Hello World I’m John Laws…and I’m still here

By Mike Welsh

I hooked up with the peerless John Laws to discuss the enemies of the past, his hopes for the future, and the world beyond that. If you think the great man has mellowed with age, think again.

The great man sounded grumpy when we spoke just after midday. Understandably so, as Richard John Sinclair Laws CBE OBE had just finished another demanding three-hour on-air talkback radio shift.

The phone call was to discuss his new book LAWSIE: Well…you wanted to know (New Holland) one which, astonishingly, Laws claims to have not yet read. The book chronicles a series of in-depth interviews with the publisher and the man himself, over a twelve month period.

Fans of Laws will quickly spot the lack of anything bowel-shatteringly new in the book, as it’s nigh on impossible for there to be anything novel about the ‘King Of Radio’. Everything about both this shy man’s very public and private existences has been minutely examined, forensically probed and widely published. His unique style has been aped by scores of wannabes over the past six decades, and yet, approaching his 82nd birthday, he still broadcasts on a daily basis. Quite an achievement, I suggest. Laws disagrees: “ I don’t think it’s an achievement, it was nothing I’d planned, it just happened. It’s simply a matter of survival.”

The man whom former Prime Minister Paul Keating once described as the “World’s Greatest Broadcaster” applies an odd caveat to his role in the publication, stating that “This is not a book that I actually wrote, but it is my words. Somebody asked me a bunch of questions, and I answered a bunch of questions”. Laws is pleased with the overall presentation of the book, but dislikes the 60s era black and white photo on the back cover “I don’t ever remember looking like that.”

A testament to Laws’ unique relationship with (and vast influence over) mainstream Australia, is the consistent and long procession of grovelling politicians seeking direct access to the broad audience that only he can deliver. Laws describes Paul Keating as “a really good bloke with a terrific sense of humour and although I’ve not seen him for a while, I still regard him as a friend”. As for the current Lodge dweller, Laws points out that the Malcolm Turnbull we are seeing at the moment “Is the Malcolm Turnbull who wants to stay in power, but I believe he will change as he grows into the role of Prime Minister. He’s a very bright man.”

 

 

So, has John Laws mellowed down the years? “No, some people say I have but I’m just as angry as I ever was. I don’t have any trouble being angry. I’m not angry all the time, I have soft moments.”

Laws steps away from that when I broach the topic of one of his favourite radio stations, 2UE. Is the current lowly status of 2UE symptomatic of talkback radio now, I wondered? Laws booms in response: “2UE is a tragedy…used to be a great broadcasting station. It’s been allowed to unwind. I think it’s a disgrace what’s happened to 2UE, somebody should stop and have a close look at it”. In the book, Laws is more succinct in his assessment of the radio station that was at or near the top for decades: “2UE is fucked.”

Laws surprisingly speaks fondly of his former 2UE colleague (and sometimes adversary) Alan Jones, describing him as a competent broadcaster, and sympathises with his current poor state of health.

 

The Malcolm Turnbull we are seeing at the moment “Is the Malcolm Turnbull who wants to stay in power, but I believe he will change as he grows into the role of Prime Minister. He’s a very bright man.

 

In the book, Laws tells of a lunch organised by radio king-maker John Brennan (who once said that Laws “had a voice that would curl a frangipani”) at which both Laws and Jones “laughed their heads off”. Laws says “Alan is great company.”

Given the ferocity of their long running feud, I ask if there is a chance of a similar breaking of bread with his onetime under study 2GB’s Ray Hadley?

Laws responds curtly: “No, I only have lunch with people I like…Ray has been bitter for a very long time, as I’ve often said, Ray Hadley always wants to be John Laws. But he can’t be, because I am.”

I attempt to dig deeper into the soul of the man, suggesting that there is a more spiritual Laws on display in the book. He feels there is a difference between believing in God and attending church: “All the Popes, Bishops, Cardinals and Deacons with their fancy garb mean little to me. There were no costly clothes or self-glorification for Jesus, and that says a lot about him.” That being said, Laws is unsure if there is an after-life, deferring to Kerry Packer’s famous quip after he ventured too close to the other side: ”There’s nothing there.”

On the topic of death, I queried him about a reporter’s recent insensitive question on the appeal of dying on the air. Laws offers a laugh, and quotes Woody Allen in response: “I’m not afraid of death I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

If it comes to it, who would play John Laws in the movie?

“I don’t think I could play a good Clint Eastwood, but I think Clint Eastwood might be able to play a good John Laws”.

