As presenter of ABC Radio National’s program ‘Breakfast’, Fran Kelly has the ear of Australia’s most influential people every morning.
“There’s no doubt that our show is an agenda-setter. We’re definitely speaking to the opinion leaders across a whole range of areas – we’re speaking to the politicians, to many of the business leaders, to very senior and influential people in the law profession, in academia, in the arts. We know that because of the feedback we get and the gleeful response we normally receive when we invite people onto the program.”
Kelly says that it was well known that the former Prime Minster John Howard listened to the program every morning as he was shaving. “That was absolutely true, no doubt about it. I know that a lot of senior cabinet ministers are listening everyday and that senior people from the opposition are too, because not infrequently something said on our program in the morning is put into a question at Question Time.”
Before she fell in love with political journalism, Kelly started out as part of the Adelaide and Melbourne music scenes. By the late 1970s she was the singer for several bands, most notably an all-girl new wave band, Toxic Shoc. “It was at the time when the toxic shock scare hit – women were dying from it and it was all over the papers at the time. I’ve identified as a proud feminist ever since I was at school and was a feminist activist for a long time. International women’s year was the year after I left school and I remember marching in the streets with my mother, my sister and my niece as a baby.”
After a number of positions in arts and events management, Fran got her first taste for current affairs journalism while working on Melbourne RRR's Backchat program in 1984.
“There are two career moments that really stand out for me. The first was when I went to Canberra as a journalist for ABC Radio as part of the AM and PM team. Within three months I realised that this was it for me – politics, I loved it. I didn’t realise I would get so engrossed in it and end up with such a passion and such a penchant for it. There were very big stories occurring in Canberra when I got there – the challenge of Bob Hawke by Paul Keating, and Paul Keating and the whole native title MABO legislation – that was a huge time for me.”
The other stand out moment for Kelly was landing the Radio National presenting gig. “I love the program, I always have, I was political correspondent on ‘Breakfast’ for years when I was in Canberra. It’s just one of the best jobs in Australian media.”
When asked about her role models, Kelly mentions colleagues Alan Ramsey and Michelle Grattan. “They have been in the game a long time but have maintained complete integrity, I can’t think of a single moment where either of them have considered selling out their opinion because of political pressure, peer group pressure or fear. I think that’s really incredible because there’s a lot of pressure in those jobs and it can get quite scary when you’re commentating at that level.”
How does Fran feel being seen as a role model. “I feel great. It’s something that embrace.” And has her sexuality ever been an issue with her ‘Breakfast’ audience? “No, never. It’s not something that I particularly discuss on the show, it’s not that kind of program. We’re doing current affairs interviews all day, we’re not chatting about my home life really. Although I have done work for the community in my capacity as a Radio National presenter. I launched the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report into same-sex entitlements and was happy to do that. I would have no idea what my audience’s knowledge, understanding or interest is in my sexuality is to be honest.”
The Same Same 25 is an annual celebration of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians. They are publicly nominated, and chosen by a panel of community leaders.
For the past two years, the announcement of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians has attracted widespread national media attention and focused on the achievements and influence of a varied and inspirational group of people.