Afternoon Light

Welcome to the Afternoon Light Podcast, a captivating journey into the heart of Australia’s political history and enduring values. Presented by the Robert Menzies Institute, a prime ministerial library and museum, this podcast illuminates the remarkable legacy of Sir Robert Menzies, Australia’s longest-serving prime minister. Dive into the rich tapestry of Menzies’s contemporary impact as we explore his profound contributions on the Afternoon Light Podcast. Join us as we delve into his unyielding commitment to equality, boundless opportunity, and unwavering entrepreneurial spirit. Our engaging discussions bring to life the relevance of Menzies’s values in today’s world, inspiring us to uphold his principles for a brighter future. Ready to embark on this enlightening journey? Experience the Afternoon Light Podcast now! Tune in to explore the past, engage with the present, and shape a better tomorrow by learning from the visionary leadership of Sir Robert Menzies. Stay connected by signing up on the Robert Menzies Institute website: Have an opinion? Email your comments to:

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4 days ago

The Australian economy has long been reliant on the mining industry, so it is easy to forget that we once thought that our iron ore was a scarce resource which needed to be hoarded. It was only during the latter part of the Menzies era that pioneering businessmen realised that Australia had vast resources which could enrich both themselves and the nation. Originally entering the Australian market to source uranium for the British atomic program, Rio Tinto would seize the opportunities available to it to become an icon of the Australian stock exchange. Joining us to discuss the history of Rio Tinto and its impact on the nation is Robert Porter, author of the new book Rio Tinto in Australia.
Want to learn more? Read our On This Day on Menzies’s Mining Boom.
Dr Robert Porter worked in the corporate sector, including in resource companies and now researches and writes business histories. His publications include: Paul Hasluck. A Political Biography; Below the Sands. The Companies that Formed Iluka Resources; Consolidated Gold Fields in Australia, the Rise and Decline of a British Mining House, 1926-1998; The Path to Palladium. Most recently, he authored Rio Tinto in Australia: The Origins and Formation of an International Resources Company 1954 – 1995. He lives in Melbourne.

Wednesday Nov 22, 2023

The horrific events of 7 October and the conflict that has since arisen have exposed deep divisions in Australian society. At a time when attitudes towards the state of Israel are the subject of fierce and often bitter debate, it is worth taking a moment to step back and reflect on how Australia’s relationship with Israel has evolved over the years. It is often forgotten that Australia played a central role in the creation of a Jewish state in the aftermath of World War Two, while Robert Menzies positioned himself firmly on the side of Israel during the Suez Crisis. It is only since the 1970s that this once strong bipartisan support has come into question. Joining us to discuss these complex issues is Dr Dashiel Lawrence, author of Australia and Israel: A Diasporic, Political and Cultural Relationship.

Wednesday Nov 15, 2023

President Kennedy famously met a tragic and untimely end. Yet, if it were not for a little-known Australian named Reg Evans, a young Lieutenant Kennedy may well have met an earlier and largely anonymous fate. Hear the fascinating story of an 80 year old rescue mission that forever changed both American politics and world history. And discover how this fateful moment acted as a snapshot of the burgeoning relationship between Australia and the United States. Joining us this week is Brett Mason, author of the new book Saving Lieutenant Kennedy: The heroic story of the Australian who helped rescue JFK.
Want to learn more? Read our Book of the Week article on Kennedy’s To Turn the Tide.
Brett Mason is Chair of the Council of the National Library of Australia and Adjunct Professor in Law at the Queensland University of Technology. He was formerly Australia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands and Permanent Representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. From 1999 to 2015 he was Senator for Queensland and served in the Howard and Abbott ministries. His most recent books are Wizards of Oz: How Oliphant and Florey helped win the war and shape the modern world, and now Saving Lieutenant Kennedy: The heroic story of the Australian who helped rescue JFK.

Wednesday Nov 08, 2023

There has never been a political rivalry in Australia quite like that between Robert Menzies and Herbert Evatt. Born in the same year, these two brilliant lawyers were on opposite sides of the Engineers’ Case and ended up on opposite sides of the House of Representatives. Evatt bested Menzies in the battle over the 1951 referendum, but there followed a political and arguably phycological implosion on Evatt’s part which would shape Australian politics for decades. Joining us to discuss their epic clashes is Anne Henderson, author of the new book Menzies Versus Evatt.
Want to hear more? Listen to Gideon Haigh delve further into the story of Evatt.
Want to learn more? Read our On This Day article on the Communism Referendum.
Anne Henderson was educated at Melbourne University and is deputy director of The Sydney Institute – a forum for debate and discussion which enjoys good relations with both sides of Australian politics. She is the editor of The Sydney Papers Online and one of Australia’s leading biographers with studies on Dame Enid Lyons and former prime minister Joseph Lyons along with books on immigration and women in politics. Anne Henderson’s Menzies at War was short-listed for the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History in 2015 and she appeared in the ABC TV documentary Howard on Menzies: Building Modern Australia (2016) and Foxtel’s The Menzies Years hosted by John Howard (2022).

Wednesday Nov 01, 2023

Of the first 10 women elected to the Federal Parliament, 8 were from the Liberal side of politics. One of the most talented and remarkable was Dame Annabelle Rankin, the daughter of a sugarcane farmer whose important organisational role in WW2 propelled her to prominence. When she entered the Senate in 1947, she was one of just 3 Coalition Senators in the entire chamber. She would go on to have a stellar career as party whip, Minister for Housing, and High Commissioner to New Zealand. But until recently, her story was little told. That is before our guest Peter Sekuless made an important addition to the Australian Biographical Monographs Series.
Want to hear more? Listen to Margaret Fitzherbert discuss the essential role of early Liberal women.
Want to learn more? Read about the Menzies Government’s signature policy of Child Endowment.
Peter Sekuless is a Canberra-based writer who has been a press gallery journalist, Commonwealth public servant and government relations consultant. His books include the life of Australian feminist Jessie Street and a profile of World War Two war correspondent Lorraine Stumm.

