'Call out bulls***': Viewers stunned by ABC host's on-air bombshell

Leigh Sales' time "calling out bulls***" will come to an end this year as she confirmed she will step down as the host of the ABC's 7.30 program.

The veteran journalist announced her decision with a graceful address at the end of the current affairs show on Thursday.

"I hope it's been obvious that I've always approached this job with one goal: that is to ask frank questions of people in power, without fear or favour, that a fair-minded, reasonable person with some common sense watching at home might like to ask if they were sitting in my position," she said.

Leigh Sales is pictured announcing she will be leave the ABC's 7.30 program after 12 years.
Leigh Sales is standing down as 7.30 anchor after 12 years. Source: ABC

"I've tried to shut down wafflers, call out bulls***, hold powerful people to account, expose lies, incompetence and exaggeration in all political parties and on all issues, and present facts, even when they're unpopular or inconvenient."

The 48-year-old spent 12 years at the helm of the ABC program and will leave the role after the federal election, with Sales noting she had welcomed five prime ministers during her time.

Tributes flow for Sales

Shadow Minister for Education and Women Tanya Plibersek said Sales was "unflinching" during interviews and hailed her "top quality journalism" over the years.

Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen described Sales as "tough, formidable and thoroughly professional".

ABC journalist David Speers, who is one name now linked with the vacant position, said Sales had made an "extraordinary contribution".

7.30's chief political correspondent Laura Tingle, who has previously stood in for Sales, is touted by many as the natural replacement.

Sales said there was not a particular moment or incident that had contributed to her decision, instead revealing she felt it was time to simply move on.

It is unclear at this stage what role she will now take on with the ABC.

Hundreds of tributes were paid to Sales on social media, with users praising her as a "giant of journalism".

"I've always admired your fairness, determination and steely focus in holding those in power to account," one person said.

Some however did welcome the decision, with a handful of users accusing her of a partisan approach to her interviews.

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