Sep 22, 2018

A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts covered in other media.

On ABC’s Saturday Extra this weekend(in case you missed it):

7.30 am: Media Moguls: The story that Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Stokes may have influenced the ousting of PM Malcolm Turnbull continues to bubble along, but where is it headed?

7.40 am: Macron’s quest to reinvent France, with the Economist’s Paris bureau chief, Sophie Pedder, the author of a compelling new biography of Macron.

7.55 am: Melbourne think tank Beyond Zero Emissions has won an award for its work into the carbon emitting properties of cement.

8.05 am: Royal Commissions: are royal commissions of inquiry expressions of robust democracy or political stalling tactics? Professor Frank Bongiorno and former federal court judge and royal commissioner Roger Gyles AO QC discuss.

8.20 am: Geraldine Doogue tours the ROME exhibition at the National Museum in Canberra with Thorsten Opper, curator from the British Museum.

8.45am: Idleness – Brian O’Connor makes a philosophical argument in support of idleness as a form of freedom.

Other commentary

What was Murdoch’s involvement in the putsch that toppled Turnbull? Andrew Probyn, writing on the ABC’s news website, outlines and quotes from conversations Malcolm Turnbull had with Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Stokes and others in the days leading up to the coup. David Crowe, writing in Fairfax media, covers the same conversations, putting them in a wider context, and pointing to other forces tearing the Liberal Party. apart.

Almost crowded out by the political din of last week, there have been some insightful contributions to public ideas. In his article “Build-to-rent: a potential solution to Australia’s housing problemPeter Mares stresses the need for more affordable housing for people with low incomes – a need related to but separate from the need to provide “social housing”. The supply of rental housing should not be a by-product of individual investors’ speculation. Rather, there is a need for long-term investors, with an interest in building quality rental housing and forming relationships with long-term tenants, to invest in housing.

Housing was one of the concerns of Hugh Stretton, whose ideas helped transform government policies for Australian cities. On the ABC’s Late Night Live Phillip Adams interviews urban historian Graeme Davison on Stretton’s legacy. Davison is editor of the book Hugh Stretton: Selected Writings. He describes Stretton as a public intellectual – “a person pf the non-Marxist left’. Stretton’s scholarship was not only about urban matters: rather he was deeply interested in the social sciences, and was critical of the notion that economic and social policy could be considered as separate domains. He was also a champion of mid-sized cities.

Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essay Follow the Leader” came out this week. She has given several interviews introducing her work, including this short interview on ABC’s RN Breakfast. Although the title suggests a traditional “leader-follower” model, her work is about leadership: she avoids the common fallacy of assuming that where there are people designated “leaders” there is also leadership. In fact, she warns about the danger of the rise of the strongman “leader”. She draws on the work of Ron Heifetz of Harvard’s Kennedy School on whose work recent contributors to Pearls and Irritations have also drawn in the context of the Morrison takeover – “A new ‘leader’ but no sight of leadership”.

Also in the realm of political ideas is a half-hour segment “Restoring ethics and faith in politics” on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report. It’s a three-way discussion between presenter Andrew West, political philosopher Adrian Past of the University of Kent (UK), and Damien Freeman of the Australian Catholic University. Padst has been studying the traditions of Labor and similar parties of the “left” and Freeman is author of Abbott’s Right: The Conservative Tradition from Menzies to Abbott. Those hoping to hear a heated argument “left”/”right” argument will be disappointed: rather it’s a thoughtful and insightful exposition of the values and ideas that have shaped our political parties, and the ways in which they have drifted from those values and ideas. The tensions manifest today are vastly different from the traditional presentation of a “left”/”right” conflict between collectivism and individualism.

And there is still plenty of commentary on the Global Financial Crisis. Last Sunday’s ABC Round table ran a program “What are the risks to the Australian economy” asking a cast of experts (John Hewson, Nicki Huntley, Stephen Halmarik, Christopher Joyce) about lessons from the GFC in relation to future risks in the Australian and global economy. There was general agreement that there is a worldwide problem of  accumulating debt (corporate, government and household) and that financial markets tend to be faster to react to real or perceived crises than the real economy (but they have effects on the real economy).

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