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Afternoon Light

Afternoon Light is the podcast of the Robert Menzies Institute, a prime ministerial library and museum dedicated to the legacy of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies. In Afternoon Light, we talk about Menzies’s contemporary legacy and how his values of equality, opportunity and enterprise can be upheld. Sign up to the RMI website at: https://www.robertmenziesinstitute.org.au/ Email your comments to: info@robertmenziesinstitute.org.au

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Tom Frame, ‘An Orderly and Seamless Transition of Power’ The Life and Achievements of Harold Holt

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to Tom Frame about Menzies’s Liberal deputy and immediate successor Harold Holt. 


13 Jul 2022

Rank #1

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Bridget Brooklyn, ‘A Tendency to See This As Monolithic’ Unpacking the 1954 Election

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to Western Sydney University Lecturer Dr Bridget Brooklyn about the intricacies of the pivotal 1954 election.


29 Jun 2022

Rank #2

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Peter Drysdale: ‘A Radical Idea’ Personal Reflections on the Australia-Japan Relationship

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to Peter Drysdale AO, architect of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, about his personal reflections on how the Australia-Japan relationship has developed over the years.


22 Jun 2022

Rank #3

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Gray Connolly: ‘A Very Strong Communitarian Element’ Exploring Australian Conservatism

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to barrister and public commentator Gray Connolly about the history of Australian conservatism.


15 Jun 2022

Rank #4

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Alexander Downer: ‘A Sense of History’ Political Leadership in a Troubled World

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer about his personal recollections of Robert Menzies and his views on contemporary politics, with a particular emphasis on the troubled geopolitical landscape.


8 Jun 2022

Rank #5

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Troy Bramston: ‘That Sense of Stature About Them’ Comparing Menzies and Hawke

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to best-selling biographer Troy Bramston about the comparisons to be made between Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke, the longest serving prime ministers for each side of Australian politics.When it comes to political longevity, Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke are record-breakers who are frequently held up as leadership models for successors to emulate. But despite their competing political philosophies, Menzies and Hawke have far more in common than simply winning elections. Both were born in remote townships on either side of the Victoria-South Australian border, both came from families containing active politicians and had fathers who served as religious ministers, both were filled with talent, ambition and drive from an early age, and both were able to adapt and learn over their careers. In an Australia that seems to be yearning for enduring and successful leadership, there are many lessons to be learned from their stories, and they come out all the clearer through a discussion of Plutarch-style ‘parallel lives’.Troy Bramston is a senior writer and columnist with The Australian. He has interviewed politicians, presidents and prime ministers from multiple countries along with writers, actors, directors, producers and several pop-culture icons. He is an award-winning and best-selling author or editor of 11 books, including Bob Hawke: Demons and Destiny, Paul Keating: The Big-Picture Leader and Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics. He also co-authored The Truth of the Palace Letters and The Dismissal with Paul Kelly.


1 Jun 2022

Rank #6

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William Stoltz: ‘Its work was so sensitive that Parliament shouldn’t be briefed on it’ ASIS at 70

In this week’s episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to our Visiting Fellow Dr William Stoltz about the history of the Australia Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), which recently celebrated the 70th anniversary of its foundation under the Menzies Government.You can read Dr Stoltz’s opinion piece on the creation of ASIS here.


25 May 2022

Rank #7

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Darius von Güttner: ‘Reaching Out to the Past and Choosing What They Want to Be’ The Ukraine Conflict and the Importance of History

