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The Survivors. Where are they now? Page one
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The survivors - Page one

Have you ever wondered what has happened to all those Australian owned radio manufacturers who made their products here at home instead of importing them? Here is the 'tale of the tape'. Here is a list of those companies that still exist and what their current business activities are. Companies are listed in alphabetical order using their full name rather than the abbreviation, if any, and do not include the terms Proprietory Limited or Limited in the name.

Airzone

Airzone began life as a maker of crystal radios in 1925 in Dalley Street, Sydney, New South Wales. In 1926 development lead to their first valve radio, a four valve 'portable' which sold 10,000. I use the word portable in inverted commas because a portable radio in the 1920's was a hefty beast due to the non-existance of miniaturisation or small batteries. After tariff protection was introduced by the Commonwealth Government in 1930, Airzone, along with most radio manufacturers boosted production to allow for the falling numbers of imports, mainly from the United States of America. Airzone shifted to new premises in the inner Sydney suburb of Camperdown to allow for greater production output in 1931 and floated the company on the Sydney Stock Exchange in the same year becoming known as Airzone Limited.

Airzone began making receivers for other manufacturers from 1937 onwards and Mullard, Peal, Malvern Star and Philco, an American brand. In 1946 the Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company (EMMCO) bought Airzone and continued to make receivers under the Airzone name until the production of valve radios started to wind back in favour of transistorised sets in the 1950's. EMMCO was a division of the giant Electricity Meter and Allied Industries Limited (EMAIL Limited) Company. EMAIL was privatised when it was taken over by Southcorp, a company better known as a leading wine producer and subject to a current takeover bid by Foster's Brewing. EMAIL's divisions continued to perform poorly and were split up and sold off. Airwell, an Israeli company, purchased Emailair which catered for the air conditioning market, the appliance division was dissolved into Electrolux, a Swedish company who already had a significant Australian manufacturing presence and the Westinghouse power control business was sold to Cutler Hammer, an American company.

Amalgamated Wireless Australasia

Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA) was the largest and most comprehensive manufacturer of radio receivers, valves, military equipment, transmission equipment, radio station studios, public address systems, piped music systems and telephony equipment in New South Wales and generally, the whole of Australia. If it ran on valves then AWA was sure to be able to provide an adequate solution. AWA was set up by the Commonwealth Government in 1913 to research and develop valve related technologies and to assist with providing the Commonwealth with an electronic means to communicate with London.

After the relaxation of import tariffs by the Whitlam Government in 1974 Australian companies like AWA faltered because Australia's labour costs are too high to compete in many areas of manufacturing. It was then a case of import branded equipment or the company would collapse. AWA eventually left the domestic appliance market and sold industrial businesses like Defence, Traffic Signals and their Integrated Circuit manufacturing business to other companies. AWA is now owned by Tabcorp Limited which operates casinos in New South Wales and Queensland, runs club gaming systems such as Keno and manufactures gaming equipment for the various state Totalisator Agency Boards including those that are privatised. Current brands include Star City Casino, TAB Limited, Tabcorp, Jupiters Casino, Keno and Taberet.

Astor

Astor was the largest manufacturer of radio receivers in Victoria and was founded in 1926 where their product line was in the fixed value condenser business. In 1926 Astor merged with a number of other smaller companies to form Radio Corporation Limited. Radio Corporation started making radio receivers under the Astor brand. Astor was an innovative company that experimented with the market by offering receivers in many different colours rather than sticking to the conservative line adopted by many of their competitors. Such receivers are highly collectable now.

Radio Corporation got into a brawl with Walt Disney (a US entertainment company and owner of the trademark 'Mickey Mouse') for branding one of their sets the 'Mickey Mouse'. These sets sold in great numbers before legal action forced Astor to remove 'Mouse' and the image of Mickey Mouse from their sets. Such sets that survive and are in good condition can fetch over $1,000 and are highly sought after, simply because of the controversy they attracted. Radio Corporation advanced far enough to swallow most of their Victorian competitors, namely Eclipse and Essanay. In the early 1960's, Radio Corporation was taken over by Pye Electronics of the United Kingdom, which in turn was swallowed by Royal Philips Electronics of Holland. Philips is a world leader in the manufacture of lamps and luminaires, some of which are made in Australia.

Breville

Breville is one of the sole survivors of the appliance business from the early days of radio. The brand is an acronym derived from the founding partners, Messrs Bill O'Brien and Harry Norville, who opened the company for business on Melbourne Cup day in 1932. Breville made a suite of popular and high quality receivers and during the war years, whilst radio production in Australia had virtually ceased, Breville made mine detection equipment which, no doubt, lead to the saving of lives on the Allied side.

In 1951 the radio manufacturing business was acquired by A W Jackson Industries who continued to produce receivers under the Breville name as well as rebadged sets. Breville itself turned to making televisions under the Precedent brand though the business was sold to Radio Corporation in 1968. Breville then turned to the manufacture of kitchen appliances, a market for which Breville is a leader today. Sadly though, manufacture is done off-shore but Breville is still a brand with a big presence in Australian kitchens and the corporate slogans "Eventually? Why not now?" and "Better ideas sooner" are representative of Breville's ultimate desire to remain a viable force in appliance making. Today, Breville is a subsidiary of Housewares International Proprietary Limited, an Australian company.

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Thursday, 27th July, 2017.

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