Richard John Sinclair Laws, better known as John Laws or Lawsy, CBE (born 8 August 1935) is a former prominent and controversial radio presenter in Australia. From the 1970s until his retirement on 30 November 2007 Laws hosted a hugely successful morning radio program, which mixed music with interviews, opinion, live advertising readings and listener talkback. His distinctive voice earned him the nickname the Golden Tonsils.
Laws' radio show was syndicated throughout Australia for many years and was consistently one of the most popular and influential programs in the Australian media. Laws is also a familiar voice for generations of Australians through his large and varied body of work as a voice-over artist for commercials, and as a celebrity endorser of commercial products, notably Valvoline motor oil, with his popular catchphrase "Valvoline, you know what I mean" and Oral-B toothbrushes (the slogan "Oral-B, the toothbrush more dentists use.")
Laws has been on Australian talk radio longer than any other broadcaster and as a result of his popularity, for many years he has been cited as Australia's highest-paid radio personality. Although he commented regularly on topical news, Laws did not consider himself a journalist, saying he considered himself foremost to be an entertainer and salesman. Laws had become one of the most influential media personalities in Australia over the last three decades, and one of the few commercial radio personalities whose interviews with state and federal political leaders are considered to have a significant influence of the course of politics in New South Wales especially, and Australia in general.
Born in Wau, Papua New Guinea, Laws was educated at Knox Grammar School and Mosman Preparatory School in Sydney, Australia. He began his radio career in 1953 at 3BO in Bendigo before working at several rural radio stations prior to joining 2UE in 1957, the first of four terms at that Sydney radio station, during which time Laws, (along with Bob Rogers, Tony Withers and Stan Rofe) became prominent as one of the first Australian disc jockeys to play rock'n'roll music. Laws is said to have pioneered the practice (soon taken up by Rofe) of using contacts in the airline industry to supply him with the latest pop releases from overseas, a facility which gave him an edge at a time when many pop records were not released in Australia until weeks or even months after being issued overseas.
According to Laws, he spent quite a lot of time in central western Queensland working as a rouseabout, and a fencer. He said that it was during this period that he used to see road trains go by, and this was the origin of his love of trucks and truckers. Presumably, his stint as a rouseabout and fencer was prior to 1953, and occurred between his leaving school (in 1952 at 17??)and his 18th birthday. It should be noted that there were no road trains on western Queensland roads in or prior to 1953.
Laws left 2UE two years later, and moved for a time to the Hunter Valley, where he ran a farm. In 1962 he moved back to Sydney where he joined 2GB. Two years later he rejoined 2UE and remained with the station for five years. In 1969 he joined 2UW's line-up and remained there for 10 years. He returned to 2UE in 1979, this time for another five years. He then moved to 2GB after a highly publicised bid for his services, but returned to the 2UE fold when the station was number eight in the ratings. The return of Laws was the primary cause of the station then being number one in Sydney for many years. However, his appeal began to wane. In 2002, station colleague and archrival Alan Jones moved from 2UE to 2GB, and soon took that station to the top talk position in Sydney.
Laws' radio program is presently syndicated nationwide, with it especially popular in rural areas. Capital city stations taking Laws include 4 BC in Brisbane, 2CC in Canberra, 101.7 HOFM in Hobart and Mix 1049 in Darwin.
From 1998-2000, John Laws had a short-lived current affairs TV program called "Laws" on Fox News and fX, which he reportedly quit despite being begged not to. In 1998, he had a program called John Laws - In One Lifetime on Network Ten (this was parodied for a title of the skit "John Laws: In One Bucket" on the Martin/Molloy's 1998 comedy album Eat Your Peas.
Laws also has recorded numerous albums (mostly of Australian country music), and has written several best selling books.
In 2007, Laws began treatment for his manic depression.
After 55 years on air Laws announced that he would retire from radio on 25 June 2007. He was trumped though by other media agencies who broke the story at 9am. Laws made the announcement at about 9:10 a.m., saying that he had planned to make the announcement at about 9:45 a.m.
