The so-called “Willesee Pause” was a key feature of Australian news interviews for years: Mike Willesee would simply not talk, and politicians would – usually with fatal consequences. Willesee was a figure on Australian news for 50 years, from an upstart beat reporter to the man who changed the course of an election with a birthday cake.
In 1993, with John Hewson and the Liberal Party well on the way to federal election victory, Willesee asked Hewson in an interview if the price of a birthday cake would go up or down under his tax proposals. A long-winded rambling answer from Hewson was widely seen as the reason his party lost when polls had put them well in the lead.
In later years Willesee hosted the news drunk, became a passionate believer in the validity of stigmatics and the Turin shroud, and also helped discovered Paul Hogan. Cheers for that. A 2017 diagnosis with throat cancer put him on radars and, while he didn’t bite the dust in 2018 like many top teams hoped, he’s now left us with the longest Willesee pause in history.