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30 December 2018

This year Policy Forum produced more than 60 podcasts covering a huge range of issues, from LGBT rights in India, to Indigenous water rights in Northern Australia, and from the rise of populism around the world, to the mechanics of the Australian Public Service. In this post, we present you the top 10 of our policy podcasts from this year that you were listening to (and if you didn’t listen to them, well, what else do you have planned over the festive break?)

10: Cause for hope as Ruak takes the reins in Timor-Leste

Despite being one of Australia’s closest neighbours, Timor-Leste doesn’t usually get too much attention from mainstream media. This podcast was released in the week the country got a new Prime Minister – Taur Matan Ruak. On it, hosts Martyn Pearce and Sharon Bessell ask experts Sue Ingram, Michael Leach and Sara Niner whether the new government can steer the country away from the turbulence of the past, or whether political, economic and social headwinds could once again blow it off course.

9: Putting community engagement in the neighbourhood of good policy

Top-down approaches to policy are all too common – and it’s partly because involving the community in decision-making can be difficult and time-consuming. On this episode of the podcast, hosts Martyn Pearce and Sue Regan hear from Paul Schmitz, one of America’s most influential non-profit leaders and an expert in community engagement. Topics discussed include the best and the worst cases of community involvement in public policy, how to know whose voices to listen to, and why poor people might be experts on escaping poverty.

8: Power to the people

From the corridors of Brussels to the streets of New Delhi, populist politics have swept through democracies around the globe. But despite all the headlines, is this wave of populism particularly new? And should we see it as a symptom of democracy in decay, or rather as a welcome sign that politics is returning to the people? On this episode, hosts Nicky Lovegrove and Sara Bice hear from Duncan McDonnell, Jill Sheppard and Paul Kenny about populism in Europe, Asia and Australia – with due mention to one particularly powerful populist leader sitting in the White House.

7: Are policymakers unethical?

A lawyer, an economist, and a philosopher sit down at a table to discuss ethics. This might sound like the start to a joke, but this podcast is no laughing matter. When it comes to public trust in leaders to tell the truth and do the right thing, Australia tends toward the bottom of the rankings. Nicky Lovegrove and Sharon Bessell hear from legal expert Associate Professor Vivien Holmes, Economics Professor Ngo Van Long, and Philosophy Professor Christian Barry about how to improve the ethics of public policy, and how our leaders can help build a better moral landscape.

6: Is Asia sleepwalking to war?

Where will Asia’s next war erupt? According to Brendan Taylor’s brilliant new book looking at Asia’s dangerous slide into crisis, the next major conflagration will likely occur in one of four flashpoints: the East China Sea, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, or the Taiwan Strait. On this podcast, hosts Maya Bhandari and Bob Cotton talk with Brendan about why Asia in the 21st century might resemble Europe at the start of the 20th, how missteps and miscalculation could pave the way for a war that no leader wants, and what countries in the region might do to pull back from the brink.

5: Australia’s place in the new space race

In Australia’s 2018 budget, the government committed $41 million towards launching a new national space agency. The aim is to kick-start a multi-billion dollar industry, putting Australia firmly on board the global space revolution as new technology takes off in the decades ahead. Sounds out of this world? Don’t miss this stellar latest podcast with Anna Moore and Brad Tucker, two leading experts in this space, featuring more stunning space puns than you can fire a phaser at.

4: Australia’s new intelligence jigsaw

At the end of 2017, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a significant restructuring of Australia’s intelligence and security agencies: the creation of a new super-department of Home Affairs. On this pod the experts take a look at what will the change mean for Australia’s national security. Will the country see a much-needed centralisation of intelligence, or is the change trying to fix a system that’s not broken? Maya Bhandari chats to John Blaxland, Jacinta Carroll and Andrew Davies to put together the pieces of Australia’s new mega-ministry. Special kudos to Maya here for doing this brilliant podcast as part of her studies.

3: Is Australia’s policy machinery fit for purpose?

Australia’s policy-making machinery is currently undergoing something of a mechanical inspection. Earlier this year, then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a major Independent Review of the Public Service “to ensure the APS is fit-for-purpose in the years and decades ahead”. On this podcast, we find out where the APS is well-oiled, where it’s a bit rusty, and where it needs a new set of parts altogether, as hosts Martyn Pearce and Sharon Bessell chat to the policy equivalents of expert mechanics: Professor Glyn Davis and Professor Helen Sullivan.

2: Diving into the Indo-Pacific debate

Is it time to say farewell to the Asia-Pacific? In recent years the idea of an ‘Indo-Pacific’ has swept through foreign policy circles all throughout our region. Yet despite its growing popularity in Canberra, Washington, New Delhi and Tokyo, the new mental map is not without its critics. On this special double-header Policy Forum Pod, we play you a public lecture by Rory Medcalf on Indo-Pacific strategy and what the concept means for Australia. We then take the discussion further with David Brewster and Denise Fisher, where we dive into the wheres, whys and what-ifs of the Indo-Pacific.

1: No child’s play

Children are making the news in harrowing ways. As the international community commemorated World Refugee Day, images of kids in cages under Trump’s immigration policy went viral around the world. That was closely followed by the fifth anniversary of mandatory detention in Pacific islands for refugees who came to Australia by boat – including more than 100 children who remain on Nauru. In a world on the move, how do we ensure our policies don’t sacrifice child protection for border protection? Where do we draw the line between childhood and adulthood? And what does it mean for children to get the most out of life? On this brilliant podcast, Maya Bhandari puts these questions to Paul Ronalds, CEO of Save the Children Australia.


Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

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