaign.
Clive Palmer showed it is possible to buy your way into parliament.
Sometimes it’s not the big spending, carefully crafted policy ideas that turn campaigns. It’s the spontaneous moment of authenticity that voters are looking for.
Q. If you weren’t Political Editor at Sky News, what would you be doing?
Hanging out with my two beautiful girls a lot more!
Q. Do you often watch your programs on TV?
Q. If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be?
Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, this President is made for TV. Who knows what he’s likely to say on any given topic? It would be a wild ride.
Q. What is your favourite Foxtel program?
Right now, Game of Thrones. I’m not a mad fan, but I do enjoy it.
Q. Do you receive fan mail? And what has been the weirdest?
Occasionally, but most of the feedback for political journalists isn’t exactly glowing, particularly if you’re willing to give it to both sides of politics. I get more character advice every day than I can read. Perhaps the weirdest was from an actual cancer surgeon who had simply seen me on TV and suspected I may have some sort of cancer. I’m fine by the way, but it did give me a fright!
Q. Best career advice given to you over the years?
Good interviews are all about listening.
Q. What is the best thing about working for a 24 hour news channel?
It’s never dull! Every day is a surprise.
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