Here's a quick taste of the in-depth radio investigation I put together for ABC Radio National.
In the mid-1990s, the US Air Force considered investing $7.5 million in the development of a 'Gay Bomb'—a chemical weapon designed to alter the enemy's sexual orientation.
When out-and-proud comedian Tom Ballard saw this story being referenced on one of his favourite TV shows, he thought it was hilarious. When he found out that it actually happened, he was gobsmacked.
So Tom decides to do some digging… and finds out a lot more than he bargained for.
After finally receiving security clearance from the very highest echelons of the American military, he can now officially bring you this unbelievable story: a story of political intrigue, secrets, betrayal, death and sex; a story that proves once and for all that truth is always stranger than fiction.
Merry Christmas everyone! To remind us all of the reason for the season, who better to talk to than the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton.
The ACL is a significant political force in Australian politics and Lyle and his team are active and determined about advocating on public policy issues from a faith perspective, from life issues to same-sex marriage to Australia's treatment of refugees.
In the first part of this polite but passionate conversation, Lyle and I discussed the role faith should play in politics, evidence, reason, marriage, parenting and gender.
Cause of the Week: ChilOut Sydney fundraiser at Giant Dwarf Theatre
Activist Ali Hogg is the Victorian convenor of national marriage equality campaign Equal Love. She's proudly radically progressive and she's been leading the call for same-sex marriage in Australia for over a decade.
In this chat Ali talked me through her progressive upbringing, her personal experiences with homophobia, the Socialist Alternative, the next steps in the equal marriage debate, the ethics of protest and that time she charged into a restaurant on Lygon Street to confront former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Cause of the Week: Equal Love (equallove.info)
David Marr is a self-described "bourgeois do-gooder". He's written for Fairfax Media, The Monthly, The Saturday Paper and Guardian Australia, appeared on Q&A, The Drum and Insiders and is the author of multiple in-depth profiles for the Quarterly Essay.
In this second part of our chat, I ask David to outline the complex and bleak politics surrounding our policies towards refugees. Why are we so terrified of the boats? Why do our politicians stoke those fears? Is there any possibility of a solution?
Cause of the Week: Doctors Without Borders (doctorswithoutborders.org)
Respected journalist and MORTAL ENEMY OF GERARD HENDERSON (not really), David Marr is a self-described "bourgeois do-gooder". He's written for Fairfax Media, The Monthly, The Saturday Paper and Guardian Australia, appeared on Q&A, The Drum and Insiders and is the author of multiple in-depth profiles for the Quarterly Essay.
In this first part of our conversation, David tells me about who Bill Shorten is, Labor and the unions, why Australia is so late to progress, drugs, conservatism and right-wing commentators. Hot dang!
Cause of the Week: Maternity Worldwide (maternityworldwide.org)
Peter Reith was a member of John Howard's cabinet from 1996 to 2001. He served as Minister for Small Business, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Defence. He's perhaps best known for formulating the GST policy and his roles in the 1998 waterfront dispute and the "children overboard" scandal.
Peter's just released The Reith Papers, an annotated collection of his diary entries during his time in government. Here we got to discuss (and occasionally lock horns over) the notion of humanising politicians, the recent Paris attacks, military action in the Middle East, Australia's approach to processing refugees and the role of unions in today's society.
Comedian, writer and activist Aamer Rahman jokes about race and detention centres and terrorism and hip-hop and comic books and cultural appropriation. Formerly of the comedy duo Fear Of A Brown Planet (with previous guest Nazeem Hussain), he now tours his stand-up internationally being very funny and very on-point.
Here Aamer articulates how the Adam Goodes controversy sums up the issues of Australia's race problem, how he views the impact of his work, cultural appropriation, Iggy Azalea, ethnic faces on TV, Bill Maher, Cornel West and political correctness in comedy.
Cause of the Week: Refugees, Survivors & Ex-Detainees (riserefugee.org)
Here's a live panel on where the jolly hell Australian politics is heading at the moment, recorded at This Is Not Art 2015 in Newcastle, as part of Critical Animals. The panel featured myself, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari and academic Professor James Arvanitakis and was moderated by Alice Workman from triple j's Hack program.
We discussed political leadership, immigration, marriage equality and titles.
Critical Animals is a creative research symposium held annually as a part of tINA; find out more at criticalanimals.com.
At just 33, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young already has eight years of experience serving as a Greens Senator for South Australia in the federal parliament. Once a protégé of Bob Brown’s, Sarah now holds the portfolios of Immigration & Citizenship, LGBTI rights and Youth, Early Childhood Education & Childcare for the Greens.
In this chat, recorded just before Sarah took to the stage at a Rally for Refugees in Melbourne, we discuss the future of her party, her path from student politician to youthful senate candidate, the 2009 CTRS decision, party donations and the horrible shit she’s seen in her visits to offshore detention centres.
It's been almost a year since a magistrate gave whistleblower Freya Newman a two-year good behaviour bond for “unauthorized access to information” under the NSW Crimes Act. Her leaking of private information about Frances Abbott, the prime minister’s daughter, receiving a $60,000 undeclared scholarship at the Whitehouse Institute, a private design school, ignited a furious public debate about privacy, privilege and the public’s right to know.