In this week's episode of the Afternoon Light podcast, Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer talks to Dr Darius von Güttner, a historian of Eastern Central Europe from the University of Melbourne, about the ‘deep history’ that underpins the current conflict in the Ukraine.Vladimir Putin’s flagrant invasion of the Ukraine has famously been justified on the pretext of NATO expansionism, but it is also based on a historical fiction which seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the sovereign nation which is currently under attack. Putin has claimed that Ukraine ‘never had a tradition of genuine statehood’, deliberately trying to erase a national story that stretches back over one thousand years. Such is often the case with global conflicts; they almost invariably have historical underpinnings and they serve to demonstrate that historical memory is a contested domain with real world consequences. This issue is closely related to the purpose of the Robert Menzies Institute, which is part of a network of prime ministerial libraries dedicated to keeping alive Australia’s national story, a tale of peaceful liberal democracy that we hope will long continue. Dr Darius von Güttner is a Principal Research Fellow with the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is a historian of East Central Europe with broad interest in cultural aspects of the transmission of ideas across time and space. He is interested in global history and pursues interdisciplinary research and teaching subjects which examine history from a global perspective. Darius is the General Editor of Brepols publishing’s book series on “East Central Europe”. His publications cover diverse aspects of history from the Middle Ages to early modern and the modern eras.


18 May 2022

Rank #8

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James Paterson: ‘A Dramatic Wake Up Call’ Navigating Contemporary Geopolitical Threats

In this week’s episode of Afternoon Light, , Robert Menzies Institute CEO Georgina Downer discusses the dangers posed by an increasingly assertive China and the outbreak of conflict in Eastern Europe with Australian Senator James Paterson.Australia’s degenerating relationship with China has dominated headlines for several years. As Australia seeks to uphold sovereignty and a rules based international order, we are increasingly exposed to economic coercion, cyber-attacks, and even acts of espionage and foreign interference. Dealing with these threats as a liberal democracy involves balancing security and freedom, and also working with like minded nations to ensure a coordinated and firm response. The new AUKUS agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States builds on Menzies’s ANZUS Treaty, and represents the most significant change to Australia’s strategic arrangements in decades. James Paterson is a Liberal Senator for Victoria. First elected in March 2016 at age 28, he is the youngest Liberal ever elected to the Senate. Senator Paterson is the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, the deputy chair of the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19, and the former chair of the Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services and the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee. Senator Paterson is also the Australian co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Museums, Libraries and Galleries; co-patron of Liberal Friends of Israel; and deputy chair of the Modest Members Society – a group of Coalition MPs committed to championing free markets and economic freedom.


11 May 2022

Rank #9

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Peter Edwards: ‘One of the Greatest Examples of Australian Statecraft’ Australia’s Military Commitments Under Menzies

The Robert Menzies Institute recently hosted renowned military and diplomatic historian Peter Edwards for a talk entitled ‘From Korea to Vietnam: Menzies’s Cold War military commitments’. Prior to the event, Peter sat down with the Institute’s CEO Georgina Downer to talk through the complex issues involved in the defence of Australia during the Menzies era.It is natural and just that Australians should be drawn towards remembering and commemorating the Vietnam War, in which 521 Australian combat personnel lost their lives, as a defining moment in our history. However, this conflict has tended to overshadow the otherwise successful implementation of strategies of ‘graduated response’ and ‘forward defence’ which characterised defence policy during the Menzies era. The aim was to use targeted and small troop commitments to help snuff out conflict before it could reach Australia, assisting friendly governments resist insurgencies so that the ‘dominoes’ of the Asia-Pacific would not fall to international communism, whilst simultaneously keeping Australia’s ‘great and powerful friends’ engaged in the region. During the Malayan Emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation, carefully integrated military and diplomatic actions helped achieve outcomes that were favourable for Australia, and with the nation once again facing a troubled international landscape, there are crucial lessons to be drawn for the present.Peter Edwards AM is a writer, historian and biographer who has published extensively on Australian and international history and politics. He is the official historian and general editor of the nine-volume Official History of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-75, including authoring volumes on strategy and diplomacy, Crises and Commitments (1992) and A Nation at War (1997). Peter won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, and has been affiliated with numerous Australian and international universities, as well as receiving official appointments to work for organisations including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian War Memorial. Peter is a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), a Fellow of the Australian Institute for International Affairs, and a former Trustee of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. A former editor of the Australian Journal of International Affairs, Peter is a longstanding member of the Research Committee of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and of historical advisory committees in the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


4 May 2022

Rank #10