 

TRACEY SPICER

By Mike Welsh

In 2006, after ‘…internalising misogyny for more than a decade’, Tracey Spicer had had enough. The tipping point was returning to her past after maternity leave, only to discover that she had been let go.

In her best selling feminist memoir The Good Girl Stripped Bare, Tracey Spicer articulates the issue of entrenched workplace sexism and bullying, a condition which she has encountered and countered in a long and successful career in the media. As a matter of fact, Tracey and I were colleagues at the same regional Victoria media outlet over 30 years ago. I was impressed with Tracey’s journalistic ability as I was with her ability to hold her own against the ‘boys club’ in the boardroom or at the pub on a Friday night. Through her book,  to my shame, I discovered that Tracey only went along with that culture, because, as she put it ‘that’s what you do’. As a straight white male who has spent more than 30 years working in media, I spent most of it oblivious that female colleagues were forced in some cases to play a subservient game in order to further their careers. And this was the beginning of a role that Spicer believed she had to play.

Tracey’s journalistic journey began at High School when she became besotted with a sophisticated, slim and exotic looking woman on TV, Jana Wendt. Living in a low socioeconomic rough suburb amid a dearth of role models, Jana’s sophistication completely enchanted the bleach haired bogan from outer Brissie.

As she moved through Channels Ten and Nine, she was shocked with the widespread attitude held by male executives who felt entitled to use female staff as their own personal Barbie Dolls. This shocked Tracey, as she grew up being told that she could do anything, optimistically believing that the misogyny would soon dissipate. Three decades on and now able to boast a highly successful on-air television career, Tracey is confident that younger women will now benefit from her ultimate refusal to be treated as a second class citizen.

 

This shocked Tracey, as she grew up being told that she could do anything, optimistically believing that the misogyny would soon dissipate.

Spicer was approached by Harper Collins to write her memoir after performing a stand-up comedy routine in a dingy Marrickville theatre, to which she was ‘dragged to’ by Wendy Harmer. Spicer says even though it took her two months to accept, the idea was instantly appealing as she believes comedy is a great way to get a serious message across.

In The Good Girl Stripped Bare, the recently turned 50-year-old mother of two opens up about illicit drug abuse, masturbation and being a ‘failed Lesbian’. She also sets the record straight on the wording and design of a tattoo she has on her posterior. Spicer firmly believes there must be total honesty in such a project, and shares the story of a time when her son walked into her room while she was battling a draft page which deals with her first lover, a hairbrush called Fred. He responded with derision when she told him she was writing about how at fourteen she used a hairbrush to pleasure herself.

The journalist set aside three days a week for eight months to work on The Good Girl Stripped Bare – a work she didn’t want to be about her, but rather about the problems faced by women in the workplace and in society. Spicer sees the culture in media organisations has noticeably changed, at the time of her legal action, she noticed that advertisers were seeking more mothers and older women on air.

She says ‘…(we) were the ones who routinely got sidelined due to the obsession about women’s appearance in society, in particular on TV, so for the last 10 years it’s been mothers sought after in the workplace and women are allowed to get a bit older on TV. Some have even made it to 60’. But Spicer adds ‘unfortunately we’re still not seeing enough equality of women in executive positions in the media and change won’t come from the top so something has to happen’. Spicer says there is some change in the level of sexual harassment ‘but there’s still an awful lot of groping and grabbing and inappropriate comments’.

Spicer, whose TEDx talk The Lady Stripped Bare has been seen by more than two and a half million people, has also mastered the art of surviving social media. She describes it as ‘a systematic way to silence opinionated people’ and has been burnt by its ‘nasty nature and perverse practitioners’. She says ‘…people say it’s just online it’s not the real world, but it does spill over into your real life, that kind of bullying, and the hate eats away at your confidence and sends you into bouts of anxiety and depression and it makes you want to leave the industry’.

Tracey has over the years learnt strategies to manage the sometimes relentless onslaught of it and says ‘to be honest with you, it’s water off a duck’s back but it took me four years to work out how to block abuse, when to use humour, when to put the device down and when to go for a walk on the beach’

As for future projects, Spicer is keen to gather together feminists from around the world – writers from India and Africa – to help define intersectional feminism where inequality isn’t gender based or race based it’s a combination of things including your sexuality, your culture, your disability. In the words of the author: ‘There are a lot of people suffering worse than this middle aged white woman.’

