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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


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


Do you hold the key to happiness?

Is happiness the natural order of things and, if so, should you be worried if you’re not happy? Psychologist Paul Bloom says that happiness isn’t guaranteed if you only do the things you find instantly easy and pleasurable . He says happiness is on the other side of tough and uncomfortable challenges and experiences. The key is to find meaning and purpose in the challenge.


Foreign correspondents and the news of the world

In a global community it’s more important than ever to understand what’s going on in the rest of the world. Despite instant communication over the internet there's nothing like the considered view of a seasoned foreign correspondent. They bring you the news from conflict zones, at high powered summits, or the views of ordinary citizens . But are they telling you the stories you want to hear? Who sets the news agenda?


Why too much medical treatment is causing more harm than good

Much of medicine doesn’t do what it is supposed to do: improve health. That is the view of orthopaedic surgeon, Ian Harris. Ian believes too many drugs are being prescribed, too much surgery is being performed, and there are too many unhelpful tests, scans, and overdiagnosis. The 'business' of medicine, he says, is taking precedence over what the science tells us. We should go back to the first principles of the Hippocratic oath and ‘first, do no harm’.


European security, the EU and Ukraine

The European Union has become a focal point for the pushback against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It now has a greater focus on European defence and security with more states wanting to join. Meanwhile the war in Ukraine continues with no diplomatic solution in sight and no-one sure of Russia’s ultimate goal.


Is the tension between science and religion for real?

Science and religion – for some they are strict opposites (and always shall be), for others they are in broad harmony with one another (and always shall be). Religious scholar Nick Spencer explores how science and religion have, do and can relate to one another. And how the connection of the two is shaping the world we live in. It’s a relationship that has very practical implications.


Building trust in workplace AI

Software programs can be a marvellous co-worker and make your life easier. Alternatively, you might feel that an algorithm is now the boss of your working life. Workplace analyst Professor David De Cremer says that organizations too often focus on the technical capabilities of AI rather than understanding how their workers relate to it. Organizations need to build trust and a positive workplace culture to get the best out of artificial intelligence.


What do Australian books and plays tell us about our national identity?

Australian national ‘identity’ has long been contested, as has the narrative of the foundation of Australia. What does the history of Australian literature and theatre tell us about who we are, and how we have changed? Are we now ready to put the history and culture ‘wars’ behind us? This discussion brings together the authors of three books - all of which delve into our cultural history, and our shifting notions of identity and nationhood.


Environmental law to tackle climate change

Without serious action by 2025 the planet is set to warm beyond one and a half degrees. That’s the unequivocal assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. To reach the target, the IPCC says that governments should not approve more fossil fuel projects yet in Australia we continue to do so. A social scientist says our environmental protection laws need to be redesigned to give greater weight to the protection of future generations who’ll face the full impact of climate change.


A life without sex

Is sex really a good thing? It’s one of the most broadly accepted assumptions of society. But self-proclaimed ‘Asexuals’ beg to differ. They insist that no-sex is a distinct sexual identity. What do these contrasting ways of thinking about abstinence tell us about modern sexual anxieties?


The Marshall Plan and the Cold War

Wars cost a punishing amount of money and, after they’re over, there's the cost of reconstruction. Western Europe received a life-saving injection of money under the Marshall Plan following the second world war. Other countries since , facing the devastation of war , have asked for a similar scheme. The Marshall Plan was successful but also cemented the Cold War rivalry between America and the Soviet Union according to economist Ben Steil.


How to foster innovation and create the next Silicon Valley.

Digital technologies are changing how we live, driving innovation and new industries. Governments are eager to foster Silicon Valley-like innovation hotspots in their state or local region. What role should government play in stimulating new industries? Why do plans for high tech digital ‘hubs’ often not come to fruition?


Why environmentalists and conservationists can be a problem for the environment

Queensland Chief Scientist Hugh Possingham is very annoyed with his fellow scientists as well as environmentalist and conservationists: They are too conservative, don’t debate respectfully, are too obsessed with growing their own organisations and can’t compromise a bit.


Housing stress

If you want an animated conversation in Australia mention first home buyers, investment properties, building costs , interest rates or negative gearing. Home ownership is our national obsession. But as house prices boom, people on low or moderate incomes are pushed further to the margins. They struggle with high rents and face long waiting lists for public housing. And some will experience homelessness. How can we ensure that every Australian has a roof over their head?


Natasha Stott Despoja and the level playing field

There’ve been many shots fired in the gender wars over the last two years most notably the MeToo movement and the outcry over the treatment of women in federal parliament. On the positive side womens sport is on the up and up. So does this mean progress across the board or has the pandemic had an unequal effect on women? Natasha Stott Despoja looks at the on-going struggle for a level playing field.


QANON and internet conspiracy cults

Conspiracy theories are not a new phenomenon, but the internet has turbocharged the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation. A disturbing number of people are now getting sucked into online conspiracy cults. One of the most prominent is QAnon, whose believers think a cabal of Satanic worshipping paedophiles operate a global child sex trafficking ring, and conspired against former U.S. President, Donald Trump. Van Badham spent a year undercover in the online conspiracy community.


Julia Gillard and workplace gender equality

Despite years of campaigning we still don’t have gender equality in the workplace. We have a persistent gender pay gap, not as many women in top management or on company boards and rising childcare costs which act as a disincentive to return to work. Julia Gillard hosts a panel on the buttons we need to push to achieve workplace equality.


Phasing out coal – lessons from Germany

Coal regions around the world are feeling the pinch of the move to renewable energy. What do we owe these regions? Is supporting them a moral reckoning with the trade-offs we have made in building the world we live in? With all the modern conveniences we now enjoy? Big Ideas up next looks to experiences of the coal exit in Germany – and what we can learn from them.


Dynastic rule in the Philippines and Japan's security challenges

The recent election in the Philippines confirmed the power of political families. The president and the vice-president are the children of a former , and current , president. And Japan is promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific as it feels the heat from the the three nuclear armed states on its doorstep.


Kylie Moore-Gilbert on being imprisoned in Iran for 804 days

Australian, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, endured a living nightmare. She was arrested and convicted of espionage in Iran, and then sentenced to 10 years in prison. The charges were baseless; the trial was a sham. Kylie became a pawn in a high stakes geo-political negotiation. How did she survive over 800 days of interrogation, psychological torture, and imprisonment in Iran? What did it take to free her?


The Great Depression and its lasting impact on liberalism

The threat of trade wars that the world faces today can be traced back to the handling of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The response to this crisis was not just based on monetary and financial considerations, but rather on geopolitical and national interests. This remade democratic capitalism and eventually led to embedded liberalism.