We made it half-way through the year

Frank Avis by | July 23, 2023 | 2020s

Well, we made it halfway through the year and that can't be a bad thing, a month here and a month there, during which there's been "much binding in the marsh". Allow a bit of artistic latitude for your reporter here for a reference in tribute to one of the gems from the golden age of radio, "Much Binding in the Marsh", which ran on the BBC (and here on ABC) from 1944 to 1954, starring Richard Murdoch and Kenneth Horne. Very British, totally pukka and adored by devotees. The stars – both RAF officers during WW2 – came up with the oblique title based on a local air force base, Moreton-in-Marsh, and a piece of aircrew slang, "binding", roughly translated as "continuous grumbling and whinging". The signature tune has remained with me forever. See if you can track it down somewhere and maybe you'll even be able to join the cast in a final singalong.

Obviously, there were some bad times in the 40s and 50s but there were some deliciously good times as well. As my mind meanders back to those post-war years it's inevitable that it would land sooner or later on "The Goon Show", one of the most beloved programmes in the history of radio. The Goons ran on the BBC, and here on ABC, from 1951 to 1960. It's basically so difficult to describe the show as it ranged from the absurd and ludicrous all the way down to innocent and just plain juvenile. All I know is you'd only have to toss in lines like, "You can't get the wood you know" or "He's fallen in the water" to face the possibility that I'd fall over in the middle of the street laughing hysterically. I know, you had to be there. Those wonderful Goons – Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe – gave us some of the most celebrated characters of the era... Neddie Seegoon, Eccles, Bluebottle and Little Jim. Their famous ballad "The Ying Tong Song" even hit number three in the UK pop charts of 1956. As I recall, "The Goon Show" was on the ABC on Sunday nights and if I couldn't get access to the main radio on the mantelpiece I'd race into my cousin Don's room and he'd manage to pick it up, scratching around on his crystal set (this is not a computer error... We actually had crystal sets).

On to events more recent, 2GB has asserted itself again in the winter of '23, winning overall with 14%, ahead of KIIS, which lost a little ground, down to 12. Ben Fordham jumped three points to put him back ahead of Kyle and Jackie O in Breakfast. Don't get too concerned about KIIS, however, as it remains a strong number two overall and top of the pile in FM breakfast. You make a lot of loot with those FM credentials. The superstar of the latest survey is Ray Hadley, who has been on top in mornings pretty much since the arrival of Captain Cook. Hads has now smashed all the old records with his 150th consecutive number-one rating. He's also put his $2m unit in the Spinnaker complex at Main Beach on the Gold Coast up for sale, preparing the way to look at something a bit grander on the Gold Coast should he decide to retire at the end of his contract in 2026 (?).

Ray Hadley

I've tried to stay away from the great debate over "The Voice", fearing I could be descending into a bottomless rabbit hole of political correctness. Plus many of my colleagues have been warning that legislation that allows particular ethnic or racial groups special access to Federal Parliament is not going to survive a High Court challenge anyway. I'm not predicting what will happen there but I can tell you this legislation would have come as a massive shock to our first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton. One of the pioneers of Australia's nationhood, Barton made a major speech in Sydney in 1901 laying down the fundamentals of this new democracy down in the South Pacific. "As one people in one country," he told the crowd, "and feeling our oneness to act as one. We are to defend ourselves as one." Ah, farewell our "oneness", farewell... Hello to "twoness".

A critical economic test case is being played out across Australia through 2023-24 but this is not a laboratory experiment for elite economists. The bottom line will be vital for all of us for the next decade. I'm not an economist but I've got enough native cunning to have picked up the odd thing or two in my career and one central tenet just keeps ringing in my ear, as enunciated by countless "experts"... ONE THING YOU NEVER DO WHEN FACED WITH INFLATION IS START HANDING OUT PAYRISES. I feel so sorry for the incoming Labor governments, federally and in NSW because they had no option other than to make significant campaign wage promises to their union supporters. This is not the odd handout to workers here and there: this is widespread, across the community, involving millions of recipients... Nurses and other emergency workers, teachers, minimum-wage employees and aged care staff. In fact, watch the latter category for the next 18 months or so, as a key indicator. The Aged-care sector is undergoing a massive restructuring with more staff, including registered nurses and higher pay. They say you never try to "chase inflation's tail" with wage increases. We are about to prove this one way or the other.

All over the world thousands of people – scientists, researchers, politicians and journalists – are trying to answer one of the great intangibles of our move away from coal, oil and gas to "green energy". The problem in this monumental transition is whether the cure could turn out to be worse than the original disease: will we just end up doing even more harm? John Emont has been writing widely on this conundrum in the Wall Street Journal covering what he calls, "the Nickel pickle". The central issue is that the world needs nickel – lots and lots of it – For all the batteries we'll need, especially as we phase out petrol-powered cars and introduce electric vehicles. We will be cutting down forests from one end of the earth to the other to get to the nickel we so desperately need. Then there's the carbon-intensive process of refining, requiring extreme heat and pressure, not to mention where to dispose of all the resultant slurry waste. The WSJ says there are unconfirmed reports that Indonesia might even resort to dumping this toxic waste into the ocean. Emont warns, "Building EV vehicles carries the possibility of substantial environmental harm." That dear reader is "the Nickel pickle"... Welcome to the new world.

We are the sons of Australia,
Of the men who fashioned the land,
We are the sons of the women,
Who walked with them hand in hand.
And we swear by the dead who bore us,
By the heroes who blazed the trail,
No foe shall gather our harvest,
Or sit on our stockyard rail.

– Dame Mary Gilmore (1865-1962)

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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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