September 2022

Frank Avis by | August 31, 2022 | 2020s

The industry has lost another one of its big names in recent weeks with John Tingle passing away at the age of 90. He's right in my wheelhouse, having made his debut in radio in 1952 as an ABC cadet. I worked with him when 3AK had an interstate sister-relationship with 2UE back in the 70's. He was extremely successful across the board – at 2UE, 2GB, the ABC, 7, 9 and beyond. But the amazing thing he managed to do was to transfer to NSW Parliament, founding the Shooters Party in '95 and spending a decade in the Upper House. Not a lot of radio journos get to start their own political parties, so John was definitely a "one off".

John Tingle

We've had to say our farewells to another radio identity, this time 75-year-old Bob Cooke, famous across Tasmania for over 60 years. Bob was my panel operator at 7HO and made the move behind the microphone in 1965. He dominated the airwaves for years including a long stint – 1982 to 2003 – doing Breakfast at 7HO. Nick Weare, a long-time colleague of Bob's, was kind enough to keep me posted about the sad passing. Thanks for that mate: so many of our colleagues pass on unremembered in other parts of the country. We need to record the impact of these people.

On the local scene, the much talked of battle of breakfast between GB and KIIS didn't make it this survey. Ben Fordham continues to hold the high ground, up 1.5 points while Kyle and Jackie O actually dipped slightly to remain in second spot. GB still number 1 overall followed by the top FM-er KIIS, then SMOOTH and ABC.

Let us meander down another byway for a piece of 1988 history when I first interviewed Kay Cottee about her plan to sail solo around the world. You'll see attached a really nice note from one of our most famous sailors and I even got a mention in her subsequent book "First Lady". Just to put things in context, her plan was to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world. Yes, when we waved farewell to her I had this dread inside me that we would never see Kay Cottee again. For her it was just another day at the office... For your reporter she was one of the bravest people I ever got to meet. I haven't had contact with Kay since those days but would love to catch up and buy her a celebratory cappuccino down at her local Gloria Jeans... Over 30 years late so I'd probably have to spring for a cheese toasty as well.

Kay Cottee

I feel so sorry for Anthony Albanese who has just taken over the PM's job and must feel as if he's been hit by a political tsunami. He's only in office a day and the Chinese start putting direct pressure on us, hassling our shipping and playing "Top Gun" with one of our military aircraft in the South China Sea. Couldn't they have given Albo a bit of a breather for a day or so? Then Penny Wong sits down with China's Foreign Minister and gets a good old-fashioned lecture including another list of demands from Beijing. We must "treat China as a partner not a rival" and "build public support featuring positiveness and pragmatism"... In other words, "get some control over your free press". To their credit, Albanese and Wong have managed to stand up pretty well to the challenges which includes interpreting China's public statements. This is my all-time favourite, uttered amid rumours that China was about to lift its ban on Australian coal: "We hope Australia will seize the opportunities, take concrete actions, shape up a right perception of China, work with China in the same direction to reduce liabilities and build positive dynamics for improving bilateral relations and create enabling conditions for the sound and steady development of economic and trade ties." (Ah, those Chinese... Inscrutable as ever). Added to that just as the new Government moves in COVID launches another pandemic, killing over 40 Australians EVERY DAY and putting mounting pressure on the nation's hospitals and economy. Russia of course continues its awful campaign in the Ukraine and, just to keep Albo on his toes, the cost of living goes berserk ripping a giant hole in the average family's budget. Oh yes and there's the energy crisis threatening all of labour's promises about coal and green energy. Wooooo!

I'm still battling away here, like millions of others, trying to figure out the answer to climate change and the world's energy needs. I'm not a scientist, just a researcher trying to get as many facts as I can and then just follow the dots. And the dots I have to tell you are not looking good. First of all, the basic maths which tell me Green Energy (essentially solar, wind and hydro?) are currently accounting for around 39% of our energy requirements. Somehow, science has to find another 61% from the renewables to replace coal, gas, oil, nuclear and the other "dirty" variations. The first warning I get is that, even if it were possible to make such a massive technological change, we'd still be left with the ultimate reality that you don't get any solar power if it's dark and the turbines don't turn if the wind goes missing for a day or two. Reality check number two is that because Green Power is unreliable, i.e. dependant on the elements, we need to make huge investments in battery storage (which may in itself be a long-term environmental hazard). The scientists I listen to are wondering how we can possibly manufacture enough batteries to meet this commitment and how much is it going to cost? The figures I'm getting are truly astronomical. Now things are even murkier today with the withdrawal of large amounts of oil and gas from the Russian suppliers (thanks Vladimir for invading Ukraine... Excellent timing) but we're already seeing major European Nations like Germany, who are supposed to be coal-free by the end of this decade, putting these coal-fired power stations back into service. No nation is going to let its population freeze to death on principle. The other reality check seems to be even more troubling. Everything we're talking about here is based on CURRENT DEMAND. Trust me, you can forget current demand. Start thinking about the dramatic increase in demand over the next 20 years. Remember, most of the rich nations are removing petrol-driven cars, replacing them with electric systems. More batteries to be re-charged... More electricity needed. Do you think the demands on computers, phones, air conditioners, TVs and all the other stuff will slow down? What happens when electronics go berserk across Africa, Asia, India and South America? I just keep asking the same question... Can we come up with enough green energy to meet not only the current levels but the amount which the world will be demanding in 2042?

"I feel an Australian sound within me. It's the smells and what it feels like to be out in the bush, the crumpling of the leaves under your feet and the light as you fly over Sydney Harbour. There's something special about that, which you can hear and feel... It's still very much inside of me."

(Leah Curtis is an Australian composer, operating out of Los Angeles, quoted from an interview in The Weekend Australian Review, 11 June 2022)

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This is the history of radio newsman Frank Avis who worked in the Australian electronic media from 1954 to 1996.


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