Ideas and Society in 2019

All events are streamed live on the day and can be watched after the event on our YouTube channel.

Do trade unions help or harm Australia’s economy and society?

The Ideas and Society Program at La Trobe University was very pleased to present two outstanding Australians to discuss the questions surrounding trade unions. Bill Kelty, as Secretary of the ACTU, was a key player during the Hawke and Keating years and one of the fathers of compulsory superannuation. Jennifer Westacott has been an outstanding public servant and is now an energetic and respected Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia. It is an interesting fact about our country that both came from unprivileged family backgrounds but rose to the top of their professions through hard work, university education and, of course, talent.

Climate Change and Australia: Where to Now?

Climate change is a generational problem. Older Australians took up the struggle. The lives of younger Australians will be shaped by the impact of climate change. The Ideas and Society Program has brought together, for this reason, frontline fighters across the generations to reflect on recent experience and debate future strategy. The former leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, is the revered father of the Australian environmental movement. Dr David Ritter is the leader in Australia and the Pacific of the pioneering world-wide environmental movement, Greenpeace. Dr Amanda Cahill, a Queensland grassroots analyst and activist, is the founder and chief executive of The Next Economy. And Maiysha Moin is a leader in Victoria of one of the most hopeful recent climate change developments, the school strike movement that is taking action on September 20.

Does Australia need a charter of human rights?

In part as a consequence of her experience as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, the renowned international lawyer and author most recently of Speaking Up, is a passionate advocate for an Australian Human Rights Charter. Professor Greg Craven, the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian Catholic University, disagrees equally passionately.

Australia and the refugees who come by boat.

Since 2013 virtually no asylum seeker boats have reached Australia. In the six years since 2013, some of those sent to offshore detention have returned to the countries from which they fled; others have been settled in the US; still others have been brought to Australia temporarily for medical reasons. Nine hundred remain on Nauru or Manus Island. Reports tell us that after six years without hope their spirits have been broken.

Feminism, yes. But what kind of feminism?

The feminist movement has fundamentally re-fashioned our world. As the #MeToo movement and the backlash against it continues, it is timely to think about what kind of feminism we need. There are different voices within feminism, and different answers to the question of what still must be done to deepen and complete the feminist revolution.

Has racism in contemporary Australia entered the political mainstream?

Has racism entered the political mainstream? Or, is its influence found only among the far-right extremist groups and lone wolves?

This discussion follows the horrific terrorist attack at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, on the 15th of March, 2019.

The Christchurch shootings revealed that even one well-armed racist can wreak havoc in any country, anywhere.

Although almost everyone in Australian politics and the media condemns racism, disagreement exists on the question of whether racism in Australia is widespread and structural, or found exclusively on the far-right extremist fringe.

Does China pose a threat to Australia? What should our China policy be?

Almost no question is of greater significance for Australia’s future than the emergence of China as an economic and military great power. Does the rise of China pose a threat to the security of Australia? If so, a threat of what kind?