John Laws

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John Laws
Laws interviewing Paul Keating in 1992
Richard John Sinclair Laws

(1935-08-08) 8 August 1935 (age 88)
  • Radio presenter
  • announcer
  • television host
  • recording artist
  • voice-over artist
  • poet
  • author
  • racing driver
Years active1957–2007, 2011–present
Employer(s)2UE (1957–1959, 1964–1969, 1979–1985, 1988–2007)
2GB (1962–1964, 1985–1988)
2UW (1969–1979)
Network Ten (1998)
Foxtel (1998–2000)
2SM (2011–present)
Spouse(s)Sonia Zlotkowski (1957–1964)
Yvonne Helstrom-Roux (1965–1974)
Caroline Laws (1976–2020) (deceased)

Brett Laws Luke Laws Joshua Laws Sarah Laws

Sam Laws

Richard John Sinclair Laws CBE (born 8 August 1935) is an Australian radio announcer.[1] For 50 years, until 2007, he was the host of an Australian morning radio program combining music with interviews, opinion, live advertising readings and listener talkback. His distinctive voice earned him the nickname "the Golden Tonsils". Although officially retired between 2007 and 2011, he returned in February 2011 to host a morning program on 2SM and the Super Radio Network.


Best known as a talkback radio broadcaster, Laws is one of Australia's highest-paid radio personalities and has been involved with Australian talkback radio broadcasting much longer than any other presenter. Although regularly commentating on topical news, Laws did not regard himself a journalist but as an entertainer and salesman. He is nonetheless 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. He has also often appeared as a television show host and enjoyed a long recording career.

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.")[2][3]


Early life[edit]

Born in Wau, Papua New Guinea, to Australian parents, Laws contracted polio twice – once as a child, and again as a young man.[4] He was educated at Mosman Preparatory School and Knox Grammar School in Sydney, New South Wales.[5]

Early career[edit]

He began his radio career in 1953 at 3BO in Bendigo before working at several rural radio stations and joining 2UE in 1957, the first of four terms at that Sydney radio station, during which time he became one of the first Australian disc jockeys to play rock 'n' roll music (along with Bob Rogers, Tony Withers and Stan Rofe).[5][6] Laws pioneered the practice (soon taken up by Rofe) of using contacts in the airline industry to supply him with the latest international pop releases, giving him an edge at a time when Australian releases of many British and American pop records might be delayed for months.

Laws left 2UE in 1959, and moved to the Hunter Valley, where he ran a farm. In 1962 he moved back to Sydney, where he joined 2GB, remaining with the station for two years before he rejoined 2UE in 1964. His stint at 2UE continued until 1969, at which point he contracted to 2UW, where he was to remain for almost 10 years. He returned to 2UE in 1979, this time for another five years. He then moved to 2GB after a highly publicized bid for his services, but returned to the 2UE fold when the station was number eight in the ratings.[5] The return of Laws was the primary cause of the station becoming number one in Sydney for many years. Laws' radio program was syndicated nationwide, and was especially popular in rural areas. Capital city stations taking Laws include 4BC in Brisbane, 2CC in Canberra, 7HOFM in Hobart and Mix 104.9 in Darwin.

In 1983, Communications lecturer Glen Lewis wrote of Laws:

He sets the agenda by complaining vigorously about something, lays down the line for the day, then accepts calls which mostly reflect his own viewpoint... he mostly gets the restatement of cliched views [from callers]... Technically, he foregrounds minority group negative stereotyping in his show. Informally, he specialises in moral crusades against the unrespectable weak – the unemployed, prisoners, homosexuals, anti-nuclear demonstrators – in the name of the upright citizen and honest taxpayer.[7]


Though best known as a radio host, Laws has often worked as a television host and panelist. His early 1960s show Startime assisted in introducing mainstream Australia to Edna Everage at which time Laws claimed Everage was "a very close friend of mine".[8] Laws told columnist Valda Marshall in 1970 that he was 'not basically a TV star' and didn't 'feel altogether happy with the medium'.[9] He was a judge on Australia's New Faces in 1969 and took over as host from Noel Ferrier on the panel advice show Beauty and the Beast in 1970.[10][11][12] He also appeared on television in 1970 in an acting role in the children's drama Skippy.[13] Laws quit Beauty and the Beast in 1971; a spokesman for the station which produced the show, Channel 7, claimed Laws had asked for a higher salary.[14] In May 1971, he began hosting a daytime show called His and Hers.[15] In 1982, he hosted a revived Beauty and the Beast for Network 10. In 1998, John Laws – In One Lifetime premiered on Network Ten and LAWS on Foxtel.[16] While LAWS continued until 2000, John Laws – In One Lifetime was dropped after two episodes, although the remaining five episodes that were commissioned by Network 10 were aired later that year.[17][18]

