One of "The Great Ones" departed recently, with Bert Newton passing at the age of 83. He'd been ill for some time and battled on with great courage after having a leg amputated triggered by a serious infection. He is truly an ICON in that he represents this wonderful era from the 1950s when everything changed with the advent of TV.
Bert made his radio debut when he did a guest spot as a 14-year-old at 3XY (he certainly got there a lot earlier than I did, I can tell you that). He is etched forever into our national image through his partnership with Graham Kennedy, IMT, and with the Lanky Yank on the Don Lane Show. But I guess it was 19 years as the MC for the beloved Logies that put Bert at the pinnacle of Australia-wide prominence.
His performance was masterful. He had an uncanny instinct for saying exactly what the average Joe would say which is why he was so loved by his audience. One of the greatest examples of finding the perfect line at the perfect time was when John Wayne had made the trip here as the special guest for the Logies. Wayne meandered on to centre stage, Bert took a long look at the Hollywood superstar and said, "Boy, you really are big aren't ya?" He won Wayne in 5 seconds. It was delicious. Bert just managed to say what millions of viewers were thinking... "this bloke really IS BIG".
Don't forget that Newton also ruled the radio roost through the '70s as the number 1 women's show at 3UZ. I remember he took over as GM at 3DB in the 80s, which I knew was a really tough assignment. So, I had the temerity to send the great man a message of good wishes. You'll see that he was extremely gracious to reply a short time later.
So to the figures for the latest Sydney survey which show these times of concern are just made for news/talk radio. GB is dominating the overall results with Ben and Ray continuing their hot form while ABC has improved a % to sit just 3 points adrift. KIIS and SMOOTH share the FM honours but are still a further 5 points behind.
Something dramatic happened recently but I'm not sure everybody realises that this is probably the most significant deal Australia's been involved in since WWII. Follow my reasoning if you will, keeping three key issues in mind: 1) China, 2) the new Aust-UK-USA defence deal and our replacement submarine contract.
I'm imagining that the US And British leaders are having a realistic talk sometime in late '20 or early '21 and both are suddenly realising that the China threat is genuine. All this challenging behaviour of the last decade is not domestic posturing: Beijing is fair dinkum. They're going to close the South China Sea, stopping the free passage of international shipping and they're going to invade Taiwan. How does the West deal with this massive challenge? One thing is obvious – they're going to have to challenge the Chinese immediately before things get to the point of no return.
So, we proceed to number 2. A quick look at your pap of the world will show the critical issue. Have a look at how far the UK is from China – how would you like to have a British Naval Task Force roaming around the South China Sea for a couple of years? Have a look at the length of that supply line. Things aren't much better for the US, especially since they vacated their Philippines base. They'd have a supply line all the way back to Hawaii.
Then you look smack bang in the middle of this disputed region and guess who's sitting there – good old Australia? Politically stable and one of the most dependable allies in the business. The obvious answer surely is to establish a major new US-UK defence base in Northern Australia. That'll fix the supply line issues. Then some accountant in Washington or London sends out a memo asking, "WHY DO WE HAVE TO MAN A BASE IN AUSTRALIA - WHY DO WE HAVE TO SEND OUT THOUSANDS OF TROOPS TO OPERATE THIS NEW BASE WHEN THE AUSTRALIANS ALREADY HAVE THEIR OWN FORCE?"
So, we come to the new AUKUS defence agreement with Australia as an equal partner. We're going to be the allied task force out there challenging China. This takes us to number 3, the sub deal with the French. It's already running into problems but the main issue now is we're buying diesel subs, which will require constant refuelling up in the North Pacific. The answer? Cancel the French deal and start buying nuclear subs from the USA. It'll take a few years to see that through so in the meantime – and remember we need a presence in the South China Sea, like tomorrow – Australia will hire its initial submarine fleet from Washington. I'm still following the dots but they seem to be heading back to the same place... back to WWII... back to Kokoda and Milne Bay... back to our Diggers manning the front line again.
The following quote is from Jan 26, 1788, as the First Fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour:
"Blessed be to God that have got save to an anchor in one of the finest harbours in the World. I never saw any like it – The River Thames is not to be mentioned to it and that I thought was the finest in the World – this said Port Jackson is the most beautiful place..."
–(Lt. Ralph Clark - 1755-1794 - an Officer on board the First Fleet convict vessel, "Friendship".
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