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Veteran TV Journalist Mike Willesee Has Died

Respected journalist Mike Willesee has passed away at the age of 76 after a three-year battle with cancer.

For decades, Willesee was the voice of current affairs in Australia and one of the media's most recognisable and respected personalities.

He came to prominence in 1967 as a reporter for the ABC's then new nightly current affairs program 'This Day Tonight'.

Willesee quickly earned a reputation for being a forensic journalist and a fearless political interviewer.

He then left the ABC and joined Channel Nine where he started a new nightly program in November 1971 -- 'A Current Affair'.

Willesee also spent a number of years at the Seven Network, where he presented a nightly current affairs program called 'Willesee at Seven'.

Executive Consultant, News and Current Affairs at Network 10, Peter Meakin said his long-time friend and former colleague "pioneered current affairs on commercial television".

"He was someone who was one of the best public speakers I've ever seen and also one of the most private people," Meakin said.

"He was never flamboyant... he knew the power of silence," he added.

"And he was fiercely independent".

"Mike was incomparable," five-time Walkley award winner Monica Attard said.

Now the Head of Journalism at the University of Technology Sydney, Attard says the next generation of journalists have much to learn from Willesee.

"He famously cornered John Hewson in the lead up to the 1993 election campaign with an everyday question -- a lesson to political journalists to this day.

Keep it simple, keep it about real people," she told 10 daily.

In an iconic 1993 interview with then Liberal leader John Hewson,  Willesee asked how the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) would affect the price of a birthday cake.

"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?"

Hewson launched into a long and complex answer, and many believe he never recovered from that interview.

Veteran Broadcaster Ray Martin was both a mate and a fan of Willesee's and says interviewers today should do more listening and less talking.

"He did his homework and he was never rude. He asked questions on behalf of people. You didn't really hear too much about Mike Willesee's opinions. He was there to ask questions," Martin told 10.

"And he asked the questions that ordinary people would have asked."

In 2002 Willesee was inducted into the TV Week Logies Hall of Fame.

In November 2017 Willesee discussed his battle with cancer on the ABC's 'Australian Story'. At the time he had stage four cancer of the throat and later developed lung cancer.

Willesee is survived by his six children.