21st century[edit]

In 2002, station colleague and arch-rival Alan Jones moved from 2UE to 2GB, and soon took that station to the top talk position in Sydney. Laws announced on 25 June 2007 that after 55 years on the air he would retire at the end of the year.[19] However, he was pre-empted by other media agencies, who broke the story at 9:00 am. Laws made the announcement at about 9:10 am, saying that he had planned to make the announcement at about 9:45 am.Laws' last broadcast was on 30 November 2007, one week after the federal election. He began as always, "Hello world, I'm John Laws" and signed off with his usual quote, " kind to each other."[20] He then left the 2UE building in Sydney in his Rolls-Royce Phantom surrounded by hordes of cameramen.[21]

In 2004 Laws and rival talk-back host Alan Jones were accused of taking payment to make favourable comments on products and services under the guise of merely expressing personal opinion, after entering into 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, and made comments that many viewers took to imply a sexual relationship between Jones and Flint,[22] and broadly hinted that Jones, like Flint, was homosexual.

On 7 May 2009 Laws made a statement on the 20th anniversary special edition of the ABC's Media Watch program, in which he exhibited no remorse for his role in the Cash-for-Comment scandal, instead implying that the whistleblower (Media Watch) was the wrongdoer and that the people involved were only jealous of his success.[23]

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 couple as "young poofs".[24] Laws had previously apologised for another incident in which he called gay TV personality Carson Kressley, of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame, a "pillow-biter" and a "pompous little pansy prig".[25]

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 Football Club player Des Headland.[26]

On 17 July 2007 Laws' 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.[27] Laws subsequently switched to another gold plated microphone; a Rode NT2-A presented to him for his 40th anniversary. He promised charges would not be laid if the Sennheiser was returned.

In December 2007, during a long lunch at Sydney's Otto Ristorante to farewell his former personal assistant, Laws was informed of the presence of rival broadcasters Derryn Hinch and Bob Rogers at another table nearby. He went over to their table and immediately spouted forth a tirade of invective, calling them 'the two most despicable cunts' he'd ever met in the industry. Hinch and Rogers 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 was not in fact an alcoholic then he was a 'bloody good actor'. Eventually 2UE colleague Mike Carlton convinced Laws to return to his table and Hinch and Rogers were left to laugh off the altercation.[28]

In August 2009, Laws revealed on Vega (now known as Smooth FM) that he missed radio and that he was interested in returning to the airwaves.[29] This was followed five months later by an announcement by Laws' manager, revealing that Laws had entered into negotiations with a number of radio stations, including 2SM.[30] Nevertheless, the suggestions that Laws would be returning from retirement in 2010 ended shortly thereafter, when 2UE management revealed that their contract with Laws precluded him from competing with their station until December 2010.[31] Laws' management confirmed in November 2010 that he would be returning to radio, following the expiry of the no-compete clause that prevented him from signing with a new network.[32]

On 19 March 2013 Laws interviewed a female listener, who described a history of sexual abuse between the ages of six and sixteen.[33] Laws proceeded to ask the woman if the abuse was in some way her fault and whether she had been provocative.[34] The following day Laws said on air that women who dressed provocatively were once viewed as "rape bait".[35]

In 2015, Laws referred to a male victim of child sexual assault as a "wet blanket" and told him to "brighten up".[36]

In March 2020, Laws addressed on air an email received from a listener which was critical of both Laws and various items of content broadcast on the show. In his response, Laws told the listener "for goodness sake, say something constructive, like you're going to kill yourself." The incident was later investigated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, who in March 2021 released a report finding Laws had breached two provisions of the Commercial Radio Code of Practice in broadcasting this statement. It also found 2HD (licensee of 2SM) had breached a provision of the same code relating to complaints handling.[37]

He currently presents the John Laws Morning Show on 2SM and the Super Radio Network.[38]

Cultural influence[edit]

In 1996 a portrait of John Laws by artist Paul Newton won the Packing Room award at the Archibald Prize. The portrait was hung in Laws' production office at 2UE.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating called him the "broadcaster of the century" at Laws 40th anniversary dinner.[39] At the ARIA Music Awards of 2008 he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.[40][41]

He is mentioned in the song "Who Can Stand in the Way?" by Australian group Midnight Oil on their album Red Sails in the Sunset[42] and the song "This Train Will be Taking No Passengers" from Augie March's second album Strange Bird.[43] and the song Crooks and Crimescenes by Inner-west Sydney rap group Spit Syndicate.[44]

Poetry and non-fiction[edit]

