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The Signal is the ABC's daily news podcast that helps cut through the noise to cover the biggest stories, explaining not only what is happening but why. It's an entertaining 15-minute show, perfect for the daily commute.
2 days ago
Are all lockdowns equal?
It's Australia's harshest COVID-19 lockdown yet. This morning, 3,000 people living in 1,345 units across nine public housing towers in inner Melbourne are starting their second day locked down inside. They can't leave for food, essential work, or even to stretch their legs. So why are these people being forced to follow tougher rules than everyone else? Today on The Signal, we ask why the nine towers have been targeted in particular, and look at how the pandemic is revealing some uncomfortable truths about housing and inequality in Australia. Featured: Rebecca Bentley, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne
5 days ago
Why Hong Kongers take the risk
China's new National Security Law that Hong Kongers were dreading didn't keep them from protesting this week. Thousands turned out, and hundreds were arrested. The risks they're taking are greater than ever: not only is there an ongoing pandemic, but protesters face life in prison if they're arrested and convicted of any of a suite of new offences that were created on Tuesday. So why do they keep showing up, even when they feel no hope? Today on The Signal, we speak to three women from the pro-democracy movement, to try to understand what drives them to keep taking the risk. Featured: 'Jas', Hong Kong pro-democracy protester 'P', Hong Kong pro-democracy protester 'Hannah', Hong Kong pro-democracy protester
6 days ago
Surviving a poor, dangerous, disorderly world
Australia is stocking up on weapons to protect itself against an increasingly "poor" and "disorderly" world. To that end, Scott Morrison wants to spend $270 billion on defence over the next decade. The shopping list includes long-range missiles, satellites and under-sea sensors, and the clear subtext is that we might need those things to protect ourselves from China. So how much danger are we actually in? And will the new defence budget keep us safe? Today on The Signal, we're glimpsing the Government's vision of the hostile new world that's likely to surround us in years to come, as well as its blueprint for a more aggressive Australia to meet it. Featured: Ashley Townshend, Director, Foreign Policy and Defence, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney
7 days ago
Victoria's backslide into lockdown
Millions of Victorians are adjusting to news of their second COVID-19 lockdown. Ten postcodes covering 35 suburbs will effectively wind back the clock by months in the fight against the virus, as the state struggles to contain a spike in cases. So how did Victoria find itself in this position? And are the new measures enough to get the situation back under control? Featured: Tony Blakely, Professorial Fellow in Epidemiology, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne
Jun 29, 2020
How the West looks from China
Australia's relationship with China at the moment is toxic and dangerous, and Chinese state media isn't helping. Yesterday, under the headline "Australia wages espionage offensive against China", the Chinese Communist Party tabloid Global Times accused Australia of trying to bug the Chinese embassy in Canberra, citing one anonymous source. It also suggested that Australian spies had been caught "red-handed" with a compass, a USB drive, and a paper map of Shanghai, and said Australia had been planting fake stories about China in western media. It all seems pretty strange, and some of the basic details are wrong. So why do stories like this find a receptive audience within China? Today on The Signal, there's a version of 20th century history you've probably never heard, but that every Chinese citizen learns in school. It's feeding into pretty much every dispute China has with the West in 2020, whether it's to do with Hong Kong, espionage or COVID-19. So how do Australia and the West look from behind that lens? And what does it mean for our disintegrating diplomatic ties? Featured: Jianan Qian, Writer
Jun 28, 2020
America's war on its health officials
America just had one of its worst ever weekends in the fight against COVID-19. In a terrible new milestone, the country is now recording more than 40,000 new cases each day, and states including Florida and Texas are reversing plans to reopen their economies. But as the virus spreads, health officials working to protect the community are being targeted. Some have been stalked, others abused or threatened with violence, and dozens have gone into hiding or quit their jobs altogether. Today on The Signal, we ask why so many Americans are taking their fury out on the medical professionals trying to help them. Featured: Dr Marcus Plescia, Chief Medical Officer, US Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
Jun 25, 2020
What COVID-19 is doing to Brazil
The poorest Brazilians are coming up with grassroots answers to COVID-19, even as the spread of the virus accelerates. There are thousands of news cases and hundreds of deaths on a daily basis in Brazil, and the crisis is not yet thought to be at its peak. At the same time, the Brazilian Government, led by the populist conservative firebrand President Jair Bolsonaro, is in crisis. So where does that leave Brazilians in the meantime, and will the nation emerge with its democracy intact?
Jun 24, 2020
Australia's incredible shrinking media
It's a bleak time in the Australian media industry. On top of the looming loss of 250 staff at the ABC, already this year nearly 100 newspapers have gone out of print circulation, and the all important ad revenue is drying up for TV stations, commercial radio, and capital city newspapers too. So is it terminal? Today on The Signal we assess the long-term damage being done to Australian journalism, and ask how things became this bad, and whether there's anything that could turn it around. Featured: Jonathan Holmes, Former presenter, Media Watch, ABC TV
Jun 23, 2020
Is sexual harassment preventable?
Sexual harassment allegations against the former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon have revived the conversation about victimisation in the workplace. Dyson Heydon denies any wrongdoing. But the allegations aren't the first to be heard in Australia, and they won't be the last. So is there a way to prevent sexual harassment from happening, rather than just responding when it does? Featured: Dr Kcasey McLoughlin, Senior Lecturer, Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle
Jun 22, 2020
Is it possible to ‘unrelax’?
Relaxing COVID-19 restrictions is the easy part, but reversing them might be harder. The daily number of new COVID-19 cases in Victoria has been climbing for a couple of weeks. It's not a second wave yet, but it could still turn into one. Today on The Signal, we ask what it'll take to stop that from happening. And now that Australians have begun to relax, is it possible to undo that? Featured: Tony Blakely, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Melbourne Alex Haslam, Professor of Psychology, University of Queensland
Jun 21, 2020
Doing the maths on an arts degree
University could be about to get a lot more expensive, depending on what you want to study. From next year, under a government proposal, it would cost 113% more to go to uni for an Arts degree, and 28% more to study law or commerce, while the cost of studying agriculture, maths, nursing, teaching and languages would fall significantly. So what's the rationale behind the change? And if it goes through, will it change enrolment trends? Today on The Signal we ask why the Government has decided that certain subjects are more worthy of funding than others, and what it might mean for you. Featured: Conor Duffy, ABC Education and Parenting Reporter David Speers, Host, Insiders, ABC TV
Jun 18, 2020
Billing sexual abuse victims
Law firms of all sizes have swooped in for a cut of the national redress scheme, by billing survivors of child sexual abuse for a cut of their payment. Some who've made successful claims have been charged thousands for a legal service that the government offers for free. Not all of them have known what they were getting themselves into. Today on The Signal, we take a closer look at the methods of those law firms with Jeremy Story Carter, who's been investigating the story for the ABC's Background Briefing.
Jun 17, 2020
Could China and India go to war?
Decades had passed in a disputed sliver of the Himalayas between China and India without a death. Until Monday. 20 Indian troops and possibly some Chinese ones too, although Beijing won’t say, were killed in a brutal confrontation. So why now? And could the two nuclear powers go to war?
Jun 16, 2020
Labor's big Victorian meltdown
Labor's alleged Victorian branch-stacking crisis keeps expanding. There are reports that as much as a quarter of the state's membership might have signed up under questionable circumstances. In the days following those allegations, the Victorian Government has lost three ministers, all of whom deny any wrongdoing. Now, Federal Labor has stepped in, appointing administrators to the state branch until next year and seizing control of preselections. So how could it have happened, and what sort of fallout might be yet to come?
Jun 15, 2020
Why China is executing an Australian
Australian Karm Gilespie dropped off the radar back in 2013. As it turns out, he's spent the last six and a half years in a Chinese prison on drug charges. On Friday news broke he'd been handed a death sentence. The Government has been reluctant to link his case to the deeply fractured diplomatic relationship between the two countries, but the timing has given rise to speculation that the case is being used as a tool by the Chinese Government. So is China trying to send Australia a message, and what could it be?
Jun 14, 2020
What we know about Australian slavery
Slavery didn't just happen in the US and Britain. In Australia, the practice is rarely described in those terms, or at all, but a number of Australian industries relied on tens of thousands of slaves over the course of more than a century. That history is right now getting its best airing in a long time. It's been brought about by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison remarking that there was no slavery in Australia. It's a comment he's since clarified, and apologised for. Today, we're taking a closer look at a little known chapter of Australia's history that's rarely spoken about. Featured: Thalia Anthony, Professor of Law, University of Technology Sydney
Jun 11, 2020
Does Type A blood increase your COVID risk?
