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Breaking the Climate Stalemate

Listen to Breaking the Climate Stalemate

What might the economic and social upheavals of 2020 mean for climate policy in Australia? For this Fifth Estate conversation, host Sally Warhaft brings together Judith Brett and Marian Wilkinson – two writers who have undertaken in-depth research into the resource economy and Australian climate scepticism.

Brett's recent Quarterly Essay, 'The Coal Curse', traces the history of Australia's resource dependence and its impact on our political culture. Wilkinson's book, The Carbon Club, explores the loose but powerful alliance of Australian media, mining and political figures whose scepticism has hindered meaningful climate policy development for decades.

There are signs, though, that the stalemate might be starting to shift. Amid widespread criticism during the bushfires earlier this year, Scott Morrison began to soften his climate rhetoric, speaking of ‘adaptation’ and ‘resilience’. James Murdoch spoke out against News Corp’s climate scepticism in January and, more recently, dramatically resigned from the board. Will the seismic impacts of Covid-19 set us back into our entrenched economic habits, or could 2020 mark a turning point? #TWCFifthEstate


Portrait of Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians' lives in the fog of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.

Sally is a regular host and commentator on ABC radio and has a PhD in anthropology. She did her fieldwork in Mumbai, India, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.

Portrait of Judith Brett

Judith Brett

Judith Brett is emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University. A former editor of Meanjin and columnist for the Age, she won the National Biography Award in 2018 for The Enigmatic Mr Deakin. She is the author of four Quarterly Essays: Relaxed and Comfortable, Exit RightFair Share and The Coal Curse. Her other books include From Secret Ballot to Democracy SausageRobert Menzies’ Forgotten People and Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class.

Portrait of Marian Wilkinson

Marian Wilkinson

Marian Wilkinson is regarded as one of the most distinguished journalists in Australia. A member of the Australian Media Hall of Fame, Marian was a pioneer in the resurgence of Australian investigative journalism.

She was a senior journalist for many years with the Sydney Morning Herald, serving as its Washington correspondent, Environment Editor and Deputy Editor. She also worked as a senior reporter and executive producer for the ABC’s Four Corners program. She was a co-author with David Marr of Dark Victory (Allen & Unwin, 2003) and the author of The Fixer: The Untold Story of Graham Richardson (William Heinemann, 1996). Her latest book is The Carbon Club (Allen & Unwin, 2020).

The Fifth Estate

The important stories of the day – off the front pages.

Sally Warhaft hosts a dizzying array of guests from the worlds of politics, culture, international relations and beyond, in a witty and revealing analysis of current affairs.