At the National Young Writer’s Festival in Newcastle, I got to sit down with Freya and asked her to reflect on exactly how it all happened, what it’s like to be in the centre of a media shitstorm, the failings of the media’s handling of the issue, gaps in the law and whether or not she holds any regrets about the whole episode.
After another bit of a delay and SOME JOLLY CRAZY HAPPENINGS in Australian politics, we’re back. Hello.
Erik Jensen is the definition of “precocious”. He’s in his mid-twenties and he’s already won a Walkley Award and he’s responsible for the launch and editing the highly-respected Saturday Paper – a weekly, centrist newspaper dedicated to long-form narrative journalism.
Plus he’s written a critically-acclaimed biography of artist Adam Cullen, he likes cool music and is very funny. What an arsehole.
In this chat Erik tells me about his beginnings in and passion for journalism, the over-arching philosophy behind TSP, the media and bias, the Abbott government’s “paucity of ideas”, leaks and opinion polls and just where things might go with Malcolm Turnbull as our new Prime Minister.
Cause of the Week: The Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre (rilc.org.au)
Again, apologies for the delay, everyone. It's been a while, but I'm back with a doozy of an episode.
Philip “Dr. Death” Nitschke has been the face of the controversial right-to-die debate in Australia for almost 20 years. He is the founder and director of the pro-euthanasia group Exit International and author of The Peaceful Pill Handbook – a book describing ways to commit suicide that has been banned in Australia.
I’ve always been fascinated by Philip’s arguments and his tenacity in presenting them. When I heard he was performing a one-man comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about his life and various suicide techniques, I had to find out more and jumped at the chance to sit down with him.
Here Philip explains how he came to be performing this show, how he got involved in the euthanasia debate to begin with, his personal approach to death, his response to all the objections, censorship, the failings of modern medicine, “rational suicide”, what it’s like to help someone die and where he sees the debate going next.
Hello! I'm back! Sorry about the wait for a new episode. I'm in Scotland, so let's talk to a Scot.
Kieran Hurley is a playwright and poet based in Glasgow. His work touches on the human stories involved in political events and he was a vocal supporter of the "YES" campaign in last year's referendum on Scottish independence.
Together Kieran and I talked about the UK government banning rave music in the 90s, the London riots, May's general election and what it means for British politics, Jeremy Corbyn, austerity, "Torycore", nationalism and why he's occasionally happy to be considered a "traitor".
Cause of the Week: The Black Triangle Campaign (blacktrianglecampaign.org)
I think Damien Power is one of the most exciting comedians in Australia right now. He opened for Tenacious D on their Australian tour a few years back (I saw the show and he crushed it) and his 2015 stand up show I Can’t Believe I Cared was nominated for the Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Damien’s comedy is not only hilarious, it’s extremely well-informed and socially conscious. In this chat we covered cats (shout-outs to Jerry the Persian), what the film Jurassic World tells us about capitalism and the growth economy, anarchy, conspiracy theories and the impending World War III that’s coming to obliterate us all. Enjoy!
Cause of the Week: GetUp!’s campaign to shut down Manus Island and Nauru (getup.org.au)
Van Badham exudes passion for political action. She’s a playwright, novelist, columnist for The Guardian, proud union member and vocal activist who’s appeared on Q&A, The Drum and Radio National.
Van outlined the case against the federal government’s approach to arts funding and spoke to me about the importance of the arts to a society’s understanding of itself, our lazy attitude to democracy, politicians’ failure to listen to the people, asylum seekers, education, taxes, why the marriage equality debate gives her hope and tackling trolls.
Rod Quantock recently received a Medal of the Order of Australia for his 45+ years of being an outspoken comedian/environmentalist activist/shit-stirrer. He is a living legend of Australian comedy who has relentlessly used his work to explain, dissect and call out political issues that really piss him off.
In this wide-ranging chat, Rod told me about his thoughts on music, his political radicalisation, the origins of his groundbreaking shows Tram and Bus, the community campaigns he’s been involved with, being physically beaten at a protest at the 2000 World Economic Forum, his plans to close down the Murdoch press, how he keeps faith in the political system (or doesn’t) and how the realities of climate change colour his view of the future.
Cause of the Week: Quit Coal (quitcoal.org.au)
Tim Wilson is a former policy director at the Institute of Public Affairs, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, public commentator and tea-drinker. He describes himself as a economic and social liberal and a cultural and institutional conservative. He's passionate about his principles and isn't afraid to wade into whatever controversy those principles might him lead to.
Together we discussed the criticisms he's faced since taking on his role at the AHRC, asylum seeker policy, what it's really like at the IPA, his opposition to plain packaging cigarettes, the balance of marriage equality and religious freedoms, anti-discrimination legislation and his thoughts on the recent Q&A controversy.
Cause of the Week: The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (aief.com.au)
Vegan lawyer Shatha Hamade is a former prosecutor for the RSPCA and is now the Head of Investigations for Animals Australia. She's passionate about advocating for animal rights and challenging social conditioning when it comes to the way we treat our fellow earthlings.