More than 416,000 people have died since COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan, but much about the virus remains mysterious. Now, researchers say, genetics may determine how bad an infection will be. Today on The Signal, we look at the latest DNA research on COVID-19. Is there a link between the virus and blood type?And, if so, what does it mean for the search for a vaccine? Featured: Mauro d’Amato, Professor of Genetics and Genomics, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne
Jun 10, 2020
How Indigenous deaths in custody happen
There's an ugly pattern that's fuelling Australia's latest Black Lives Matter marches: the high rate of Indigenous deaths in custody. Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is the most incarcerated group of people in any country, anywhere in the world, according to some researchers. So how did it get to be like this? And why, by some measures, are things getting worse? Today on The Signal, we take a closer look at Australia’s record on incarcerating Indigenous people. And we hear one proposal that might make Australia fairer. Featured: Dr Hannah McGlade, Senior Indigenous Research Fellow, Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University, Perth
Jun 9, 2020
Dismantling the police
Abolishing the police force is a confronting notion for most people. But some US cities are contemplating it as a solution, frustrated with the intransigence of their own police departments. The idea was considered a radical and doomed left-wing project just two weeks ago, but this week Minneapolis City Council has taken steps towards making it a reality. So what would that mean for community safety? And could it catch on elsewhere? Featured: Melissa Segura, Investigative reporter, BuzzFeed News
Jun 8, 2020
How New Zealand eliminated COVID-19
It's a huge moment in New Zealand. For the first time in 75 days, everyone can go to work, linger in a cafe, hug friends and family, or just spend the morning sitting on a park bench. So how did they get there? Today on The Signal, we're telling the story of New Zealand’s very successful response to COVID-19. We hear how, after an initially shaky start, the country introduced one of the world's toughest lockdowns, and is now about to reap the rewards. So is New Zealand definitely in the clear? And did Australia do something wrong? Featured: Nick Wilson, Associate Professor, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Jun 7, 2020
America's untouchable police unions
People have tried to fix America's policing problem before, but they've always hit the same wall: police unions. They're the reason police officers are rarely fired for misconduct, and they've been growing in power for a decade. So how have they become so untouchable? And will this time be different? Featured: Melissa Segura, Investigative reporter, BuzzFeed News
Jun 4, 2020
Detained, resettled, and now fighting COVID
On top of riots and a bitter divide between police and the black community, the US is also home to the world's biggest COVID-19 caseload, and an unemployment rate of about 15 percent. On any objective measure, now's not a good time to arrive there to start a new life. But for a handful of refugees who were held on Manus Island or Nauru, it's where they have ended up. Today on The Signal, we bring you the story of one of them, a man we’re calling Mehdi. We hear his story in his own words: his journey from Iran, the seven years he spent on Manus Island, his arrival in the US, and his on-going battle after contracting the novel coronavirus while working at a Walmart. Featured: 'Mehdi', Refugee Ben Winsor, Co-founder, Ads-Up USA
Jun 3, 2020
Does Australia have a policing problem too?
It's a 43 second clip that's kicked off a big discussion about policing in Australia. In the phone video, recorded on Monday, a white NSW police officer kicks the feet of an Indigenous teenager, slamming him to the ground, an incident that's now the subject of an internal investigation. The family of the 16-year-old say an inquiry isn't enough, and are calling for the police officer involved to be charged. So what does the video tell us about policing in Australia? Today on The Signal, we’re delving into the history of the police force here. We ask how it came to be the way it is, and why so many Indigenous people feel unfairly targeted. Featured: Dr Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales Law School
Jun 2, 2020
Trump's war on Antifa
Donald Trump is pointing the finger at what he says are violent elements of the far left. At the same time, white supremacists are ramping up their online activity and hoping the riots escalate. So where does that leave the protesters between those two extremes? Featured: Dr Kaz Ross, far right researcher
Jun 1, 2020
Vladimir Putin and the doctor
There's a young Russian doctor who's been distributing urgently needed protective gear to frontline health workers in Moscow. So why is she public enemy number one? The case of Anastasia Vasilyeva is a bizarre subplot in the tale of Russia's COVID-19 response, which has led to the third biggest caseload in the world. It's the story of a contest between public health and the political goals of Vladimir Putin. Featured: Eric Campbell, ABC Reporter, Foreign Correspondent
May 31, 2020
Is America permanently broken?
America is in the grip of a wave of violence not seen in a generation, after yet another death of a black person in police custody. In dozens of cities, anger and exasperation are building, and in some places curfews have been introduced and the National Guard called in. The deadly unrest was sparked after footage of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on 46-year-old George Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes spread around the world. While four officers have now been fired and one charged with third degree murder, the protestors say it isn't enough. So is there any way America's racial chasm can be bridged? Today on The Signal, we piece together the final minutes of George Floyd's life, and speak with an author who says future generations will look back on this period and conclude America has failed. Featured: Donald Earl Collins, author and professorial lecturer in history and American Studies, American University, Washington, DC
May 28, 2020
Why your dreams are getting weirder
If you've been having more intense dreams since the pandemic began, you're not alone. Today we find out why that's happening, whether or not it's helpful, and what to do if you're finding it's not. Featured: Dr Thomas Andrillon, Psychologist, Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University
May 27, 2020
Unpacking a very strange truce
A friendly chat between a Coalition government and the union movement over industrial relations might seem as likely as hell freezing over. But COVID-19 has changed lots of things, and this week Scott Morrison said a discussion with unions is exactly what he'd like to see happen. Union leaders are already wary, but say they'll participate. So is there any chance the two sides could find common ground? Today on The Signal, we review what unions and business leaders might spar over in their shared bid to boost Australia's ailing economy, and ask whether there are lessons from Bob Hawke's 1983 Accord. Featured: Patricia Karvelas, Host, RN Drive and ABC News Afternoon Briefing
May 26, 2020
How the gas leak went wrong
Theoretically, there are no bad ideas in brainstorming, but the pitch for a "gas-led" economic recovery hasn’t won many fans. The Government-picked team that's steering Australia's route out of the COVID-19 downturn is making a case for a massive publicly funded expansion of the domestic gas industry. The idea was contained in a draft report from the manufacturing taskforce of the National COVID-19 Coordination Committee, which was leaked last week. The proposal is not only drawing a lot of criticism, it's also shone a spotlight on some of its authors' close links to the gas industry. So how did the launch of one of the first big ideas for fixing Australia's economy go so far off script? And is our economic recovery going to be all about gas? Featured: Stephen Long, ABC investigative reporter covering business and finance
May 25, 2020
Meet the economists denying debt
Australia is drowning in public debt, but what if we never have to pay it off? The kind of government spending it's taking to keep Australia afloat is pushing us into an unprecedented deficit. But there's an emerging school of economic thought whose proponents advise us to relax and forget about it. Modern Monetary theorists argue public debt may not actually exist, and governments can instead spend as much as they like. So how does the theory work? And why wouldn't lifting spending restrictions on governments create chaos and hyperinflation? Today on The Signal we're speaking to one of the founders of Modern Monetary Theory, and learning how it might apply to our coronavirus crisis. Featured: Emeritus Professor Bill Mitchell, Chair in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity, University of Newcastle
May 24, 2020
Calling time on Hong Kong's rebellion
Beijing has finally lost patience with Hong Kong's rebellious streak after a year of relentless pro-democracy protests. It's decided to ram through national security laws under the cover of COVID-19, a move designed to totally subdue dissent. So how will the protest movement react? And is the city's struggle over? Featured: Tom Grundy, Editor, Hong Kong Free Press
May 21, 2020
Donald Trump's miracle drug
Donald Trump has been pushing hydroxychloroquine for months as a treatment for COVID-19, but scientists and health officials say there's not enough evidence yet supporting its use. So how did the antimalarial drug that's also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus come to the President's attention? And why is he now digging in? Today on The Signal, we piece together the strange back story of Donald Trump's latest obsession, and ask how it was drafted into America's coronavirus culture war. Featured: Bruce Shapiro, author, journalist and professor, Columbia Journalism School
May 20, 2020
Inside an Australian COVID-19 ward
Australia has begun to relax in a lot of ways, but Australian hospitals can't. Even though the feared tide of COVID-19 patients never materialised at ICUs, the hypervigilance remains. And it has a price. Today, we speak with a frontline doctor from a COVID-19 ward in Adelaide about what it's taken to contain the outbreak within hospitals. Featured: Dr Tom Johns, Junior Doctor, Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals
May 19, 2020
Australia's bargaining chips with China
China and Australia have a lopsided relationship, and when China loses its temper, things can get out of hand very quickly. So with our biggest trading partner now slapping an 80% tariff on imports of barley, what options does Australia have? Today on The Signal we're going inside the latest big flare-up in China-Australia relations. We're asking what it means for our fragile economy, and whether we have more leverage against China than you might think. Featured: Ian Verrender, ABC Business Editor
May 18, 2020
2020's fresh blow to the reef
While we've all been focused on COVID-19, the Great Barrier Reef has had a devastating few months: it's experienced its most extensive coral bleaching event ever recorded. So can it still be saved? And could a species of hardy coral in the Red Sea that seems to be thriving help? Featured: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor of Marine Science, University of Queensland
May 17, 2020
How to spot a COVID-19 hotspot
As Australia re-opens, we've been told to expect outbreaks along the way, but the question is: where? Today we break down how the virus spreads in order to understand the places you need to be most careful, and the best way to manage the risk. Featured: Erin Bromage, Associate Professor of Immunology and Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
May 14, 2020
Can our universities survive COVID-19?
