Phillip Adams

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Phillip Andrew Hedley Adams

Phillip Adams speaking at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention
Born(1939-07-12) 12 July 1939 (age 73)
Maryborough, Australia
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Phillip Andrew Hedley Adams

Phillip Adams speaking at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention
Born(1939-07-12) 12 July 1939 (age 73)
Maryborough, Australia

Phillip Andrew Hedley Adams, AO (born 12 July 1939) is an Australian farmer, broadcaster and public intellectual. He currently hosts an ABC radio program, Late Night Live, four nights a week, and writes a weekly column for The Australian.

He has been a successful advertising executive and film producer, and has served on many boards including Greenpeace Australia, Ausflag, Care Australia, Film Victoria, Museum Australia, both the Adelaide and Brisbane festivals of ideas, the Montsalvat Arts Society and the Don Dunstan Foundation.

Awards include four honorary doctorates from Australian universities; two Orders of Australia; Republican of the Year 2005; the Senior ANZAC Fellowship; the Australian Humanist of the Year, the Golden Lion at Cannes; the Longford Award; and the Henry Lawson Australian Arts Award. In 1997 the International Astronomical Union named a minor planet orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter after him. A National Trust poll elected him one of Australia's 100 national living treasures.[1]


Early years

Adams was born in Maryborough, Victoria, the only child of Congregational Church minister the Reverend Charles Adams.

His parents separated when he was young. He has written:

"Mother dumped [his father] in favour of a rather sleazy businessman ... a sociopath who tried to murder me ... I spent my latter part of my childhood trying to protect my mother from this psycho."[2]

Of his education he has said: "I was forced to leave school before completing my secondary education and the only job I could get was working in advertising."[3]

Adams joined the Communist Party at age 16, whilst employed in advertising, but left at age 19. He has often compared dogmatic belief in communism to dogmatic belief in Roman Catholicism.


Adams began his advertising career with Foote Cone & Belding and later with Brian Monahan and Lyle Dayman became a partner in the agency Monahan Dayman Adams. They took that company to a successful public listing and Adams became a millionaire in the process. He developed such successful campaigns as "Life – Be In It",[4] "Slip, Slop, Slap",[5] "Break down the Barriers", "Guess whose mum's got a Whirlpool" and "watch the big men fly for a Herbert Adams Pie", working with such talents as Fred Schepisi, Alex Stitt, Peter Best, Robin Archer and Mimmo Cozzolino. He left the advertising industry in the 1980s. Monahan Dayman Adams purchased the successful Sydney agency MoJo in 1987 and carried on as MojoMDA. Its lineage can today be traced to Publicis Mojo, an Australian subsidiary of the French multinational advertising and communications company holding Publicis Groupe.

He wrote regular columns for The Age and The Bulletin. He currently writes twice weekly for The Australian.



In the late 1980s and early 1990s Adams presented a late-night program on Sydney commercial radio station 2UE.

Late Night Live

Adams took over Late Night Live[6] on Radio National from Virginia Bell. Late Night Live is broadcast across Australia on ABC Radio National as well as on Radio Australia and the Internet.

A serious discussion of world issues, the program is tempered with Adams' gentle and ironic humour.[7]

Regular contributors include Bruce Shapiro and Beatrix Campbell. At times, Adams refers tongue-in-cheek to his listeners as "the listener" or "Gladys", as though he had only one listener; he also refers to listeners collectively as "Gladdies". Recently, Adams has begun introducing the show saying "Good evening Gladdies and Poddies", in reference to the show's growing podcast listener base.

In 2010 a new theme was picked, Wild Swans Concert Suite by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Jane Sheldon soprano, composer: Elena Kats-Chernin; publishing/copyright: ABC Classics.

From 2007 to 2010, the theme music was Elena Kats-Chernin's Russian Rag, which Adams humorously refers to as "The Waltz of the Wombat".

The previous music was Bach's concerto for oboe, violin and orchestra in C Minor, BWV 1060: III. Allegro.


Adams has been criticised as being an example of left-wing bias in the ABC. The call to give equivalent broadcast time on the ABC to a "right wing Phillip Adams" began with John Hewson in 1993. In July 1996 Prime Minister John Howard said in an interview with journalist Peter Cole-Adams: "I think one of the weaknesses of the ABC is that it doesn't have a right-wing Phillip Adams. I think that would be a good idea. It would make a lot of people feel things were better".[8]

Former ABC managing director Jonathan Shier is reported as saying:[9]

Shier: It is hard – it has been hard – when I've asked the people in charge of editorial to give me the example of the right-wing Phillip Adams.
Adams: Well, it was echoing a repeated statement of John Howard's.

Former ABC board member Michael Kroger asked (15 May 2002) "why ... is it not possible 'for someone to hold down a presenter's position who is clearly on the other side of Australian politics?'"[10]

Adams responded with a "Public Forum" program on 9 May 2001, asking "Where is the right-wing Phillip Adams?"[11]

In July 2002 Imre Salusinszky wrote a satirical piece for Quadrant, "My Life as Phillip Adams: A Memoir".[12]

Film work

Adams played a key role in the revival of the Australian film industry during the 1970s.[13] He was the author of a 1969 report[14] which led to legislation by Prime Minister John Gorton in 1970 for an Australian Film and Television Development Corporation (later the Australian Film Commission) and the Experimental Film Fund.