Laws has authored numerous books, many of them poetry collections. He claimed in 1970 that he had been reading Rod McKuen's poems on air but at one point, realising he had left his copy of McKuen's book at home, he instead read a poem of his own and "it seemed to go over pretty well." The working title for his first book was Poems that Came to Me in the Night When No-one Else Would.[9] His Book of Irreverent Logic and his Book of Uncommon Sense were republished together in 1996 as A John Laws Limited Edition. His most recent work is a memoir.[45] His books include:

  • In love is an expensive place to die : poems (Paul Hamlyn, 1971)
  • Results of Love (Hamlyn, 1972)
  • Calendar Collection (Summit, 1978)
  • Just You and Me Together, Love: Poems (Hamlyn, 1978)
  • Somewhere Remembering (Angus and Robertson, 1984)
  • John Laws' Book of Irreverent Logic (Pan Australia, 1994)
  • John Laws' Book of Uncommon Sense (Pan Macmillan, 1995)
  • John Laws' Barbecue Cook Book (Pan Macmillan, 1996)
  • It Doesn't End There: Great Australian Stories With a Twist (with Christopher Stewart) (Pan Macmillan, 2006)
  • There's Always More to the Story (with Christopher Stewart) (Pan Macmillan, 2006)
  • Lawsie : well ... you wanted to know (New Holland, 2017)





Laws recorded nine singles between 1959 and 1962, including many songs he wrote himself.[46] He recorded eight solo albums in the 1970s. His first three LPs and the seventh, You've Never Been Trucked Like This Before, are primarily covers of country and middle of the road hits; the fourth, The Mind and the Music, was made up of original Laws songs.[47] In Love is an Expensive Place to Die is an album of Laws' poetry set to music. You Must Remember This is a collection of standards from the forties with one song co-written by Laws.

Additionally, Laws appears recorded as part of the cast of Side By Side By Sondheim (RCA Red Seal, 1977) and reading his poems to accompaniment by the Henry Mancini Orchestra on an album entitled Just You and Me Together, Love (RCA, 1977). A Tribute to the ANZACS (Southland, 2000) is a 'musical documentary' narrated by Laws.[48]

Studio albums[edit]

List of albums, with Australian chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart
Rollin' Free
  • Released: 1971
  • Format: LP
  • Label: His Master's Voice (SOELP-9765)
Motivatin' Man
  • Released: 1971
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Victor (SL-101975)
Rocks in M' Pocket and Dirt in M' Shoes
  • Released: August 1972
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Victor (SP-114-G)
The Mind and the Music
  • Released: 1973
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Victor (SP-125-G)
Let Him Roll
  • Released: 1975
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Victor (SP-154-G)
You've Never Been Trucked Like This Before
  • Released: July 1976
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Victor (VPL1-0121)
In Love Is an Expensive Place to Die
  • Released: 1976
  • Format: LP
  • Label: Ultimat (ULP-2002)
You Must Remember This
  • Released: August 1977
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Victor (VPL1-0147)
Just You and Me Together Love
(with Henry Mancini)
  • Released: 1977
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA (PL 12362)
A Tribute to the ANZACS
  • Released: 2000
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Southland Music Distribution (SLM736CD)

Compilation albums[edit]

List of albums, with Australian chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart
John Laws
  • Released: 1973
  • Format: LP
  • Label: RCA Australia (VCL1-0029)
For No Reason at All
  • Released: June 1981
  • Format: LP
  • Label: J&B Records (JB074)

Charting singles[edit]

List of singles, with Australian chart positions
Year Title Peak chart
1972 "No Name"/"Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast" 37
1975 "And Yet and Yet" 99


Australian Record Awards[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1975[50] Let Him Roll Country Music Album of the Year Won

Mo Awards[edit]

The Australian Entertainment Mo Awards (commonly known informally as the Mo Awards), were annual Australian entertainment industry awards. They recognise achievements in live entertainment in Australia from 1975 to 2016.[51]

Year Nominee / work Award Result (wins only)
1998 John Laws John Campbell Fellowship Award Won


