Big Ideas-logo

Big Ideas

ABC (Australia)

Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues

Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues


Melbourne, VIC


Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues






Big Ideas ABC Radio National GPO Box 9994 Sydney 2001 (02) 8333 5143


Aged care, dementia and assisted dying

Neglect of the elderly is rife in Australia. An ageing population also means an increase in dementia, with many saying they would rather end their life than endure the disease.


Covid-19 & the future of work

Your experience of this pandemic depends on the work you do. If your job is considered essential then you’ve been going out to work every day. If you’re in a job that can be done remotely, it’s the laptop and internet at home. And if your workplace is struggling to stay afloat then you’ve had to fall back on Jobkeeper or Jobseeker for the unemployed. So what will jobs and workplaces look like after this pandemic?


Why the cashless society is not a bad thing

Money may well make world go round but cash is surely an encumbrance we can do without. Surveys show that most people think so. But what does a cashless society look like? How would you like to write you own payment algorithms in the future? And are common fears around privacy, security and costs unjustified?


Can democracy tame twenty-first century capitalism?

Can democracy tame twenty-first century capitalism? Not if our institutions are only formally democratic – without real foundation and depth. Steven Klein examines the connection between economic crises and the crisis of political legitimacy. He describes capitalism as a form of economic authoritarianism and calls for a financial democracy.


COVID-19 and human rights

To stop the spread of COVID-19, governments hastily passed extraordinary laws limiting democratic freedoms in previously unimaginable ways. How well have they balanced the right to personal freedom against the need to protect the community from coronavirus?


The role of journalism during COVID-19

One crucial role of media is to inform the public in a time of crisis. During bushfires and cyclones – and as it turns out during a pandemic. But have media been cut back so much that good and comprehensive crisis reporting can’t be guaranteed anymore? And has the relationship between media and governments been eroded to a point where accusations of fake news get in the way of critical health advice?


Covid testing and tracing

The dramatic reduction in Covid-19 cases is very reassuring. But the virus is still out there and there’s the risk of a second wave. So we need people to recognize the symptoms and doctors need tests which deliver results quickly. Some people can have no symptoms or mild symptoms so they can transmit the virus without being aware of it. To limit the spread we're being asked to limit our freedom of movement and to let the government know where we're going and with whom. Does that make you...


Germs and Justice : Democracy & emergency powers

Should police be able to shut down protest marches because of Covid-19? The Black Lives Matter protests tested the reach of public health directives and the right to protest prevailed. It’s just one of a number of freedoms challenged by emergency powers. So will these powers disappear with the virus or continue in one form or another? And will the response to Covid-19 reshape our federal system?


Big Tech and screen-based learning in schools

State schools are providing pupils, as young as seven, with iPads, or asking parents to buy digital devices for them. Writer and parent, Anna Krien, has many reservations about Big Tech, and screen-based learning, in primary school.


Cracking the DNA code

We hope the world of the future will have less disease and disability thanks to gene and cell therapy. With the ability to manipulate DNA we’re now shaping our own evolution. So how did we crack the DNA code? This is the story of the race to discover the shape of DNA and to understand how our genetic code creates the building blocks of life. And DNA is revealing the million-year story of Homo sapiens and the many other human species who’ve walked the earth.


Sexual abuse by UN and non-UN peacekeepers

What if UN peacekeepers sent into a conflict by the international community bring rape and sexual abuse to the local women and children – instead of peace? It happens on a regular basis and even through organised networks. Hear about the accounts of victims and witnesses. How does such behaviour impact the peacebuilding process and the legitimacy of the UN in the eyes of local and global populations?


Germs and Justice : Jobs & industrial relations

The coronavirus forced businesses to close their doors and 700,000 Australians lost their jobs. So what’s on the other side of this pandemic? Will the old jobs still be there or will wages and conditions change with workers being offered reduced hours, more casual work or a revamped award system ? The government wants unions and business to negotiate a new deal as the economy gets back on its feet.


Law in a time of war

During the Great War, Australia imposed a regime of draconian laws restricting basic freedoms, like the right to protest and freedom of speech. What can we learn, a century later, from the actions of a wartime government, as we battle another crisis.


The skill of critical thinking

Confirmation bias. It’s enemy number one of all balanced and evidence-based debate. This urge to believe what you’re already convinced of, regardless of the facts. The solution is ‘critical thinking’ – the skill to discern emitted variables and wrong causalities, to look at all sides of an issue. And then to align your point of view with the evidence.


Can a computer think like a human?

We know computers are smart but they usually excel in a particular skill like chess or understanding speech . How close are we to building a machine which, like the human brain , has the flexibility to problem solve across a range of cognitive tasks? Computer scientists are hard at work trying to create artificial general intelligence and , if they succeed , who knows what conscious machines might decide to do?


Germs and Justice: Covid-19 & Privacy

To deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, governments have curtailed freedom of movement and enforced new rules on social distancing and quarantine. They've closed borders and shutdown workplaces and venues where crowds gather. And to trace the spread of the virus we’ve all been encouraged to download the CovidSafe App. What have we lost and what have we gained in the name of public health? Could government surveillance and reduced individual freedoms become the new normal?


Billy Bragg in conversation about politics, freedom, and music

English singer-songwriter, and political activist, Billy Bragg, talks to Paul Barclay about politics, BREXIT, his book -'The Three Dimensions of Freedom', life under COVID19 lockdown, and music.


Can accountants save the planet?

Accountants are unlikely revolutionaries, but according to author Jane Gleeson-White, they’re leading the charge in reforming the global economy for the good of us all. An international movement has begun in the finance world. Global companies are looking at how to include nature and society in the costs of production. The triple bottom line: profit, people and the planet. Jane says that double-entry bookkeeping revolutionised accounting five hundred years ago and in the twenty-first century...


Science predicts the future

Humans are an inventive lot and science and technology has transformed our lives. There's a dark side to some of the ways we use science but there's also hope that it will solve some of our most pressing problems such as climate change and genetic diseases. Scientists on the cutting edge in a range of disciplines imagine how their discoveries will be put to use to solve the problems of the future. They discuss the future of genetics, climate change modelling and materials science and...


No barriers to inclusion for people with disabilities

Haben Girma is a success .She graduated from an elite law school. But unlike her fellow students, Haben is deaf-blind. She speaks to the ABC's Disability Affairs Reporter, blind journalist and newsreader Nas Campanella, about how she gained her law degree from Harvard and her advocacy for disability rights. And we hear from disability advocates about the need to design inclusive technology which is able to be used by all people, regardless of their disability.