Together with Barry Jones, Adams was a motivating force behind the Australian Film Television and Radio School which was established under the Whitlam government.

Adams played a key role in the South Australian Film Corporation,[15] which was created in 1972 and became a model for similar bodies in other Australian states, and in the establishment of the Australia Council and the Australian Film Development Corporation, later known as the Australian Film Commission.

As head of delegation to the Cannes Film Festival, he signed Australia's first co-production agreements with France and the UK. He was Chairman of the Australian Film Institute, the Film and Television Board of the Australia Council, the Australian Film Commission, and Film Australia. He helped establish the Australian Caption Service, which provides services for hearing impaired television viewers – and the Travelling Film Festival to take quality films into rural areas.

In the 1960s Adams wrote, produced and directed (as well as serving as cinematographer for) his first feature film "Jack And Jill: A Postscript" (1969); the first feature to win the Australian Film Institute Award, and the first Australian film to win the Grand Prix at an international festival.

Adams produced or co-produced other features including the critically panned but hugely popular film adaptation of Barry Humphries' The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, directed by Bruce Beresford, which became the most successful Australian film ever made up to that time. Other films include "The Naked Bunyip", "Don's Party", " The Getting Of Wisdom", "Lonely Hearts", "We Of The Never Never", "Grendel Grendel Grendel", "Fighting Back" and "Hearts and Minds".

Other work

Adams chaired the Commission for the Future, established by the Hawke Government to build bridges between science and the community. In 1988 the Commission won a major United Nations award for educating Australia on the issue of greenhouse and climate change.

He chaired the National Australia Day Council. Its principal task was to choose the Australian of the Year. He also chairs the Advisory Board for the Centre of the Mind at the University of Sydney and the Australia National University in Canberra, and has been a board member of Greenpeace, CARE Australia, the National Museum of Australia, The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and Brisbane's Ideas Festival. He was co-founder of the Australian Skeptics.[16]

Adams is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including The Unspeakable Adams, Adams Versus God, The Penguin Book of Australian Jokes, Retreat from Tolerance, Talkback and A Billion Voices, Adams Ark (published in 2004) and (with Lee Burton) "Emperors of the Air" (Allen & Unwin).

Robert Manne has described Adams as "the emblematic figurehead of the pro-Labor left intelligentsia".[17] Adams had a close relationship with every Labor leader from Gough Whitlam to Kevin Rudd, advising on public relations, advertising and policy issues. However, on 19 July 2006 he was reported as saying of the Labor Party:

"They hate me," he says. "I think Kim Beazley is a serious error. I think the party's been going downhill federally ever since Keating left ... The Labor Party's hardly worth feeding federally."[18] In 2010 Adams resigned from the ALP after the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, lost the prime ministership at the Australian Labor Party leadership election.[19]

Adams' life and extracurricular activities have made him a source of interest to fans and foes of all persuasions for many years. Australia's security intelligence organisation kept an extensive ASIO File on Adams. The file began at about the time he turned 16 years of age.[20]

Personal life

Adams is married to Patrice Newell. He has four daughters: three with his first wife and one with Newell.

He lives on Elmswood, a cattle property near Gundy in the Hunter Valley in mid-northern New South Wales. He has a home in Paddington, an inner suburb of Sydney. Adams is a collector of rare antiques, including Egyptian, Roman and Greek sculptures and artifacts.

He has written "I'd been an atheist since I was five."[21]

In 1979 a portrait of Adams by artist Wes Walters won the Archibald Prize.

Stoneleigh, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, formerly Adams's home

Honours and awards


With his partner Patrice Newell, he is the author of several joke books:





  1. ^ "Phillip Adams". The Australian. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Broadcaster Phillip Adams
  3. ^ Phillip Adams
  4. ^ 2003/81/3 Animation cel, original artwork, featuring 'Norm' from the 'Life. Be in it' campaigns, acetate / paper / cardboard, drawn by Alexander Stitt, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia, 1993–1994 – Powerhouse Museum Collection
  5. ^ Campaigns and advertising – SunSmart (Victoria)
  6. ^ ABC Radio National – Late Night Live – Home Page
  7. ^ Philip Luker (20 April 2011). Phillip Adams: The Ideas Man - A Life Revealed. JoJo Publishing. p. 206. ISBN 978-0-9870734-6-4. 
  8. ^ "ABC staff are directing the culture wars". The Sydney Morning Herald. 22 June 2004. 
  9. ^ Dimensions Media – Transcripts
  10. ^ Quadrant Magazine
  11. ^ Gerard Henderson's Speeches, Essays and Correspondence | The Sydney Institute
  12. ^ My Life as Phillip Adams: A Memoir – Imre Salusinszky – Quadrant Magazine
  13. ^ . Melbourne. [dead link]
  14. ^ Australian Horror Films: Appendix
  15. ^ SAFC
  16. ^ Speaker Profile of Phillip Adams at The Celebrity Speakers Bureau
  17. ^ "Labor must confront its identity crisis". The Age (Melbourne). 18 October 2004. 
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ [Why I quit the Labor Party]
  20. ^ "Weekend Australian Magazine" Phillip Adams 16 Jul 2005.
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ It's an Honour – Member of the Order of Australia
  23. ^ It's an Honour – Officer of the Order of Australia

External links