Australia's universities are in trouble: thousands of students are stuck overseas, and thousands more are reconsidering their study plans in Australia. So will all our universities survive the COVID-19 travel bans and the coming recession? Or will degrees be cancelled, staff fired, and some institutions go bust? Featured: Peter Hurley, Education Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University
May 13, 2020
COVID-19's other death toll
We know economic downturns drive up the suicide rate. So what kind of toll could COVID-19 exact in the years to come, and what can we do now to prevent it? Professor Ian Hickie says there's one big step we could take straight away that will save lives. Featured: Professor Ian Hickie, Co-Director, Brain & Mind Institute, The University of Sydney Professor Nick Haslam, Professor of Psychology, The University of Melbourne
May 12, 2020
COVID-19: a tale of two towns
There's a growing and perplexing appetite to lift the shutdowns in the US, despite the fact their infection rate is still climbing. Since January, 1.3 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, nearly 81,000 people have died and one projection suggests that by August, the death toll could reach 137,000. Some Americans support the containment measures that have crippled their economy, but others have turned out in the streets to rally against them. We visit two towns, an hour's drive apart, that demonstrate the depth of that divide. Featured: Robert Klemko, Staff reporter, The Washington Post
May 11, 2020
Could COVID-19 make Australia fairer?
There's an old saying: never waste a crisis. So could that adage apply to COVID-19 and tax? Today on The Signal we look into why our current tax system means that young people will inherit the long term economic pain that's being dealt out now. We ask why that's the case, and whether the remedy could lie in a dramatic rewrite.
May 10, 2020
Avoiding the second wave
Australia isn't the first country in the world to decide to ease social restrictions designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. In South Korea, what initially looked like a containment success story has hit a bump, as health officials scramble to control a new cluster. So what can we learn from a country that’s currently staring down the possibility of a second wave?
May 7, 2020
Tracing the origins of COVID-19
Donald Trump has a theory about where COVID-19 came from. He seems more convinced with each passing day that it came from a Chinese lab. But is there any proof? Today, we're taking a closer look at the theory, which is becoming an important driver behind a growing global campaign for an independent investigation into the origins of the virus. Will we ever get to the truth of the matter?
May 6, 2020
Is China really running the WHO?
The World Health Organisation is supposed to be impartial, but is it really? The US President Donald Trump has accused the WHO of being far too close to China. Today, we're finding out whether there's any proof and asking: can we trust the WHO?
May 5, 2020
Is Joe Biden in trouble?
Former Democratic Senate staffer Tara Reade has accused her old boss and presumptive presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault, a charge he denies. So what exactly does Tara Reade say? Today on The Signal, we talk to one of the reporters who broke the Tara Reade story. We piece together the timeline, and find out what the allegation means for Biden's attempt to defeat Donald Trump.
May 4, 2020
Who'll pay the COVID-19 bill?
Australians were warned 150,000 of us could die of COVID-19 if we weren't careful. As it happens, we were. But economists are starting to wonder how accurate that worst-case scenario modelling was. There's one school of thought that argues we've gone too far in avoiding something that was very unlikely to happen Today, we're counting the human and economic cost of COVID-19 and asking, who’s going to pay for it?
May 3, 2020
Is COVIDSafe safe?
People like the idea of the COVIDSafe app, but most Australians still don't want it on their own phone. The Government wants millions more of us to download it as one of the conditions for relaxing coronavirus restrictions. So what's holding us back? Are we right to have privacy concerns, and if we are then what needs to change?
Apr 30, 2020
Hooking up in lockdown
In theory, single life is lonelier than usual during a pandemic. Social distancing norms mean that anyone without a partner is pretty much stuck that way for now. That is, assuming everyone plays by the rules. Today, we're looking at how COVID-19 has changed hook up culture. We meet the people being careful, and the ones still taking risks.
Apr 29, 2020
Can you get the virus again?
More than 5,600 Australians have recovered from COVID-19, and there are glimpses of the slow return of normal life. But if you've had the virus already and recovered, are you immune to getting it again? And if there's no vaccine, what does that mean for how our lives are organised from now on? Today on The Signal we're diving into the question of COVID-19 immunity. We're finding out what we know for sure about reinfections, and what we still need to discover.
Apr 28, 2020
Too soon to relax?
The rules are finally being relaxed. After months of getting progressively stricter, Australia’s COVID-19 containment measures are moving in the opposite direction. The changes are tentative and they’re patchy, but they’re happening. So is it too soon? And what are the consequences if it is?
Apr 27, 2020
North Korea's missing dictator
No-one's sure how Kim Jong Un is doing, and North Korea's not saying. There's even a theory he might be dead. So what do we know for sure about his health? And if it's as bad as some of those theories hold, what does that mean for North Korea?
Apr 26, 2020
How Americans are judging Trump
Donald Trump's response to the pandemic broke new ground last week when he suggested injecting disinfectant as a way to fight the virus. Now he says he was joking, but how will his supporters see it? The US presidential election is edging closer, and the polls show most Americans haven't changed their minds about the President. But thousands more are expected to die, and the real economic hit lies ahead. Today, how COVID-19 could reshape the race for the White House between now and November.
Apr 23, 2020
You may Zoom the bride
Objectively, it's not a great time to get married. Plenty of people have cancelled imminent wedding plans, especially while attendance at ceremonies is capped at five. But others have chosen to lean into the weird world of home engagements and Zoom weddings. Today, we meet one of those couples.
Apr 22, 2020
How much do lockdowns lower emissions?
This pandemic is bringing about the largest drop in carbon emissions in recorded history. The bad news is, the fundamentals of the global economy are the same as they've always been. So once lockdowns are lifted, will emissions return to their old trajectory? Or could the disruption to climate change caused by COVID-19 actually last?
Apr 21, 2020
What if Virgin goes under?
Australia's aviation sector could be about to get significantly less crowded. Virgin has gone into voluntary administration, carrying billions in debt. So could it go under completely? And if it does, will we still be able to afford airfares? Today, the vanishing options for Virgin, and for the travelling public.
Apr 20, 2020
How far off is a vaccine, really?
The received wisdom on the subject of a COVID-19 vaccine is that it'll take 12 to 18 months to develop one. That timeline has become a soothing mantra that the world repeats to itself multiple times each day. But what makes us think we can trust it? Today, we're testing the orthodox prediction about a vaccine to find out whether it's masking a much harsher truth.
Apr 19, 2020
Was Australia ready?
In theory, Australia should have been well prepared for a pandemic. We'd even done training exercises back in 2006 and 2008. Australia was once the world leader at facing this exact hypothetical scenario. So when the real thing came along 12 years later, what went wrong?
Apr 16, 2020
Is this app the price of normality?
It's the classic tech trade off; surrender your privacy in exchange for a better life. This time though, it’s a pretty tempting offer. The Government says if enough Australians decide to download a new contact tracing app, some of the current restrictions on movement and gatherings could be lifted. Today, we're taking a closer look at Singapore's version of that app which inspired ours. Can we avoid their mistakes?
Apr 15, 2020
How the Ruby Princess unravelled
Just what do we know about what happened on board the now notorious Ruby Princess, and who might be responsible? Today on The Signal, we're piecing together a timeline. We're also looking into the cruise ship's parent company which, it turns out, operates about half the cruise liners worldwide, and is chaired by a friend of US President Donald Trump.
Apr 14, 2020
Could Australia eliminate COVID-19?
Eliminating COVID-19 sounds like a pretty attractive option right now. New Zealand seems to be on its way to doing just that, and it's being talked about as a real option here in Australia. So why on earth wouldn't you? Today, we're covering the pros and cons of elimination, and finding out what it would take to get to zero cases.
Apr 13, 2020
What went wrong in Tasmania
A month ago, Tasmania looked like the gold standard for tackling COVID-19. They'd closed the border early, and the state had no cases of community transmission. Since then, something's gone wrong, and there's a coronavirus cluster in the north west. Today, we take a closer look at the most extreme lockdown anywhere in Australia.
Apr 8, 2020
Life after lockdown
It's hard to imagine life after COVID-19, but Wuhan is the first place in the world to get a glimpse. Most people in the city are finally allowed to move around, but there are strict controls on how that happens. So what does the beginning of the end of lockdown look like?
Apr 7, 2020
George Pell's acquittal and its legacy
After a year behind bars, George Pell is a free man, but his life won't be the same. Yesterday, he was acquitted of child sex offences by the High Court, ending one of the highest profile cases in memory. So what happens next? And what's the legacy of the Pell case?
Apr 6, 2020
COVID-19's silent carriers
We got something wrong in the early stages of COVID-19. For a while, we were convinced the virus almost always showed symptoms. Now, we're learning that a shockingly high number of people are totally asymptomatic. So how common is that? And what does it mean for the spread of the disease?
Apr 5, 2020
Ripping up the economic rulebook
If you'd predicted a $130 billion wage subsidy a month ago no-one would have believed you, but here we are. The JobKeeper scheme is a desperate measure designed to keep Centrelink queues short, and the economy grinding along until life returns to normal. So how's it going to play out on the ground? And what comes next?
Apr 2, 2020
New love in a lockdown
There's no bad time to fall in love, but this would have to come close. We follow three couples who are trying to navigate new love in a world where no-one's supposed to touch. What used to be incredibly private is now a matter of public health, and everyone's got a different set of rules.
Apr 1, 2020
How deadly is COVID-19?
At first it was 15 per cent. Then it was 3, but it's still dropping. So why can't we work out the death rate for COVID-19? Today, the best guess for now about how deadly this virus is, and who we're not counting.
Mar 31, 2020
Six months? Or longer?
