While you were away…

Peter Saxon returns from holidays to survey the damage.

Midway through last week, judging by the number of “out of office replies” we received from our daily newsletter, almost half of our readers were still on holidays.
The ship onboard which Pauline and I chose to spend two weeks circumnavigating New Zealand returned us to Circular Quay, safe and sound, last Tuesday.  Holiday over.

Others before us were not so lucky. Our cruise followed in the wake of one, less than a month earlier, that had lost 16 passengers, 10 of them Australian, on a shore excursion to a volcano. Needless to say, the were no volcano excursions offered on our cruise. 
The best part of our cruise? Our ‘frequent cruising’ status made us eligible for 500 minutes of free wifi. Imagine internet in the middle of the Tasman sea and then out in the Pacific. Well, for the most part, we could only imagine because the internet was so slow, we gave up. And that was the best part. So, imagine, if you will, how your life would be impacted by two weeks without emails, facebook, twitter and news feeds. We can tell you, it was sheer bliss. 
Sadly for us, the ship also had an excellent satellite receiver that fed news channels including Sky, ABC, BBC and CNBC onto a big, high definition screen in our cabin. We couldn’t avoid watching the destruction caused by the bushfires back home. Nor could or would we switch off the sight of our fellow Aussies losing everything they had – some, their own lives or those of loved ones – while we luxuriated on the high seas, waited on hand and foot.
I thought I’d never see the day that celebrities from rich nations around the world would give generously to Australia as they would for, say, Bangladesh. Nonetheless, it was heartening to see the money roll in from big-name entertainers and businesses. And if the human tragedy wasn’t enough to bring tears to your eyes then the plight of our wildlife, watching dehydrated koalas beg humans for water, would surely tip you over the edge. 

At these times, though, the true meaning of Aussie mateship comes to the fore. The firies all deserve medals. They were joined in their efforts by other nations including Kiwis, Canadians and three Americans who gave their lives when their plane crashed while they were flying at low altitude, dropping retardent on the flames.

Although I’ve never been ashamed of being Australian, I sometimes feel that way about some of my countrymen. There should be a special place in hell for those among us that add to people’s misery by looting whatever of value remains and those who scam people into donating funds to bushfire relief and pocket the money instead. 
It seems like every year, during our summer holiday period, the world experiences some sort of natural disaster, whether it be fires, floods, cyclones, earthquakes or tidal waves. Australia has had its fair share. Right now, Turkey is winding down its rescue operations after an earthquake that has claimed the lives of at least 36 and injured 1,600.
When these tragedies occur, across the world, whether first, developing or third, radio is the medium locals can rely on for latest information about rescue and evacuation operations in their immediate area.
Sadly, the holiday season also seems to make a disproportionate contribution to natural deaths among the public. Those who worked in radio, this year 2019/20 included 2Web’s May Watkins, Bob Hughes at 67 lost his battle with cancer, Cath Eades passed away the other week in Perth, Grant Goldman has passed away just shy of his 70th birthday.

Hopefully, 2020 will improve from its disastrous start. Lost lives can’t be restored, but buildings and infrastructure can. And while wildlife and vegetaion will eventually repopulate, effects on business and the livelihoods of those living in fire and drought affected areas looks bleak. Radio’s metro revenue was  down 6.1 per cent last quarter. Some of it attributed to the fires. But like the koalas which are rapidly losing their natural habitat and their supply of gum leaves, radio is losing revenue as retailers feel the pinch and close their doors.

Will online outlets make up the shortfall? Don’t know. But there seems to be more cruise lines advertising than ever.

Peter Saxon