The Fifth Estate
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Lord John Acton’s famous remark is among the most oft-quoted in politics: ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. But did Acton take the cynicism too far when he later wrote that ‘great men are almost always bad men’?
At this special Fifth Estate event, presented in partnership with Bendigo Writers Festival, host Sally Warhaft will be joined by three guests whose careers have brought them into close proximity to power for many years. Journalists Dennis Glover, Kerry O’Brien and Margaret Simons will share their thoughts and observations on the nature of power in Australia today.
What kind of people seek power? Are our politicians overstating their capacity to influence economic events that are largely out of their control? Is the nature of power changing in the 21st century? How much influence is wielded by people the public didn’t elect? And why is power so difficult to relinquish?
Hunger for power has been at the heart of the last tumultuous decade in Australian politics. Join us for a conversation about this irresistible force; its allure and its pitfalls.
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.
Kerry O'Brien is one of Australia's most respected journalists, with six Walkley awards including the Gold Walkley and the Walkley for outstanding leadership in journalism.
In a career spanning more than fifty years, Kerry has worked for newspapers, television and a wire service, and as a foreign correspondent. Thirty-three of those years were at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation where he cut his teeth on the trail-blazing current affairs programs This Day Tonight and Four Corners. He was the inaugural presenter of Lateline for six years, the editor and presenter of 7.30 for fifteen years, and the presenter of Four Corners for five.
Margaret Simons is Associate Professor in the School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University. In 2015, she won the Walkley Award for Social Equity Journalism. Her recent books include Six Square Metres, Self-Made Man: The Kerry Stokes Story, What's Next in Journalism?, Journalism at the Crossroads and Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, co-written with former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Fraser. The latter won both the Book of the Year and the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2011.
In addition to her academic work, Margaret regularly writes for the Saturday Paper, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Griffith Review, the Monthly and other publications.
Dennis Glover is an Australian writer and novelist. The son of factory workers, Dennis grew up in the working class Melbourne suburb of Doveton before studying at Monash University and King’s College Cambridge where he was awarded a PhD in history. He has worked for two decades as an academic, newspaper columnist, policy adviser and speechwriter to Australia’s most senior political, business and community leaders. An often outspoken political commentator, his books include An Economy is not a Society, The Art of Great Speeches and Orwell’s Australia. His debut novel The Last Man in Europe tells the dramatic story of how George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four.
For in-depth insider analysis of current affairs, it doesn't get any better than The Fifth Estate.
This long-running series is a mainstay of the Wheeler Centre’s programme, and of public conversation in Melbourne. Twice a month, our in-house news anchor Sally Warhaft hosts guests from the world of politics, culture, journalism and international relations to dissect pressing questions of policy, power and public affairs. It's free, it's fortnightly and it's a chance to give complex local and global issues the thoughtful discussion they deserve.
Guests are announced in the weeks prior to events, so keep an eye on our website (or the Wheeler Weekly newsletter) for updates. Subscribe to the popular Fifth Estate podcast – or book a (free) ticket – for expert analysis on today's key debates.