Laws' last broadcast was on 30 November, one week after the 2007 federal election. He left the 2UE building in Sydney in his distinctive Rolls Royce Phantom surrounded by hordes of cameramen after signing off with his usual quote, 'you be kind to each other.'
In 1999, Laws became a central figure in what has become known as the 'cash for comment' scandal. During the year, the ABC TV current affairs program Media Watch revealed that Laws and rival talk-back host Alan Jones (then also at 2UE) had been paid to give favourable comment to companies including Qantas, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac, Telstra and major Australian banks, without disclosing this arrangement to listeners. Media Watch also revealed that Laws had evidently pursued a policy of making repeated unfavourable comments, most notably about the state of the Australian banking industry, but that Laws' stance had dramatically reversed after the signing of secret agreements with businesses which he had previously criticised. The Australian Broadcasting Authority estimated the value of these arrangements at $18 million and found Laws, Jones, and 2UE to have committed 90 breaches of the industry code and five breaches of 2UE's license conditions.
In 2004, both Jones (now at 2GB) and Laws were accused of cash for comment again, after entering into similar deals with Telstra. The ABA subsequently found that Laws' deal constituted cash for comment but Jones' did not.
Laws, apparently angered by what he saw as inequitable treatment, launched stinging attacks on Jones and the ABA's head, David Flint. In an appearance on the ABC's Enough Rope, Laws accused Jones of placing pressure on Prime Minister John Howard to keep Flint as head of the ABA, made comments that many viewers took to imply a sexual relationship between Jones and Flint, and broadly hinted that Jones and Flint were homosexual.
In November 2004, Laws and 2UE colleague Steve Price were found guilty of vilifying homosexuals after an on-air discussion about a gay couple appearing in the reality TV show The Block. They described the gay couple as "grubby" and "poofs".
In August 2007 Laws was again embroiled in controversy after suggesting on-air that "Chinese drivers are probably the worst drivers on the face of the earth." Despite such comments, he denied that he was a racist.
Several community radio stations in regional areas began re-broadcasting the John Laws show circa 2000. Whilst not directly targeting John Laws, this focussed the attention of the ABA onto these stations, for potentially breaching the BSA, and Codes of Practice. Several ABA investigations were held, many finding breaches by the community stations.
In October 2007, West Coast Eagles player Adam Selwood commenced legal proceedings against Laws over comments made about him regarding a mid-year incident involving Fremantle Dockers player Des Headland.
In December 2007, during a long alcohol-fuelled lunch at Sydney's Otto Ristorante to farewell his former Personal Assistant, he was informed of the presence of rival broadcasters Derryn Hinch and Bob Rogers at another restaurant nearby. Laws went over to their table and immediately began to spout forth a tirade of invective calling them 'the two most despicable c****s' he'd ever met in the industry. Hinch and Laws traded insults with Laws insisting Hinch was a 'hypocrite' and a 'failed alcoholic'. Hinch replied that that must mean Laws was a 'successful one' and that if Laws wasn't in fact an alcoholic then he was a 'bloody good actor'. Eventually 2UE colleague Mike Carlton convince Laws to return to his table at Otto and Hinch and Rogers were left to laugh off the altercation.
In 1996 a portrait of John Laws by artist Paul Newton won the Packing Room award at the Archibald Prize. It now hangs in his production office at 2UE.
He has been immortalised as the topic of a song by popular Australian singer Kevin 'Bloody' Wilson called 'Hello John'.
On July 17, 2007 the gold-plated microphone was stolen. The Sennheiser was presented to him by his radio station 2UE management in 2003 to commemorate his 50 years on the air and is said to be worth $10,000. "I'm very upset about it - it's been a part of my life" he told the Daily Telegraph.
Laws has been using another golden microphone presented to him for his 40th anniversary and has promised charges will not be laid if the missing mic is returned.