From an article on TBS thebigsmoke.com.au

CITY NEWS SEVEN DAYS july 16

By Mike Welsh

 

JULY 13, 1997, is a day most Canberrans won’t forget, particularly those in the estimated 100,000-strong crowd lining Lake Burley Griffin to witness the planned implosion of the Canberra Hospital.

The event, promoted as a “family day”, turned tragically catastrophic as metal and concrete rained down on spectators, some a kilometre away.
Twenty years on, one Harrison man remembers telling his 1.9-metre (6′ 2”) tall son to sit down so those behind could witness the spectacle. Minutes later a piece of steel flew over his head fatally striking 12-year-old Katie Bender, sitting with her family just metres behind him.

 
CANBERRA’S “internet sensation”, ABC political reporter Chris Uhlmann, is seeking anonymity in Paris. Uhlmann’s piece for “Lateline” from the G20 summit, which included the stinging assessment of President Donald Trump as ”isolated and friendless”, pushing “fast-forward on the decline of the United States as a global leader”, copped 10 million views on social media. The reporter is relaxing with his wife, member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, in the city of love after being the uncomfortable focus of a social media storm.

IMG_5015
STILL on POTUS and a woollen beanie with cat ears, which emerged as a symbol of President Trump’s “pussygate” tapes during recent International Women’s Day marches, is being utilised as a fundraiser for an anti-domestic violence campaign in Canberra. About 20 local knitters have volunteered to produce the beanies, with the Pussy Hat Project founder Stephen Lawton urging more knitters to come on board with the assurance: “It only takes four to six hours to complete a beanie from a relatively simple kit”.

 
EIGHT years ago the then ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell cryptically claimed there were “different ways to skin a cat” after rejecting a national call for uniformity on outlaw motorcycle gang consorting laws.
Corbell upped the ante slightly in 2014: “While the level of activity by OMCGs was low in the ACT, Canberra was not immune to the influence or activity of these gangs.”
A string of arson attacks and drive-by shootings in the south of Canberra in recent weeks might suggest that pussy still has its pelt.

IMG_3479
A PIECE of public art “planted” by the side of the Barton Highway is attracting hundreds of curious onlookers and plenty of commentary before its official unveiling on Thursday.
“Forgotten 2004”, by local artist Melanie Lyons, is a reference to roadside floral memorials and pays tribute to those who have died in road accidents. One local who pulled in to examine the three-metre-tall sculpture at the Jeir Creek rest area sneered: “The money would be better spent on the highway”.

 
ON A slightly different note of artistic expression, the government is boasting the value of employing a full-time graffiti co-ordinator. Patrick Nolan, Transport and City Services planning manager, says a drop in the number of complaints and requests to remove illegal graffiti proves the co-ordinator role is paying dividends.
With an annual bill of $500,000 to remove illegal graffiti, Nolan says “by engaging with young people we are reducing a lot of tagging”.

IMG_3554 (1)
MLA Mark Parton’s confession to a gambling issue as a young man may have strengthened his profile, but it’s also drawn criticism from a skeptical Prof Laurie Brown, a gambling addict who lost more than $400,000 on the pokies. The UC academic says the comparison by the opposition gaming and racing spokesman of his “problem” with her addiction is “disingenuous” and “a long way from people who become addicted to today’s hi-tech pokies”.

 

 
ANIMAL welfare group Animal Protectors Alliance has described the government’s stats from the 2017 kangaroo cull as “codswallop” and accused it of gross exaggeration.
Spokesperson Robyn Soxsmith says: “The government has lied about so many aspects of its killing program, we can only assume that, by massively exaggerating the numbers they have killed this year, they hope to keep up the pretence that there are still plenty of kangaroos around”.

Canberra City News July 10

Welsh / ‘Diamond’ Dave’s gloves quietly do the talking

AS THE world was being enchanted by the real-life “Rocky” tale of Jeff Horntaking the WBO welterweight crown from Manny Pacquiao, a Canberra professional boxer’s career was quietly climbing to new levels.

Mike Welsh

Undefeated middleweight “Diamond” Dave Toussaint outpointed Shane Mosley Jr in an undercard bout at the Battle of Brisbane. The 26-year-old southpaw told ESPN: “I can’t wait to get back in the ring”. And on his Facebook page Toussaint promised “exciting times ahead” for his Canberra supporters.

WHILE Toussaint’s star brightens, the future and personal safety of another of our sport stars is under threat. Forced to retire early from Wimbledon due to injury, Nick Kyrgios has vowed to do “everything possible” to avoid the knife as an option to fix a chronic hip injury. But Nick’s late-night partying with two girls in London, hours after his exit from the prestigious tournament, may cause him more pain than the surgery. The father of one of the girls, 18-year-old British player Chelsea Samways, reportedly wants to “knock out” the tennis bad boy.