There's been a lot of guesswork about how long it'll take for life to get back to normal after COVID-19. Six months is a timeframe that has come up in recent policy responses, but it could last twice that. The dilemma at the core of this pandemic has always been whether societies would be willing to pay the price to save lives. So how long should Australia be prepared to stay in hibernation, in order to keep the death toll here down?
Mar 29, 2020
COVID-19: Australia's eviction moratorium
Hundreds of thousands of Australians were inching closer to eviction, until last night. A new six month moratorium will keep a roof over their heads for the time being, but there's no promise of direct rental relief. For now, tenants will be forced to negotiate individually with the owner of their property if they need a rental freeze, or even a reduction. So how do you even begin to do that? And how are other countries coping with the same problem?
Mar 26, 2020
Love in the time of coronavirus
From transnational estrangement and indefinite celibacy, to new couples and frustrated singles; COVID-19 heralds chaos for romantics everywhere. Today, we bring you part one in a series on the glory and despair of love in the time of coronavirus.
Mar 24, 2020
COVID-19: Could we test everyone?
It's not possible to test the whole world for COVID-19. Yet. For now, only certain people in Australia are eligible, while clinics preserve their stocks. But the advent of a quicker, cheaper, easier test could change that. Today, the experimental test that biohackers are hoping will be picked up.
Mar 23, 2020
COVID-19: The unemployment line
Centrelink is overwhelmed with the newly unemployed this week. All over Australia, people have been queueing for hours outside its offices. The website's strained to the point of collapse and the phone line's even busier than usual. The Government's been ramping up its capacity to deal with the unprecedented influx of jobseekers, but it hasn't been enough. Today, we hear from the people trying desperately to reach the front of that queue, as a matter of survival.
Mar 22, 2020
COVID-19: The fork in the road
Australia is at a fork in the road when it comes to coronavirus, and we don't have long to choose. In one direction is total lockdown. In the other, it's the partial measures we’ve had up until now. Today, we explain what each option looks like, and the tens of thousands of lives that hang in the balance.
Mar 19, 2020
How long until COVID-19 immunity?
29-year-old Mike is out the other side of coronavirus already. He's still holed up in his Bondi apartment, but essentially, he feels fine. Mike is a member of the lucky group whose immune system will beat COVID-19 on its own. For everyone else, a vaccine is their best hope, and dozens of research teams around the world are frantically working to make one. So how close are they, and what happens in the meantime?
Mar 18, 2020
COVID-19: The ultimatum to expats
As many as a million Australians overseas are facing a choice this week; Rush home, or risk getting stuck where you are. Today, we hear from two Australians living in LA who've been hounded by the people who love them to return, and chosen opposite paths.
Mar 17, 2020
COVID-19: Choosing who to save
It's clear watching Italy that if COVID-19 spreads too quickly, the health system will buckle, and if it does, it won't be possible for doctors to help everyone. Today we explore the sometimes ugly principles that determine who gets help in a crisis, and who misses out.
Mar 16, 2020
How paedophile priests think
People find ways to rationalise the terrible things they do, even when the act in question is pure evil. Today, the groundbreaking interviews from a new ABC documentary series, Revelation, which reveals how paedophile priests explain their crimes, and how the church justified systematically protecting them. It sets out to answer the difficult question: has the church really changed?
Mar 15, 2020
COVID-19: The faces of the jobs crisis
Shae's casual work has dried up because people aren’t going out, Ben's gigs have been cancelled and Charlie's business might end up folding. Job losses have been a big part of the conversation about the economic impact of Covid-19, but they're not imagined anymore, they're a reality. Today we meet people losing their livelihoods as large gatherings are banned, people stay home and the entertainment sector goes dark. What are their plans now? And will the Government stimulus package help in any way?
Mar 12, 2020
Victoria's mutant cows
When scientists tried to genetically modify cattle, they made a mistake. Now, those cows have ended up in Australia. Specifically, in a paddock a couple of hours outside Melbourne. So what went wrong, and what happens next?
Mar 11, 2020
COVID-19: Phase two
Public health officials keep referring to containment as a "phase". So if it is, then what comes next? Today, the phase of COVID-19 that follows this one. We find out how the response is likely to change as the disease breaks its banks.
Mar 10, 2020
George Pell's case for acquittal
George Pell could be a free man after today's appeal in the High Court. In today's episode we cover everything you need to know about the Cardinal's last chance to appeal against his child sex abuse convictions. So what's the case to acquit Australia’s most senior Catholic?
Mar 9, 2020
How coronavirus lies are spread
Big, small, ridiculous and scarily believable. The lies about coronavirus come in a staggering array, and they're spreading around the world. Plenty of them are more than wrong. They're dangerous. So how is misinformation about COVID-19 transmitted? And can we contain it?
Mar 8, 2020
The countdown to net zero
The message to the world is clear: get to net zero emissions by 2050, or suffer the worst effects of climate change. While some countries are on track, others aren't even trying, and then there's the question of who's telling the truth. Today, the race to net zero emissions by 2050, and the yawning holes in the world's carbon accounting system.
Mar 5, 2020
And then there were two
Super Tuesday effectively narrowed the race for democratic nominee to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. After an abysmal showing in early primaries such as Iowa, everyone assumed it was a matter of time before Joe Biden pulled out. So how did he turn things around so dramatically? His wild success on Super Tuesday has fundamentally shifted the race to the White House. So what happens next?
Mar 4, 2020
Wriggling out of a recession
Everyone wants to know if the bushfires and coronavirus are going to drag Australia into a recession. The economy was already under strain at the end of last year, and projections keep getting worse as global conditions slide. In 2008, we narrowly avoided disaster. So how is 2020 different? And what's the Government got in mind this time around?
Mar 3, 2020
What's wrong with prepping?
You know coronavirus has reached a new phase when the Prime Minister starts talking about toilet paper supplies. Shop shelves are starting to empty out as more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in Australia, including our first domestic transmissions. So how reasonable is it to stockpile? Today, the rationale of panic buying, and the damage it can do.
Mar 2, 2020
Hire, fire, repeat
When Sarah confronted her boss to find out why she stopped getting shifts running children's parties they couldn't give her an answer. She thinks it's because of her disability. Being hired, then fired, then hired, then fired is the experience of many people with disabilities. Companies are using diversity targets to make themselves look good, but they're not always keeping their new recruits around once the head count is done.
Mar 1, 2020
Growing up non-binary
Meet Olivia, an 11-year-old on puberty blockers, who rejects he, she, they & them as pronouns. Olivia is non-binary, and there are plenty of people who argue that medical intervention in cases like this one constitutes abuse. By contrast, Olivia's family says a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the extra time bought by puberty blockers has improved their child's life immensely. Today, we look at the reality of growing up non-binary in Australia in 2020.
Feb 27, 2020
Is your wage being stolen?
More and more major Australian companies are admitting to staggering wage theft. Coles, Target and Woolworths are just some of the latest offenders. In some cases, the underpayment bill is hundreds of millions of dollars. So how bad is the problem? And how do you fix it when it's baked into the economy?
Feb 26, 2020
Inside an animal testing lab
When three baboons escaped from a van at a Sydney Hospital earlier this week it was a sharp reminder that we still experiment with animals in quite a big way. The primates, bred for medical research, had been taken to the hospital so one could have a vasectomy. So what does animal testing in Australia look like in 2020? And why is it shrouded in so much secrecy?
Feb 25, 2020
COVID-19: When containment fails
No-one wants to use the word pandemic when it comes to coronavirus, but many experts now see that as the inevitable outcome. So are containment strategies like lockdowns, quarantines and travel bans working? And what should governments be doing instead, once containment fails altogether?
Feb 24, 2020
Stripping a national honour
The Order of Australia is supposed to recognise the very best in the community. There's a growing list of people who are arguing that men's rights campaigner and social commentator Bettina Arndt doesn't meet that standard. Many of them feel so strongly that they want her award taken away. So how political is the Order of Australia? And what happens if we start revoking awards?
Feb 23, 2020
Julian Assange's last stand
The US is finally making its pitch in a UK court to have Julian Assange extradited, but with Assange, nothing is simple. Today, Andrew Wilkie's face-to-face encounter with the Wikileaks founder in a London prison, and the last minute twists complicating the case.
Feb 20, 2020
What the media still gets wrong
Nour Haydar wanted to be a journalist, but when her father murdered her mother, she had second thoughts. The media coverage was relentless, often inaccurate and in some cases painted a picture of Nour's family she hardly recognised. In the end Nour decided to join the ABC. Today, after the killing of Hannah Clarke and her 3 children in Brisbane, we speak to Nour about what the media is still getting wrong when covering the violent deaths of women and the impact that has on families.
Feb 19, 2020
How a whole generation got mad
Something very strange just happened in Ireland. Sinn Fein, a political party verging on socialist and with historic links to the IRA, just won the popular vote and might even form government. And it's all because of young people. Today, how living at home until 35 politicised a generation. Could it ever happen here?
Feb 18, 2020
How AI is stalking coronavirus
The whole world is trying to figure out where the new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, will spread to next. So could artificial intelligence have the answer to that question? We find out about the AI that knows more about how this outbreak moves than any government in the world.
Feb 17, 2020
Australia's secrecy addiction
The Federal Court has ruled the AFP's raid on the ABC last year was completely legal. That ruling has raised a question about whether the law itself needs to be changed. So just how far out on a limb is Australia, when it comes to secrecy? And is there any chance of climbing back in?
