Henry climbs into Aussie crisis

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 10:11 23/02/2012
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Controversial New Zealand broadcaster Paul Henry has treated his new Australian audience to a dose of his particular sarcasm on debut.

Henry's Australian television career kicked off this morning at 8am (NZT) when he launched Channel Ten's new breakfast show.

However, another bespectacled troublemaker, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, was undeniably the man of the moment - his decision to quit as Foreign Minister while in Washington DC was the catalyst for Henry's debut being brought forward four days.

Henry greeted viewers with "It's game on" - a reference to the escalating Labor leadership crisis and Channel Ten's attempt to challenge Seven's Sunrise and Nine's Today's show.

Flanked by co-presenters Andrew Rochford and Kathryn Robinson, Henry was centre stage on the couch when proclaiming "we will just row together. We will be all over Kevin Rudd and all over Julia Gillard, just as they are all over each other".

The political fallout sparked by Rudd's decision to quit was the obvious focal point despite Henry, who is on a three-year contract worth at least $A1 million, describing the drama as "an unprecedented waste of our time and money".

The announcement to expedite the launch of Breakfast follows earlier news that network shares have dropped to their lowest levels in almost three years.

Henry was the lead interviewer, opening discussions with the first guests to appear on the programme, Labour strategist Bruce Hawker and the Liberal Party's deputy opposition leader Julia Bishop, who refused to state her preference between Rudd and Gillard despite gentle badgering.

"Who would be the better leader? Julia Gillard or Rudd? Who would you choose? Come on, look, just choose one," he said with increasing exasperation.

"Do you not understand the question?"

"I understand the question alright and I don't think either of them will be properly serving Australia's interest," she said.

"Brilliant," said Henry. "Thank you very much. You look fantastic."

Just inside the opening hour, the Henry Hotline went live to take incoming calls and it didn't take long for the New Zealander's first critic to go public.

"Who's that bloke with the glasses? Don't like him, don't want him," said one gruff Aussie male.

However, a woman familiar with his TVNZ career was complimentary prompting Henry to thank his sister for getting in touch.

Henry, Rochford and Robinson - a mother of two reminiscent of his TVNZ co-presenter Pippa Wetzell -- survived their first hour in the spotlight and despite barely knowing each other they were at ease in each other's company.

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- Fairfax Media

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