In this chat (recorded in the AA offices, where DOGS JUST RUN AROUND FREELY IT IS SO COOL) we discuss her "wake-up" moment, the kind of godawful abuses she's witnessed, the law's approach to animals accoridng to their "use", inherited thinking, the links between animal cruelty and a myriad of other social problems, the live export and live baiting investigations and the non-humans right movement.
A warning: animal cruelty is described in explicit detail here, some listeners may find it disturbing.
Cause of the Week: Animals Australia (animalsaustralia.org)
Dan Ilic is a political satirist who employs what he calls “evidence-based shit-stirring”. He loves taking the piss in all sorts of media; his sensibilities can be found in The Ronnie Johns Half-Hour, Can of Worms, The Mansion, Hungry Beast, his ads for GetUp!, his labour of love satire collective A Rational Fear and more recently his work for Al Jazeera’s AJ+.
In this chat (recorded in a very SPECIAL LOCATION featuring a SPECIAL CAMEO), Dan and I reflect on the furore surrounding Q&A and discuss his amazing family story, how his “inner rage” fuels him to do what he does, the saga surrounding his piece (that was originally titled) Beaconsfield: A Musical In A Flat Minor, why he recently got fired and where he sees Australian political satire going in the future.
Cause of the Week: Sanfilippo Children's Foundation (sanfilippo.org.au)
Waleed Aly (aka Nazeem Hussain) is a politics lecturer, columnist, author, radio broadcaster and co-host on Channel Ten's The Project.
Waleed has an extraordinary reputation for making considered and insightful contributions to public debate. We discussed how he's finding the world of commercial television, how the act of writing informs his ideas, the political philosophy of conservatism (what it is and what it isn't), marriage equality, Middle Eastern politics and why ISIS' appeal to young Muslim people in the West might be working.
At one point I hit the mic with my hand and at another point a chair collapses.
Cause of the Week: Possible Dreams International (possibledreams.org)
This week - something a bit different.
I am a very big fan of former Bluejuice frontman, comedian and broadcaster Jake Stone and feel very lucky indeed to count him as a friend. I think he's extremely funny and creative but also has a darkness and a brutal honesty to him that I find fascinating.
This chat - recorded back in January of this year - covers Jake's career with Bluejuice, the band's philosophy, the state of today's music industry, the major break-up in his life that inspired him so much and stilll haunts him, mental health issues and the experiecne of writing a good pop song.
Jake even kindly gave me a special little musical treat, just for this podcast: his cover of How Will I Know?. Enjoy!
Cause of the Week: Music NSW (musicnsw.com)
Newsreader, journalist, writer and philanthropist Tracey Spicer doesn't tolerate make-up, God, prudishness or sexism in the workplace. She rips through bullshit with a smile and had stories to burn from her time studying, working in the trenches at Channel Ten and Sky News and her colourful personal life.
Tracey told me about how liberating it is to shake off the image of the "perfect" newsreader, how Joh Bjelke-Petersen inspired her to become a journalist, the issue of bias in journalism, her work as an ambassador for World Vision and the time she almost killed her mum.
Cause of the Week: Dying With Dignity (dwdv.org.au)
Nic Holas is a moustached writer and advocate living with HIV. He's written for Junkee, Hello Mr., Star Observer, Cosmopolitan and others, he's appeared on the ABC's Q&A and he's co-founded a social media umbrella for positive people.
He's fearless, frank and funny and I love him for it. In this chat Nic shared his story about becoming positive and we discussed the ins and outs of what HIV is, the spectre of the 80s epidemic, shame, sex education, the problem with condoms, same-sex marriage and wolf-daddies.
Cause of the Week: The Institute of Many (theinstituteofmany.org.au)
Jarrod McKenna is one of those "cool Christians" you've heard about, except he actually is genuinely cool.
Jarrod is many things: a pastor, a protestor, the National Advisor for Youth, Faith and Activism for World Vision Australia, founder of the Love Makes A Way campaign and the First Home Project, theologian, husband, dad and drealocked d00d. He subscribes to the whacky idea that Christianity should look like Jesus and that compels him to do good, important things.
In this conversation (recorded in the communal kitchen of the First Home Project) we covered a lot: the problematic nature of ANZAC Day, his journey to faith, living Jesus’ love, being the Christian kid at school, non-violent protest and how he turned a further meth lab in the Perth suburb of Midland into a home for people who are trying to build a new life for themselves.
Super-dooper brainy (and very funny) comedian Sara Pascoe was in Australia for a bunch of festivals and kindly gave me some of her time to talk about sperm and hymen in a hotel lobby. Her work is whip-smart and politically active and has recently focussed on the fascinating world of sexual biology and its implications.
Here we cover her early political awakening, the difficulty of being a good person, kamikaze sperm, pornography, incest, hymens, paedophilia - you know, all the good stuff.
Prepare to do a lot of LEARNING.
Cause of the Week: Eaves For Women (eavesforwomen.org.uk)