Wednesday Oct 25, 2023

At the heart of Robert Menzies’s vision for Australia was the home. He believed that homeownership gave people a stake in the country, encouraged habits of thrift and forethought, and acted as the bedrock of patriotism. In his ‘Forgotten People’ radio address he went so far as to suggest that homes could be spiritually uplifting; giving people a sense of independence that facilitated them to act with moral conviction. As prime minister, he followed through that romanticism with practical achievement, which saw homeownership rates rise above 70%. But in modern Australian, the Menzian dream is increasingly unobtainable for many, and this demographic shift towards renting could have dire consequences for centre-right parties. Joining us to discuss solutions is Senator Jane Hume.
Want to learn more? Read about how the Menzies Government managed to achieve major homeownership increases despite maintaining a consistently high immigration rate.
Want to hear more? Watch Senator Hume’s speech launching the book Markets and Prosperity earlier this year.
Bonus fact:
At the 1906 federal election, Robert Menzies’s uncle and political mentor Sydney Sampson argued that the antidote to socialism was to ensure that over 50% of people owned their own property.
Senator the Hon Jane Hume is a Liberal Senator for Victoria and Shadow Minister for Finance, the Public Service, and Shadow Special Minister of State. Jane was elected as a Liberal Senator for Victoria in 2016. Upon her election, she was appointed Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Economics. Following the 2019 election, Jane was appointed Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology. Then in 2020, she was promoted to the position of Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Digital Economy. In 2021, her responsibilities were expanded again, and she became the first Minister for Women's Economic Security during the Morrison Government.

Wednesday Oct 18, 2023

Across Britain, Australia and like-minded nations, the centre-right of politics is in a state of flux. Thought leaders are at odds over how to deal with a societal shift towards big government and reliance on the state, epitomised by the uniformly illiberal responses to the pandemic – which were often implemented by supposedly centre-right governments. Likewise, there is much debate over the necessity and methodology of fighting the culture wars; and how to stand up for principles of equality and free speech now under direct assault. One thing seems certain: that one epoch has ended, and out of the current state of confusion, a new one will rise. Joining us to unpack these issues is The Spectator UK editor and respected conservative chronicler Fraser Nelson.
Want more to ponder? Watch Lord Jonathan Sumption’s Menzies Oration from 2022.
Fraser Nelson is editor of The Spectator UK. He also writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph and sits on the board of two think tanks: the Centre for Policy Studies and the Centre for Social Justice. He has turned The Spectator into the fastest-growing current affairs magazine in Europe, launching an Australian edition and doubling its subscriptions in a market that fell by two-thirds. Nelson has won numerous awards and is the only UK journalist to have simultaneously held the top industry awards for editing and political writing. His last was in 2021 from the British Magazine Society of Editors which named him Editor of the Year in a current title.

Wednesday Oct 11, 2023

Australia has often viewed its universities as utilitarian enterprises whose primary function is to train professionals and boost the economy. However, Robert Menzies had a far grander vision for tertiary education, one which saw the university as essential to the health of a democracy. Menzies believed that a liberal education equipped people for a full life and the eternal search for truth that such a life involves. But is the current university sector living up to his dream? Are Australians happy with their university experience? And is the sector plagued by competing priorities? Hear University of Melbourne Deputy Vice-Chancellor Michael Wesley explore these issues.
Purchase Professor Wesley’s book, The Mind of the Nation
Want to learn more about Menzies’s vision for Australian Universities? Watch Professor Greg Melleuish deliver a paper on ‘The Idea of Education According to the Young Menzies’
Bonus Fact:
While it is well known that Robert Menzies attended the University of Melbourne on a scholarship, and later served as the University’s Chancellor, it is lesser known that on graduating Menzies worked for a time as a university tutor.

Wednesday Oct 04, 2023

Robert Menzies is a towering figure in Australian history, and one who has come to define his side of politics. Yet, despite this, he has only received one full length biography in the last twenty years. How did Menzies come to reach his preeminent position? What can modern politicians learn from our longest serving leader, and how he mastered the arts of persuasion and leadership? And is he often misrepresented by people who want to enlist his authority? Award winning author Troy Bramston unpacks these issues.
Purchase Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics here
Want to learn more? Watch Bramston’s addresses to the Robert Menzies Institute’s first and second annual conferences
Bonus Fact:
The title ‘The Art of Politics’ comes from an essay on politics as an art, which Robert Menzies published in the New York Times in 1948, the year before he won back the prime ministership.

Wednesday Sep 27, 2023

Are you worried about the possibility of war? As the geopolitical situation becomes ever more tense, many commentators have described the onset of a new Cold War. If the threats faced by the Western World do indeed bear similarities to the ideologically bifurcated world of the 1950s, then it would be wise to look back over that troubled period for lessons for the present. Robert Menzies Institute Fellow Dr William Stoltz has done exactly that, in a new occasional paper dubbed ‘Australia's Dilemmas: Then and Now’.
Read the occasional paper here
Want to hear more? Listen to Dr Jeffrey Wilson give his insights into using the example of the 50s to seize the opportunities of the present
Bonus Fact:
Tensions over Taiwan are nothing new. In 1958 the world was almost plunged into war over what is known as the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis. On that occasion, the Menzies Government strongly urged the United States to act with caution.
Dr William Stoltz is a Robert Menzies Institute Visiting Fellow and Senior Adviser for Public Policy at the ANU National Security College. He holds a PhD and Advanced Masters of National Security Policy from the Australian National University as well as a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne.


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