Feb 16, 2020
Testing Trump's election pitch
Donald Trump is likely to stake his 2020 election pitch on the strength of the US economy. So is it as good as he says? How much is he responsible for? And will voters be convinced?
Feb 13, 2020
Australia's unluckiest company directors
Dummy director schemes target vulnerable Australians, mostly with total impunity. It's a common practice in white collar crime, targeting the poor, the sick and the disabled, but it's rare for anyone to be charged or convicted. So how can it be that easy? We take a close look at a major scheme here in Australia: how its architects found victims, evaded detection, and escaped mostly unscathed.
Feb 12, 2020
Young and in The National Party
The Nationals seem destined for another leadership spill, and soon. But that's not the only choice its members are making. The party is at a juncture when it comes to climate change policy, and it's struggling to retain the support of its traditional voter base in some key seats. Today, we ask what the young people inheriting the party think about its choices.
Feb 11, 2020
Why China's choosing coal
New coal fired power could be back on the table for Australia. The Government's spending $6m on feasibility studies to determine whether or not it's a good idea That's reignited the political debate in a big way, and with it the argument that we wouldn’t be the only ones in the world investing in new coal. The logic there, is that China is currently in the process of building dozens of new coal power plants. Today, we sort the reality from the rumours about China's alleged love of coal.
Feb 10, 2020
When floods follow fires
The Australian east coast has just endured three extreme weather events back to back. There's been drought, unprecedented bushfires and now, heavy rain and floods. Today, what this much rain does to a place when it's dumped over one weekend in the middle of a long, dry spell.
Feb 9, 2020
Censoring China's grief
People in China are furious about one specific coronavirus death. Dr Li Wenliang tried to blow the whistle early on, before the virus had become too widespread. He was accused of spreading rumours and told to remain silent. Dr Li himself went on to become sick with the virus, and died late last week. The grief and fury of the Chinese public has triggered a new wave of dissent, and the Government has been trying to scrub all traces of it from the internet. So can the Chinese Government silence the public's reaction?
Feb 6, 2020
Getting sex offenders off the apps
We want to believe that dating apps are safe. But looking around, there are some pretty scary stories about who else is on them. So how is it that repeat sex offenders are still allowed to use dating apps to find their victims? And are there good solutions being ignored?
Feb 5, 2020
Iowa: where trust goes to die
It's safe to say only one thing about the democratic primary in Iowa: it was a total mess. The system for counting votes collapsed, the results were super delayed, and conspiracy theories are thriving. Planet America's Chas Licciardello explains how it all went so horribly wrong, and what that means for the rest of the race.
Feb 4, 2020
Anarchists to barristers
They started out as a ragtag group of anarchists and The Greens have always had an inner struggle over just how radical they should be. Some think it should be a protest party but others want it to be a mainstream voice in Australian politics. As that internal battle continues, former barrister Adam Bandt has been elected as the party's fourth leader. So who are The Greens? And who are they becoming?
Feb 3, 2020
Why we can't fight firestorms
Thunderstorms created by bushfires could easily be mistaken for a scene from the Old Testament. Fire tornadoes, lightning strikes and gusts of embers bursting from the sky at unexpected moments. They're hard to predict, impossible to fight, and they're happening more than ever. Scientists are racing to learn everything they can about the phenomenon in order to predict their formation and save lives in the process.
Feb 2, 2020
Sports clubbed to death
It took two weeks of pressure, but the Minister being blamed for the sports rorts scandal, Bridget McKenzie, has quit the frontbench. It's the latest chapter in the sports rorts scandal, but the Government's still defending the way it ran the program. So is this the end of this story?
Jan 30, 2020
What the fires did to climate change
We talk a lot about what climate change did to the bushfires, but what about the other way around? The fires this season have almost doubled our annual emissions, but that's not being counted by us, or anyone for that matter. The problem is, ignoring them doesn't make them go away. We explain why they're not on the books yet, and how big a threat that could pose.
Jan 29, 2020
Life in the world's biggest quarantine
Wuhan might be a city of 11 million people, but right now, you could hear a pin drop. There are no cars on the streets, shops are running out of food and people shout to each other from their balconies. The city where the coronavirus outbreak started has become the centre of the largest quarantine zone in human history. Today we find out what life is like behind those containment lines.
Jan 28, 2020
Why the confusion about coronavirus?
A lot has changed in the last week. Coronavirus is spreading and the death toll keeps rising. Scientists are learning more about it all the time, but there are some crucial details they can't seem to agree on. China and Australia are working with different health advice, which means someone's getting it wrong. So how there can be this much confusion when the stakes are so high? Today, we're covering everything we know so far about the new strain of coronavirus.
Jan 27, 2020
What the fires did to animals
The number of human lives and homes lost in the fires is meticulously counted, but the toll on wildlife is more mysterious. Joan Reed from Sydney Wildlife Rescue couldn’t see any animals when she reached the firegrounds. None in the wild, not even any dead on the side of the road. Then people started arriving at her mobile clinic, bringing kangaroos with burnt feet, wombats with throats burnt by smoke, birds that had been caught in the flames. It’s thought these fires have killed more than a billion animals in New South Wales and Victoria alone, species have almost certainly been driven to extinction. Some populations will recover quickly but for others it could take more than a century. So what’s holding them back? And what happens to them in the meantime?
Jan 23, 2020
Who can call themselves Aboriginal?
Defending his racial identity wasn't what historian Bruce Pascoe had planned for his summer break. But then the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton referred a complaint about him to the AFP. Bruce Pascoe's been accused of faking his Aboriginality. It's being seen as an attack not just on the man himself, but also his increasingly influential book, Dark Emu. In recent years Dark Emu has become a mainstream challenge to versions of history which cast Indigenous Australians as nomadic. The book and its author have been criticised in the lead up to Australia Day, when the national conversation about colonialism reaches its annual apex. So what does this accusation against Bruce Pascoe mean for his work, and Australia's history? EDITOR'S NOTE: Since the publication of this podcast, the AFP has announced it's dropped its investigation into Bruce Pascoe.
Jan 22, 2020
How a deadly virus is born
When people in the Chinese city of Wuhan started getting sick after visiting a local market, everyone thought it was a pneumonia outbreak. It turned out to be a new virus. This strain is deadly, it's spreading and scientists are still trying to work out how to stop it. So far it's infected more than 400 people and killed nine. So what does it take for a virus like this to evolve and how worried should you be?
Jan 21, 2020
How $100m in sports grants backfired
The term 'sports scandal' might make you think of drug cheats or sex tapes. Not novelty cheques being handed over to bowling clubs in marginal electorates. But what started as a pretty ordinary sports grants program in the run up to last year's Federal Election is bringing a lot of heat to the Government. An Auditor-General's report out last week shows 70% of projects approved in the second round of the scheme in March 2019 were not recommended by Sport Australia. Now, there's a growing list of people angry with the Government over how it spent that $100m. So how much trouble is the Government in?
Jan 20, 2020
Impeachment: the final chapter
It's the home stretch of Donald Trump's impeachment. The Senate trial begins tonight, and a man named Lev Parnus has a mountain of new, last-minute evidence against the President. Today's episode is all about whether that evidence will make a difference, what happens next, and why the trial matters, even if the President survives it.
Jan 19, 2020
What the bushfires did to politics
The Government's taken a big hit over its response to the massive destruction caused by bushfires this summer. It's under more pressure than ever to strengthen its climate change policies So is there any chance that'll happen?
Dec 12, 2019
Goodbye 2019, we hardly knew you
For its last episode of 2019, The Signal takes a tour of the things that surprised us, scared us and blew us away. Expect Chinese revolutionary songs, Greta Thunberg, Lil Nas X, AI trickery, Google review culture, poetry recommendations and more.
Dec 11, 2019
Why police are vetting rap lyrics
There's one rap genre that police in the UK and Australia are listening to right now, but it's not because they're fans. Drill artists have had their lyrics censored, their videos pulled off YouTube and their songs banned. So what is it about this genre that has police so worried? And can drill survive?
Dec 10, 2019
Summer's not what it used to be
We're less than two weeks into the Australian summer, but already it feels like it's been a lot longer than that. All anyone can talk about right now is the bushfire crisis and the air quality. Since the fire season began, six people have died, more than 1000 homes have been destroyed, and about 10% of the national parks have burnt down. Today, what does the data say about the exact difference between summers now, the summers our parents lived through, and the next 20 to come?
Dec 9, 2019
When a volcano erupts without warning
When the volcano on New Zealand's White Island erupted yesterday, it happened pretty much without warning. There were around 50 people there at the time. More than half were stranded on the island and police believe there are no survivors. So what happens before, during and after a surprise volcanic eruption? And in an age of sophisticated early detection systems, how did no-one see this coming?
Dec 8, 2019
Inside a free speech comedy club
Tears, laughter, meltdowns and impromptu therapy. The results are always unpredictable at a Sydney comedy club where performers are allowed to say whatever they want. Most comedy clubs in Australia have rules about what you can and can't say. In 2019 it's fairly standard practice to forbid racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic speech on stage. If performers break the rules, they're banned. But a night called Sticks and Stones in Chippendale in inner Sydney has set itself up in opposition to that principle. Performers can say what they like, but the catch is that the audience and the comedians running the room can say anything they want in reply. The results of this experiment can be pretty explosive, but organisers say it's also helping a few angry young men - "baby incels" - in the words of one organiser, see the world in a more enlightened way.
