SYDNEY — He is known affectionately as “Golden Tonsils” and in a career that spanned 55 years, radio announcer John Laws has become the most recognizable voice Down Under. On Monday, he announced on his morning yakker that he is retiring and his last broadcast would be in November.
Illustrating the influence he has had on the Aussie political and social landscape, Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd immediately called the station to wish Laws well.
Laws reaches over 2 million Aussies daily on more than 70 networked stations.
The 71-year-old said there was no single reason for stepping away from the mic, other that it was time. “I will miss it,” he said.
Laws began as a station hand in 1953 with a regional radio station before moving to Sydney in 1956 to join 2UE, the station he would return to often in his 50-year career.
In 1974 after rising through the radio ranks he was awarded the OBE for his services to broadcasting and charity, later upgraded to a CBE in 1978.
The 1980s proved to be Laws’ most influential period and saw his pay packet swell as he became Oz’s highest-paid radio talent ever; his salary is currently estimated at over A$4 million ($3.39 million) per year.
It was during this period that politicians clamored to be on his show. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating once said, “If you can educate John Laws you can educate middle Australia.” However, Laws’ ratings in the metropolitan market have slipped in recent years, and in Sydney he is beaten by Ray Hadley, who was once his stand-in.
Laws was a larger-than-life personality who also turned his hand to poetry and spoken word albums such as “You’ve Never Been Trucked Like This Before” and due to the fragmentation of the media landscape Oz it is unlikely we will see another broadcaster of Laws’ stature.
This point was cruelly illustrated by the stock market’s reaction to Laws departure, which saw parent company Southern Cross’ shares rise on the announcement — reflecting the cost savings of the one-time star’s multimillion-dollar salary.