  1. ^ a b Valda Marshall, "John the Beast is a Poet at Heart" Sydney Sun-Herald 30 August 1970 p. 114.
  2. ^ Plaskitt, Sarah (28 November 2003). "Dentist Rob us back in style for Oral-B". Reed Business Information. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  3. ^ "Deals damage credibility". The Sunday Telegraph. 11 January 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2009.
  4. ^ "Memories of polio and those who wrestled with it". The Sydney Morning Herald. 7 December 2004.
  5. ^ a b c Fife-Yeomans, Janet (26 June 2007). "Voice of the people signs off". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  6. ^ Elder, Bruce (5 July 2004). "Never mind the bollocks: here's the '50s". Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, New South Wales. p. 12.
  7. ^ Glen Lewis Real Men Like Violence: Australian Men, Media and Violence Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst 1983 p. 31
  8. ^ Ann Pender, "Friday essay: Barry Humphries' humour is now history – that's the fate of topical, satirical comedy" The Conversation
  9. ^ a b Valda Marshall, "John the Beast is a Poet at Heart" Sydney Sun-Herald 30 August 1970 p. 114
  10. ^ "Liv Launched" Melbourne Age 12 March 1970 p. 38
  11. ^ John Pinkney, "Fred stands in for Freud", Melbourne Age 28 May 1970 p. 2
  12. ^ Melbourne Age TV-Radio supplement, 5 February 1970 p. 10
  13. ^ Melbourne Age TV-Radio supplement, 19 November 1970 p. 11
  14. ^ "Laws quits as TV host", Sydney Morning Herald 14 January 1971, p. 6
  15. ^ Valda Marshall, "It's a Happening World" Sydney Sun-Herald 11 April 1971 p. 82
  16. ^ Steele, S (5 April 1998). "Defying all the laws of reason?". The Sunday Mail. p. 4.
  17. ^ "Flick for Big John". The Sunday Mail. 15 March 1998. p. 26.
  18. ^ Melloy, N (27 June 1998). "Weekend TV". The Courier-Mail. p. 44.
  19. ^ Cameron, Deborah (26 June 2007). "It's goodbye world from the Golden Tonsils". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  20. ^ Ramachandran, Arjun (30 November 2007). "John Laws starts final broadcast". The Age. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  21. ^ Connolly, Helen (1 December 2007). "John Laws calls it a day". Herald Sun. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  22. ^ Denton, Andrew (3 May 2004). "John Laws interview transcript". Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  23. ^ "Media Watch 20th Anniversary". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 7 May 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  24. ^ "Understanding vilification laws – Equal Time, November 2004". NSW Government. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  25. ^ Hornery, Andrew; Malkin, Bonnie (4 November 2004). "Laws lets loose". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  26. ^ Epstein, Jackie (21 October 2007). "Adam Selwood launches legal action". Herald Sun.
  27. ^ "John Laws's golden microphone stolen". Nine News. ninemsn Pty Ltd. 17 July 2007. Archived from the original on 20 August 2007.
  28. ^ Connolly, Fiona (6 December 2007). "John Laws attacks Derryn Hinch at Sydney restaurant". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  29. ^ "John Laws: I'd like to return to radio (and Kyle's annoying and stupid)". mUmBRELLA. Focal Attractions. 6 August 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  30. ^ "John Laws tipped to be back on air by next month". The Sunday Telegraph. 3 January 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  31. ^ "No radio encore for John Laws just yet". The Daily Telegraph. London. 12 January 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
  32. ^ Washbrook, Cyril (12 November 2010). "John Laws returning to radio". The Spy Report. Media Spy. Archived from the original on 18 November 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  33. ^ Sharp, Annette (21 March 2013). "John Laws asks victim on-air whether sexual assault was her own fault". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  34. ^ Hoh, Amanda (21 March 2013). "Laws stands by interview of sex abuse victim". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  35. ^ Hoh, Amanda (21 March 2013). "Laws stands by interview of sex abuse victim". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  36. ^ "John Laws calls male abuse victim a "wet blanket" as caller cries live on air". 20 March 2015.
  37. ^ Moran, Robert (5 March 2021). "John Laws found to breach radio code with 'dangerous' suicide insult". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  38. ^ Dick, Tim (31 January 2011). "Golden tonsils returns". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  39. ^ Hornery, Andrew (9 August 2005). "The call of Laws unto himself". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  40. ^ "Winners by Year: 2008". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Archived from the original on 13 August 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  41. ^ "Winners by Award – Lifetime Achievement Awards". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  42. ^ "Midnight Oil Lyrics – Who Can Stand in the Way". LyricsFreak. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  43. ^ "This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers Lyrics – Augie March". Genius. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  44. ^ Spit Syndicate – Crooks And Crimescenes, retrieved 7 December 2023
  45. ^ Day, Mark (26 June 2007). "Dream's (almost) over". The Australian. p. 11.
  46. ^ "John Laws (3)". Discogs.
  47. ^ "John Laws – the Mind and the Music (1973, Vinyl)". Discogs. 1973.
  48. ^ "John Laws – A Tribute to the ANZACS (2000, CD)". Discogs. 2000.
  49. ^ a b c Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 173. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  50. ^ "Australian Record Awards Announced" (PDF). Billboard. 29 November 1975. p. 58. Retrieved 13 March 2024 – via World Radio History.
  51. ^ "MO Award Winners". Mo Awards. Retrieved 16 March 2022.

External links[edit]