Dec 5, 2019
How the far right defends itself
'It was just a joke' is apparently not a good enough defence against terrorism charges. Phillip Galea found that out the hard way. The right-wing extremist has been convicted of plotting terrorist attacks on Victorian Trades Hall and other so called 'leftist' centres in Melbourne. Today's episode is all about the far right's favourite legal tactics.
Dec 4, 2019
Medevac: an autopsy
The Government has finally managed to repeal the medevac laws. The rules that made it easier to bring asylum seekers to the Australian mainland for medical treatment are officially history, after a vote in the senate yesterday. So what difference did it make in the end, and what comes next for the people who were relying on medevac?
Dec 3, 2019
What's Russia got to do with it?
Just a week out from the UK election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still refusing to release a report examining Russian infiltration of British politics. The report is also said to contain embarrassing details of Russian donations to the Conservative Party. So what does he have to hide? And is Russia trying to influence the British election?
Dec 2, 2019
How the climate change debate was cooked
Most days, it feels like Australia's climate wars have been raging forever, but it wasn't always this way. In 2007, there was bipartisan support for a price on carbon. 12 years later, at the UN's climate change summit in Madrid this week, no-one's expecting Australia to raise its emissions targets. Climate change is now Australia's most intractable partisan issue, and the idea of an emissions trading scheme is the political equivalent of smallpox. So how did the war begin? And is peace possible?
Dec 1, 2019
Can you buy the US presidency?
Michael Bloomberg is one of the world's richest men, and he's taking a wildly long shot at becoming the next US President. The problem is, he's very late to the race, and a long way back in the polls. On the other hand, he's expected to spend more money on his campaign than the other Democratic candidates combined. Today, who exactly is Michael Bloomberg, and is it possible to buy the presidency?
Nov 28, 2019
Quitting is for quitters
The Energy Minister Angus Taylor's attempt to embarrass the Mayor of Sydney has backfired so comprehensively he's now fighting for his job. He's at the centre of a police investigation into whether a document his office gave to the media about the City of Sydney's travel spending was forged. Labor wants him stood down, but there’s no sign he's planning to go anywhere. Today, we look at the shifting goalposts when it comes to surviving an Australian political scandal. Is it getting easier, or at least more common, to weather the storm?
Nov 27, 2019
Australia's missing history classes
How much has really changed when it comes to what Australian kids are taught about Aboriginal people? In the 1950s Indigenous academic and activist Marcia Langton was taught that Aboriginal people - her people - were thieves and murderers who were expected to die out. She ended up being expelled for walking out of class after her teacher told a racist joke. In 2019, Aboriginal culture and history is in the curriculum, but it's still possible to get all the way through school with the topic barely coming up. So how can that happen? And what's being done to change it?
Nov 26, 2019
Julian Assange's unlikely, powerful friends
Julian Assange has struggled to win friends in the Australian Parliament, but that might be changing. An unlikely alliance of MPs from across the political spectrum has formed to push for him to be brought home. Julian Assange is currently in a high security prison in London, awaiting possible extradition to the US where he faces up to 175 years in prison over his work at Wikileaks. His family says his health has deteriorated to a point where he may not survive much longer, and the political campaign to have him released is gaining urgency. But is it a lost cause?
Nov 25, 2019
How to plant a spy in Parliament
Planting a spy in Australian Parliament might be easier than you think. ASIO is currently investigating an alleged Chinese government plot to get one of its spies elected. On today's episode, we explain step by step how a plan like that might come off. And what kind of damage could a foreign spy do from inside Parliament?
Nov 24, 2019
China's hi-tech crackdown on Muslims
China's detention camps for Muslim minorities are so secretive that the state denied their existence for years. Now, top secret documents reveal exactly how they've been running, and the hyperactive surveillance machinery that targets Uighur citizens in the community. They show for the first time that 23 Australian citizens were flagged by that system in 2017 while they were visiting Xinjiang Province. Today's episode is a rare glimpse inside China's re-education camps, and the all-seeing software that puts people there.
Nov 21, 2019
Westpac's 23 million mistakes
23 million is a lot of times to break the law. That's how many times Westpac, one of Australia's biggest banks, has been accused of dropping the ball on anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing obligations. That lapse has potentially helped facilitate child exploitation and money laundering. Today, how much trouble is Westpac in, and will this scare the other banks straight?
Nov 20, 2019
Is robodebt robo-dead?
Robodebt is dead. Or is it? After years of doggedly defending its policy of automated Centrelink debt recovery, also known as robodebt, the Government has more or less killed it off this week. But why now? And what is the Government actually getting rid of? Today’s episode is the demise of robodebt, as told in the five stages of grief.
Nov 19, 2019
Australia's uncounted dead
As the daylight fades at a Darlinghurst park in inner Sydney tonight, a list of names will be read out. They're Australia's transgender dead, and it's one of the shortest lists in the world. Only two of the more than 3300 globally recorded trans killings in the last decade happened in Australia. But researchers believe that low number masks entrenched underreporting of transgender killings. So what's keeping those deaths invisible? Today's episode follows a woman’s mission to count and name Australia’s trans dead.
Nov 18, 2019
Britain's untouchable family
"Excruciating", "bizarre", and "out of touch". Prince Andrew's interview about his Jeffrey Epstein links couldn't have gone much worse than it did. Commentators believe it could take years for him to recover from the reputational damage, if he's ever able to. In today's episode we measure that harm against the seemingly invincible Royal brand.
Nov 17, 2019
Trump's make or break witness
There's one witness in Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry who everyone's holding their breath for. The US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, a billionaire and a major donor to the Trump campaign, may not be the most reliable source. He's already had to recant some of his testimony given in closed hearings. But for better or worse, he's the man the Democrats are forced to rely on, and he's giving his evidence at a public hearing this week.
Nov 14, 2019
The night Kumanjayi Walker died
Protests have continued across Australia, six days after the death of Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu in the Northern Territory. A police officer has now been charged with murder, and plans to plead not guilty. So what happened the night Kumanjayi Walker died?
Nov 13, 2019
He fell from a parking lot
On Monday a police officer in Hong Kong shot an unarmed 21-year-old protester at point-blank range. Later that day a middle-aged man was doused in petrol and set alight after arguing with protesters. Five months in, there seems to be an explosion of violence in the battle for Hong Kong. So just what is China's latest tactic?
Nov 12, 2019
Should I stay or should I go?
The question of whether to stay or go stopped being a hypothetical for thousands of Australians this week. So what separates one group from the other? Today's episode is about the decision making process for people who find themselves in the path of a bushfire.
Nov 11, 2019
It starts like a normal day
You never wake up thinking that today is the day your house will be consumed by a bushfire. But on a day like this, things can change very quickly. There are catastrophic conditions forecast for Sydney, the Hunter and the Illawarra in New South Wales, spanning more than 450 kilometres of coastline as well as inland areas. Today's episode unfolds from two vantage points: a woman in the fire's path, and the fire chief whose job it is to protect the state from going up in flames.
Nov 10, 2019
Does hard work always equal more money?
Everyone wants to think they’re living in a meritocracy. So why has the gap between the rich and the poor in Australia been growing for decades? About half of Australia thinks that people experiencing poverty could get ahead if they just worked harder. So is that true? We tell the story of a woman who found herself unexpectedly living in poverty after a life of hard work. EDITORS NOTE: The Australia Talks project surveyed approximately 54,000 people, not 88,000.
Nov 7, 2019
How Jenny fought the law and won
Jenny Hallam had six car accidents, suffered unbearable pain and decided to cook up some medicinal cannabis. That decision changed her life. Her pain became manageable, but she also drew some unwanted attention. In 2017 Jenny’s house was raided by police but yesterday, she walked away from court with a good behaviour bond. So what exactly is the story with medicinal cannabis in Australia in 2019?
Nov 6, 2019
When is a strip search not okay?
Anyone can be strip searched, even children, and the rules that govern when that's legal are very murky. 122 underage girls have been strip searched by NSW Police since 2016, including two 12-year-olds. That news, and an ongoing inquiry has brought a lot of scrutiny to the practice. So what exactly does the law say, and could the rules be about to change?
Nov 5, 2019
Can you really ban boycotts?
The Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to ban boycotts to protect the mining industry. It's not a new idea. In fact, Malcolm Fraser did something very similar to the unions in the 1970s. Scott Morrison's idea was debuted in a speech to the mining industry last week, but it's still light on detail. So how would a new ban work?
Nov 4, 2019
Falling out of love with the Melbourne Cup
158 years ago, no-one was worried about the ethical implications of the Melbourne Cup. The race was born into a very different Australia and grew into a totem of national identity. But the cultural decline of horse racing and a string of stories about animal cruelty means 2019 has seen more boycotts, hashtags, and conscientious objectors than any other year. So can the industry still turn things around, or is the race that’s supposed to be core Australiana in terminal decline?
Nov 3, 2019
How bad could 88 days be?
