PETER HARVEY, 1944-2013

Peter Harvey in 1984.

Award winning print, TV and radio journalist ... Peter Harvey in 1984. Photo: Steven Loxley

It was probably the most listened to silence on television. The pause between ''Peter Harvey'' and ''Canberra'' never stretched so long as to be overly dramatic, but it was there and everyone heard it. The ''Peter Harvey'' and ''Canberra'' bits were in that deep, rich voice that said viewers were in the hands of a news master.

Comedians made jokes about the pause and Mike Carlton created a radio character called ''Peter Gravey'' to send up Harvey and his voice. He might even have been called ''The Voice'' if John Laws hadn't got there first. Harvey thought it was all very amusing and liked to joke that the ''bitumen'' baritone was because he was Barry White's love child, ''I'm just a lot paler than dad''.

Harvey was like that, calm, coolly amusing, never given to hysterics, it was just the news, folks. One reviewer said his smile was rare enough to call for ''an action replay''.

A voice never forgotten  ... Peter Harvey.

A voice never forgotten ... Peter Harvey.

Others said his delivery was as though Harvey had swallowed a ''handful of Mogadons'' but the public kept listening, even when he did the weekly ''Mailbag'' segment on 60 Minutes, a gentle position that did not require a reporter of his calibre.

Harvey, a boy from Bondi, a place he never stopped missing, began his career as a copy boy at The Daily Telegraph in 1960. By 1964 he was a cadet reporter and that year he shared a Walkley Award with a story about the shooting of a greyhound trainer at Randwick. Harvey, ever reticent to blow his own trumpet about his work, said later about Australia's highest media award, ''That was a good thing to happen. I was 19 at the time. It was nice''.

The following year, he went to work for the American magazine Newsweek as a reporter in Vietnam during the war. He was honest enough to admit to being ''terrified'' there, ''I was very frightened all the time … I left Vietnam totally depressed about the prospects of the war being won.''

peter harvey2

Peter Harvey with his wife Anne in 2001 Photo: Getty Images

There was a brief stint back in Australia on 2UE but soon enough he was off again, to London to work on The Guardian. There he took the British Reporter of the Year Award twice, once with a story about drug trafficking from Turkey through Marseilles, then with a story about security and the lack of it in government departments in Whitehall. The second story led to a change in British law.

Back in Australia in 1975, Harvey went to work with the 2GB-Macquarie network in Canberra, but was quickly lured away to Channel Nine by Gerald Stone. He covered many of the biggest new stories the country has seen in politics as well as doing general interest, such as the 90th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II from France, the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War and the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.

Harvey was one of the few journalists considered close to Malcolm Fraser, although Harvey always said it was because he was so tall, ''I think it was probably because I was one of the very few people he could actually have eyeline contact with in crowds. Malcolm Fraser wasn't close to anyone. I think Tamie Fraser was the only person close to Malcolm Fraser.''

Harvey didn't want to be too close to any prime minister anyway. ''One should never confuse being close to a prime minister or a politician with an absence of shrieking at them … no reporter has a place for temper tantrums. As far as I am concerned, the office of the prime minister, whoever is prime minister, demands respect.'' In Canberra, Harvey had connections and could read events. He broke the news that John Howard had lost the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1989, a story that started with a tennis match, or rather the lack of one. Harvey was an enthusiastic tennis player and was bemused when a regular game was cancelled. Then he couldn't find a Liberal Party man anywhere to make up the numbers for another game. Among the major ones missing were a couple of Andrew Peacock supporters. Curiouser and curiouser.

Harvey took his thoughts to Laurie Oakes, Channel Nine's political editor. Oakes was intrigued and started ringing around. Howard's press secretary blustered and denied. Other reporters mocked Harvey and Oakes and big press names stated confidently that Howard was on his way up. Soon enough, Howard was removed from his position. His press secretary had told him about Harvey's thoughts but Howard had refused to believe it.

In 1997, Harvey relocated to Sydney but stayed with Channel Nine. The following year saw a quadruple bypass but Harvey soldiered on and in 2003 he signed on to present the 60 Minutes Mailbag segment.

In 2005, he celebrated 30 years with Channel Nine. A supposedly low-key celebration turned into a party with 200 people and Kerry Packer toasting Harvey. A few notables at the station didn't make the party - they were on-air covering the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

In October 2012, Harvey was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Vowing to fight the condition, he went back to work for as long as possible. He appeared on 60 Minutes on February 24 and was admitted to hospital a few days later.

The news flashed around Australia, appearing on almost every news site on the internet, and a Twitter account #weloveharves was immediately full of good wishes.

Even the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, went to air to express her sorrow.

But the last word should go to Harvey: ''Always run like you're coming second by refusing to ever accept that it's down and out or anywhere near it. Keep the stories relevant and of value. Stay up to date and always run harder than the competition.''

Peter Harvey is survived by his wife, Anne, and children, Claire and Adam.

Harriet Veitch