THE paucity of detail in a statement announcing former chief police officer of ACT Policing, Roman Quaedvlieg – currently head of Australia’s Border Force – had taken sudden leave of absence, is frustrating some.

A statement from Justice Minister Michael Keenan confirmed the 52-year-old father of three “is on leave” and “a matter is under investigation by appropriate authorities” adding “there will be no further comment until that process is complete”.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATELEVISION is being credited for a healthy rise in the number of people tuned into Canberra ABC breakfast radio host Dan Bourchier. The Tennant Creek-raised journalist consolidated his #1 position (up 1.6 per cent to 19.3 per cent) in the latest GfK radio survey. Bourchier also anchors the ABC TV evening bulletin which insiders believe boosted his popularity. The major casualty of the survey was 2CC’s syndicated shock-jock Ray Hadley, down 2.4 per cent to a share of 5.8 per cent.

THE Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, an ongoing headache for the ACT government, is again in the headlines after revelations by a whistleblower drew condemnation from the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. The group says: “The allegations involve what would amount to incredibly disturbing human rights abuses against the most vulnerable people in society, our children.” They’re calling on the government to “weed out” such systematic abuses.

A SPOTLIGHT shone on the shortcomings in the nursing-home industry across the nation, shifted to the ACT after disturbing reports of a 77-year-old resident of Southern Cross Care at Garran, presenting at Canberra Hospital with maggot-infested wounds. The family of the man, who died earlier this year, say they were told by the then nursing home manager that maggots “were good for wounds” due to the fact they “cleaned them out”. Hospital staff have complained to the Aged Care Commissioner.

DISTURBING statistics on our status within the illicit drug scene have been published. The number of cocaine seizures in Canberra has jumped by more than 500 per cent (from 11 to 68) in 2015-16. The ACT recorded the greatest increase in cocaine busts nationally, just ahead of NSW.

The figures are from the annual Illicit Drug Data Report published by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

A BATTLE is brewing among conservatives across the border in the Labor-held seat of Eden-Monaro. Seems the divisions within the Federal Coalition may spread to the one-time bellwether electorate and spark a three-cornered contest at the next election. Speculation has grown after Nationals’ leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce failed to douse talk of a Nat’s candidate contesting the NSW seat for the first time in 25 years.

THE phrase “all politics is local” may have been redefined recently when a Belconnen resident answered a dinner time phone call from the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. The Premier’s “personal” robo call was to invite our randomly selected recipient to a Town Hall meeting in Brisbane next week.

THE BIG SMOKE BOOMERS

Independent opinion website The Big Smoke (TBS) has announced it has expanded its content offering following the success of its ‘TBS Next Gen Program’.

Nicole Robertson

Launched in 2016, the program saw students aged between eight and 18 mentored by writers to produce thought-provoking content.

As of February 2017, the leading opinion site has now introduced ‘TBS Boomers’, which will be overseen by ex-radio host Mike Welsh, who has accepted the role of editor for this section of the site.

The new division launched with content from TV legend Tony Barber and Sky Newshost Mike Jeffreys, and has already partnered with brands such as Besins Healthcare for International Women’s Day.

Welsh said a good chunk of Baby Boomers have witnessed and experienced more major social change than any other generations in history.

“From the sexual revolution to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and what’s happened in between, Boomers have seen it all and most likely done it too,” he said.

“Sadly, those who have lived to tell extraordinary tales and share unique insights are ignored and dismissed by most of contemporary society.

TBS will provide us with the perfect platform to tell and preserve these fascinating stories.”

TBS has also expanded its ‘Meet a Founder’ series, which will now profile start-ups on the cusp of disrupting industries.

Start-ups selected to be a part of the series – produced in partnership with Elementum Advisory – will also receive a one-hour meeting with Elementum CEO Philippa Lewis.

TBS publisher Alexandra Tselios developed the section due to her own experience with capital raising in Australia and by watching the local start-up scene and incubator programs.

“Start-ups won’t succeed if they don’t prove there is a need for their offering in the market, and at The Big Smoke, we provide the opportunity to receive exposure across multiple platforms through our media buy, and then collate that data back to the start-up,” she said.

“The data includes engagement and response to the start-ups concept and messaging – both good and bad.

“The data behind this, coupled with connecting them to critical partners who could potentially secure capital with them, creates a compelling opportunity for our network.”