Visit Australia, see the country, get paid in the process. It's a strong pitch for tourists who get drawn into the working holidaymaker program. But doing it for $3 an hour is a harder sell. Today's episode is about what’s waiting for thousands of travellers once they arrive at those jobs. We follow two women on the worst 88 days of their Australian trip.
Oct 31, 2019
Who's making all the money?
Australia's rich list is changing. In 1997, fresh out of military school, Ashik Ahmed moved here from Bangladesh. In 2019, he's worth $148m and is one of the richest people in the country. He's part of a new crop of tech millionaires in Australia, with easier access to finance than ever before. Today, we find out what it takes to get rich in Australia and where the money is going to be in ten years time.
Oct 30, 2019
Worst Christmas present ever
It's hard enough to convince people to vote at the best of times, but what about when it's 3 degrees and raining? On December 12, in the middle of winter, Britons will be asked to do exactly that. UK PM Boris Johnson hopes this will deliver the win he needs to finally leave the EU, but with trust in polls at an all time low no-one has any idea how this will play out. Today, we find out what to expect from the next six weeks. How will winter and the chaotic political scene shape the election campaign? And is this poll the trick that brings Boris Brexit?
Oct 29, 2019
Rebuilding ISIS: 'Give it six months'
Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, but his group isn't. Anyone who's watched ISIS over the years believes this is just the beginning of a new chapter. Today’s episode is all about reprisals, rebuilding and what to expect next from the group, now al-Baghdadi is gone.
Oct 28, 2019
Angus Taylor and the document drama
It started like any other political stoush between the left and the right, but it's ended up somewhere very strange. On September 29 the Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, wrote a letter to Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore accusing her of climate hypocrisy. The Minister said Councillors had spent $15 million dollars on flights that year, at odds with their declaration of a climate emergency. Except the Council hadn’t, and the real figure was closer to $6,000. The Minister has now been accused of using a document that might have been doctored to score political points, but Angus Taylor completely rejects the idea. The matter's been referred to police. So what happens next?
Oct 27, 2019
My boyfriend faked his death
After Rachel and her boyfriend broke-up, she got a message that he'd died. There had been a memorial at the beach with close-friends and family. Two years later she was out having dinner when she got a huge surprise. There he was, working in the kitchen. Today, the story of Rachel's fake-dead boyfriend. How and why this guy tried to disappear and how he almost got away with it.
Oct 24, 2019
Sparing the lucky horses
When Mike Botting bought a share of Prince of Penzance, he never thought he had a Melbourne Cup Winner. He also never thought he'd see the animal welfare crisis that’s engulfed the racing industry, with revelation hundreds of horses are being killed and mistreated at the end of their careers. Today the owner of a thoroughbred champion tells us his story and reflects on this week's shocking revelations and what they mean for him.
Oct 23, 2019
Is your boss spying on you?
Between the towering shelves in a Melbourne warehouse, an algorithm precisely measures how fast staff are working, where they're moving, and when they're taking breaks Digital surveillance in the workplace is more possible and more common than ever, and the law has very little to say about it. So where is all this heading?
Oct 22, 2019
How to pull off a Syrian rescue
What would it take to bring the 66 Australian women and children stuck in Syria’s Al Hawl camp home? The Government’s been asked for months to step in and help extract the families of Australian IS fighters, but it argues the job is too risky. On today’s episode, we hear from a man who specialises in extracting people from dangerous situations overseas, including Middle Eastern warzones, about how a rescue would go.
Oct 21, 2019
It started with 100 dead cows
Grainy video from a farm in West Virginia shows a horror scene of tumour-ridden cattle, dead and dying, with blackened teeth and missing fur. It was the footage that convinced American lawyer Rob Bilott to pursue a landmark lawsuit against chemical giant DuPont, over a compound called PFAS that had contaminated the land. 20 years later, Australia is grappling with scores of its own PFAS contamination cases, but health authorities here aren't yet convinced of the health impact on humans. Today's episode is the story of how the DuPont case unfolded, and what Australia is doing differently.
Oct 20, 2019
What happened at 'The Chora Rock Show'
It started with Australian troops burning rubbish, but before long hundreds of angry Afghanis were pelting their base with rocks. What happened next is disputed. The official account is that one man in the crowd was shot dead by a soldier inside the base. But an ABC investigation suggests the death toll was higher than that. So what really happened at 'The Chora Rock Show'?
Oct 17, 2019
Conspiracy theories vs the law
You really can say just about anything in the US. But this week a Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist found that there were limits. One of the authors of a book called Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, a retired university professor named James Fetzer, has been ordered to pay 450,000 USD to Leonard Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the massacre. So why doesn't this happen more often? Could there be legal answers to the world's most damaging conspiracy theories?
Oct 16, 2019
A man walks into a casino
What's wrong with a cooler bag full of cash? If you're the biggest name in Australian casinos, it's not a good look. Crown is worth more than $8.7 billion, and is planning to extend its empire into Sydney next year. It's also being investigated over claims criminals are using it to launder millions of dollars allegedly linked to China's underworld. So what exactly is going on at Crown?
Oct 15, 2019
Drugged into submission
Imagine finding out that someone had been sedating you without your consent. According to a Human Rights Watch Report, it's happening all the time in Australian nursing homes, and the laws designed to stop it are failing. Today's episode includes first hand accounts of aged care residents whose families say they were drugged into submission with medication they didn't need, as a way to manage their behaviour.
Oct 14, 2019
Australia's long queue of 'plane people'
You've heard of boat people, but what about plane people? 95,000 asylum seekers have arrived by plane over the last five years, and their lives are very different to the lives of those who arrived by boat. Today's episode is about the asylum seekers we don't talk about. Who are they? What happens to them? And why do they keep coming?
Oct 13, 2019
How China watches Australian unis
The Chinese government loves to keep a close eye on its citizens, and it's getting better tech to do that all the time. But some Chinese students living in Australia don't want to be seen. Today's episode is about how China watches its people, even in Australia, and the Australian scientists helping them do it.
Oct 10, 2019
Is ransomware the new normal?
23 Victorian hospitals are still recovering from a major ransomware attack that cancelled appointments and delayed surgeries. It follows a well established pattern of similar attacks in the US, in which dozens of local governments were locked out of their computer systems. They keep happening, and most small organisations can't afford to protect themselves. So is this just the new normal?
Oct 9, 2019
Who is Extinction Rebellion?
Protests have a way of pissing people off, and Extinction Rebellion has definitely made some enemies this week. On the other hand, it's also pretty good at making friends. In just a year, the movement has spread from the UK to hundreds of places around the world, including Australian cities, and it's still growing. Every protest movement dreams of penetrating the mainstream, and Extinction Rebellion is giving it a go. So how's it trying to do that? And what's standing in its way?
Oct 8, 2019
Sand, death and the Kurds
Donald Trump has been itching to get US troops out of Syria for a very long time, and now he's following through on that promise. That means the US is walking away from the Kurds - a group that was right on the front lines, defeating ISIS. The Kurds are often talked about as the good guys in the region, and without US support, they're staring down a Turkish invasion. But is it really that simple? And could the US be about to score a massive own goal?
Oct 7, 2019
Australia's water barons
The drought is driving a spike in water prices. It's now at a point where crops are failing, and farmers are going out of business because they can't afford the water they need. They're pointing the finger at predatory investors they call "water barons". So who's buying up Australia's water? And are they really the villains?
Oct 6, 2019
Why we can't cure cancer
It’s starting to look like an outright cure for cancer is off the table for now. So if we can’t make cancer disappear altogether, is it possible to live with it in a way that doesn’t make us sick? Cancer treatment is evolving quickly, and more and more people are surviving the disease. So why is a cure still so far out of reach?
Oct 3, 2019
One computer to rule them all
Humans are about to hit the quantum age, and how the future looks will depend a lot on who gets there first. The world's first fully functioning quantum computer could bring down the internet, cure a bunch of diseases, and render the rest of the world's security obsolete. So who's winning that race? And how far off is the finish line?
Oct 2, 2019
How a fight about a flag escalated into full blown deadly riots
A fight that's been brewing for 50 years has erupted this week. More than 30 people have reportedly have been killed during protests in West Papua, Indonesian troops have flooded in, and foreign media has been blocked from the entire province. But no-one seems to be talking about it. So how did we get from a fight over a flag at a uni dorm, to full blown riots in multiple cities? And what would it take for Australia to enter the fray?
Oct 1, 2019
Trump's been on the phone again
It wasn't that long ago that Donald Trump claimed the Mueller inquiry into Russian collusion totally exonerated him. Now, he's apparently asking foreign governments, including Australia to help him discredit it. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed to help the Department of Justice investigation into the origins of the Mueller Inquiry into Russian election meddling. So have either Donald Trump, or Scott Morrison done anything wrong?
Sep 30, 2019
Modern China is turning 70 and marking the occasion with a massive display of national might. It's one of the most nationalistic countries on earth, but it's taken a lot of work to make it that way. So how did the Chinese people end up loving their country as much as they do? And is everyone really on board, or are they just afraid to step out of line?
Sep 29, 2019
Before Greta, there was Severn
Greta Thunberg has been leading a string of global climate strikes. Hundreds of millions of people know her name and what she stands for. But before Greta, there was Severn Suzuki. In 1992, she was the voice of a new global anxiety about unchecked damage to the planet, and for a moment, everyone was listening. So what went wrong? Today's episode is the story of the last time a teenager tried to save the world from itself.
