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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

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


Fixing the Murray Darling Basin

The Murray Darling Basin is our food bowl. It covers 4 states. And it has been in poor shape for a long time. Margaret Simons travelled through the basin, talking to locals, irrigators, bureaucrats, and scientists, to get the lowdown.


COVID-19 and domestic violence

This COVID-19 lockdown period heightens the risk of domestic violence. Perpetrators as well as victims are more invisible. And while help is still available, accessing it is more difficult. Bystanders like friends and neighbours now have a bigger role to play. Support services are reporting a significant rise in the number of cases, and the acts are becoming more violent in this time of crisis. So how to keep domestic violence ‘in view’? How can accountability be maintained?


Covid-19 anxiety and vaccine uptake

Restrictions are easing but we still can’t relax. The Covid virus has taken its toll on mental health and the future is uncertain. So public health messages need to walk the line between calming our fears while being honest about the risks. This conversation looks at how best to reduce fear and anxiety. And if a Covid vaccine is developed quickly how can we make it accessible to everyone and reassure those worried about the safety of vaccines?


The style and substance of good writing

Are we losing our ability to write well and is it because we don’t follow the rules? Professor Steven Pinker says loosen up, rules are made to be broken. But he takes aim at writing which confuses rather than informs . Why is it so difficult to read the writing of lawyers, academics and bureaucrats? The techniques of classic style are a good start for improving the quality of writing.


The legacy of the partition of India

The partition of India, after the British left, in 1947, triggered a huge and violent mass migration. More than a million people died. The trauma and legacy of this event lives on today.


Covid, the UK and radical uncertainty

Our economy is locked down because of the Coronavirus and it’s a similar story around the world. When will the clouds lift and the global economy recover from this virus? The former Bank of England Governor Lord Mervyn King says policy-makers are working in unchartered waters. He says governments must make decisions in a time of radical uncertainty.


Digital universities

Digital technology has transformed universities. It’s now an expectation, not a bonus, that they offer the latest technologies: around the clock access to educational resources, an intuitive platform for discussion, cloud collaboration and knowledge exchange, recorded lectures on demand. But is it working?


The science of Covid-19

Medical scientists are hard at work trying to find effective treatments for COVID 19. They’re on a steep learning curve. How does this new virus work? What’s the best way to treat it? And how can we reduce the rate of transmission? Join a panel of medical experts on the frontline.


The prejudice of algorithms

Internet algorithms are dividing us, not bringing us together. The assumptions, predictions, and generalisations they make about us are not value neutral or apolitical. Robert Elliott Smith talks to Paul Barclay about the inherent prejudice of algorithms.


Communication as a tool to fight pandemics

What as the Goddess of Smallpox to do with eradicating this disease in China and India? It turns out: almost everything. These countries with similar epidemiological, socioeconomic, and demographic conditions have experienced strikingly different levels of containment. And that’s because China worked with existing believes and traditions when the officials introduce a new vaccine – and India did not.


Will the Covid crisis change China?

China's ambition to be a global superpower has taken a hit from the pandemic. China's economic growth has faltered and the Chinese government is under pressure to explain the origins of the virus and its steps to contain the spread. Chinese citizens are also feeling the pain from lockdown, job loss and government surveillance of social media. Will China's one party state emerge from this crisis stronger or weaker?


PREVIEW RN Presents — Hot Mess: Why haven’t we fixed climate change?

It's been just over three decades since most of us first heard about global warming. Meanwhile, the 20 hottest years on record have all occurred in the last quarter century. The implications of extreme weather and climate change are now being felt. Why have we done relatively little in response? Richard Aedy goes looking for answers in a four-part series on RN. Look for RN Presents in the ABC Listen app or wherever you get your podcasts.


How will Covid 19 reshape global polititcs?

Despite encouraging signs of a slowdown in infection rates, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic. The economic and social effects of Covid-19 will be far-reaching. On the other side of this pandemic will there be a new world order? How is the virus affecting the US-China relationship, South-East Asia and the global balance of power?


Truganini: beyond the myth

For a long time she was misunderstood, erroneously known as the “last of her race”, and almost invariably depicted as tragic figure. But there is so much more to indigenous Tasmanian woman, Truganini.


Malcolm Turnbull – a memoir

Malcolm Turnbull reflects on his time on politics, his achievements and the challenges he has faced during his time as 29th prime minister. In the past decade of climate and energy warfare in Australian federal politics, Malcolm Turnbull is the only leader to have lost his job over the issue twice. He talks with Annabelle Crabb about his new memoir A Bigger Picture.


Physics and a theory of everything

How do you fancy a theory describing everything in the world and the whole universe? Physicists have been trying to find a universal theory for centuries. Progress has been made: BBC’s Jim Al-Khalili describes the three pillars of modern physics: quantum theory, relativity, and thermodynamics. But is physics any closer to finding the ONE theory that explains it all?


The China Effect

Will personal freedom always give way to social control in China? Families have lived through a wave of revolutions in communist China and the legacy flows down the generations. Three authors talk about the cycle of openness and repression from the Cultural revolution to Tiananmen Square as individual freedoms are tolerated and then repressed to meet the goals of China's communist rulers.


How should we remember Captain Cook?

It’s 250 years since the arrival of Captain James Cook. In maritime circles he’s celebrated as a great navigator and map-maker. But for First Nations people, Cook is the symbol of the European invasion which decimated their communities. So how should Cook be remembered today? Author Peter Fitzsimons and historian Professor John Maynard discuss the man and the myth.


Trust in a time of coronavirus

Trust is in short supply. Surveys have long indicated declining trust in institutions, and in political leaders. We are also suspicious of expertise, and of the experts who provide it. Faced with the threat of a pandemic, who can we trust?


Fungi for a healthy planet

Fungi are the unsung heroes of recycling. They play a vital role in breaking down organic matter for plants to use. Now we've discovered fungi can clean up oil and plastic. And their root systems are being used to create alternatives to plastic, wood and bricks. Who knew the humble mushroom could be so versatile?