Sep 26, 2019
Choose your own Brexit
Boris Johnson's Brexit plans were thrown into chaos this week after his suspension of parliament was ruled unlawful. Today's episode is the Brexit edition of Sliding Doors. We take you through the five most likely ways forward from this totally unprecedented point.
Sep 25, 2019
Could a phone call get Donald Trump fired?
Donald Trump is staring down the barrel of impeachment, his political opponents have finally pulled the trigger. After holding off for months Democrats were pushed over the edge by a call from the President to his Ukranian counterpart where he allegedly threatened to withhold funding if he didn't get a political favour. So what happens next?
Sep 24, 2019
Life as a teen model
A lot of people get jobs when they're 15, but what about a job where you're harassed, pressured into nudity, and left in debt? The modelling industry recruits girls as young as 12, and for all but a handful of big names it's an expensive and time consuming path, that often costs more than it pays. Today we hear from a former teenage model about the reality of working as a child in an adult industry.
Sep 23, 2019
Do you need to quit vaping?
Eight people have died from vaping, and hundreds more have sought hospital treatment for a mysterious lung disease. At the same time, a steady stream of new research is warning us about the risks. The US is considering a ban on flavoured vapes, and some local councils in Sydney and Melbourne are also talking about stricter controls. So how worried should we be? And is it time to quit?
Sep 22, 2019
Is Australia a climate lifter or leaner?
Millions of teenagers around the world marched in Friday's climate strikes hoping to be heard by the world leaders meeting in New York to come up with a more ambitious plan to avoid catastrophic climate change. So what's Australia bringing to the table in these negotiations? And how does it measure up to the rest of the world? Put simply, when it comes to climate change, is Australia a lifter or a leaner?
Sep 19, 2019
What's Hong Kong's endgame?
Hong Kong's protests have stretched on for more than 100 days, and they're still escalating. Maybe not in numbers, but the front lines are much more organised and in some cases, more violent. Today, we look at the evolving tactics on both sides of this fight, and how these marathon protests could be forging a more extreme enemy for China.
Sep 18, 2019
Is the Family Court hard on men?
Pauline Hanson wants to fix the Family Court. She reckons men are getting a raw deal and has convinced the Government to hold an inquiry. That theory is getting a lot of airtime this week, along with the claim that women and kids make false accusations of abuse against men in order to win custody battles. Just about everyone agrees that there are problems with how the court works, but is a gender war the real nature of the problem with the Family Court, or are there other more urgent concerns?
Sep 17, 2019
Why can't we quit oil?
The attacks on a major Saudi oil refinery have reminded the world just how fragile the oil supply is, and how dependent on it we still are. We used to worry that we'd run out of oil, but thanks to new mining technology, that's not a problem anymore. There are still lots of reasons to quit oil though. The trend has already begun, driven by governments and consumers, but we're still a long way from weaning ourselves off completely. So what's the hold up? And just how far off are we?
Sep 16, 2019
Surviving Iran's Evin Prison
Iran's Evin Prison is secretive, brutal, and known for its human rights abuses. Right now, three Australians are being held there, with no end in sight. Two travel bloggers, Jolie King and Mark Firkin, have been detained for more than 10 weeks so far. In a separate case, Melbourne Uni academic, Dr Kylie-Moore Gilbert, has already served 11 months of a 10 year sentence. In today's episode, we hear an honest, close-up account from Jason Rezaian, who spent 544 days in Evin. He explains what life is like behind the prison walls, and explains the best game plan for getting out.
Sep 15, 2019
How young is too young to go to prison?
Ten years old is too young to do a lot of things. You can't drive, vote, drink or go to war. You can’t even have a facebook account. But in Australia, it's possible to be sent to jail at 10. There's a campaign underway to raise the age of criminal responsibility, and it's finally getting some traction. So what does brain science tell us about when we become responsible for our bad behaviour?
Sep 12, 2019
How the 'dole bludger' was born
'Dole bludger', is a uniquely Australian phrase, but we didn’t always talk about the unemployed in that way. At last count, more than 720,000 Australians were receiving the Newstart payment. Some of them could be about to face drug tests and income quarantining, if the Government can find the votes in the Senate. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the plan is designed to help people into work, but what if there isn't enough work going? Today's episode is about the birth of the idea of the 'dole bludger', and why there will never be enough jobs for everyone.
Sep 11, 2019
Who is Gladys Liu?
Liberal backbencher Gladys Liu has been copping questions about her past. So what are the Chinese groups she's been linked to, and what have they got to do with the Chinese Government?
Sep 10, 2019
Living in the 'flame zone'
Hundreds of fires are currently tearing through parts of Queensland and New South Wales. It's looking like the earliest and most severe start to the bushfire season on record. But even as fires get hotter, stronger and more frequent, we're still building in the riskiest parts of the country. So is it possible for us to keep surviving in these places?
Sep 9, 2019
What happens in a recession
It's been 28 years since our last recession, and we could be heading for another. GDP figures released last week reveal the worst annual economic growth since 2001. So what was it like last time? And what might happen this time around?
Sep 8, 2019
What the lockout laws did to Sydney
Sydney's controversial lockout laws that radically changed the nightlife of Australia’s biggest city, will be rolled back. The laws were introduced in an attempt to address alcohol-fuelled assaults but they also took a toll on the night-time economy and cultural fabric of the city. Today on the signal we bring you the balance sheet of Sydney's lockout laws. Is it mission accomplished or a failed experiment?
Sep 5, 2019
Boris Johnson's very bad week
Boris Johnson's plan to get the UK out of the EU has gone pretty pear shaped. A secret trip to the Queen to get her to suspend parliament was supposed to make Brexit easy, but it looks to have galvanised opponents and could force the UK to an election. But was this Boris' plan all along? And what does it mean for Brexit?
Sep 4, 2019
Why the Immigration Minister has "god-like" powers
A Tamil family who was living in Biloela in Queensland is staring down imminent deportation, after the Home Affairs Minister decided not to use his discretionary powers to intervene and grant them visas. They're the same powers that have helped thousands of other people stay in Australia. So what's different this time? How exactly do those powers work? And why are they necessary?
Sep 3, 2019
Wait, who's allowed to discriminate?
The religious freedoms draft bill is finally here, but how exactly would it play out in practice? What would this law mean for wedding cake bakers, schools that want to fire gay teachers, and occult bookshop owners who can't get a lease? We chart the rise of the religious freedoms bill from political obscurity to the brink of law, and find out how exactly would it change who's allowed to discriminate in Australia.
Sep 2, 2019
When a hurricane hits
Hurricane Dorian is the strongest storm anywhere on the planet this year. We look at the mechanics of its collision with a city, and find out what it's like to stay put through something like that.
Sep 1, 2019
Is climate change an excuse to break the law?
A climate change protester in Queensland is arguing that her actions were a reasonable response to the climate change emergency. It's a legal tactic that’s worked for activists overseas, but never here in Australia. So could that be about to change? And what happens if judges start deciding that climate change is a good enough excuse to break the law?
Aug 29, 2019
How vaping got political
As the popularity of vaping grows it's starting to become a political force. Libertarians are pushing to have nicotine vaping products legalised in Australia and a Background Briefing investigation suggests they've found an ally in Big Tobacco. So what happens as these groups find their feet in Canberra and how do they expect to influence the political process?.
Aug 28, 2019
Can the gig economy last?
When a former Deliveroo rider went through his earnings he realised he'd been taking home half the minimum wage. He's now suing the company, following a similar path to a Foodora worker who took that company to court before it shut down its Australian operations owing workers $8 million. It's no secret that wages and conditions in the gig economy aren’t good and while Deliveroo has defended it's practices pointing to the 'freedom' and 'flexibility' it offers, it looks like cracks are appearing in the business model.
Aug 27, 2019
What happened to the boy in the 'Spider-Man' suit?
On a spring day in 2014 three year-old William Tyrrell was wearing his favourite 'Spider-Man' suit and playing outside his foster grandmother's home in country NSW. His foster mother was inside making a cup of tea when the sounds of children playing suddenly stopped. When she went outside, William was gone. An inquest into William’s disappearance is now underway. So what’s it uncovered? And how has one little boy's disappearance changed the town of Kendall?
Aug 26, 2019
Australia's cash crackdown
The Government has a plan to ban cash payments above $10,000. It's part of a crackdown on Australia's $50 billion ‘black economy,’ a market fuelled by people laundering money, selling drugs and avoiding tax. But critics say the Government just wants more control over your money. So where did this plan come from? And what's it really about?
Aug 25, 2019
How the Pentecostals got popular
Religion is declining in Australia but Pentecostalism is bucking that trend. The evangelical denomination of Christianity, known for its mega-churches like Hillsong and Paradise, is particularly popular among migrants and young people. We've even got a Pentecostal PM, with Scott Morrison heading to services at the Horizon church in Sydney's south. So how did it make the move from the margins to the mainstream? And just how influential has it become?
Aug 22, 2019
Why the Amazon is burning
The world's largest tropical rainforest is on fire and it's so bad you can see the smoke from space. Environmentalists blame the Brazilian president for encouraging land clearing and development. They say the fires could have a devastating effect on rainfall patterns. So who's starting the fires? And what will be their impact in Brazil and beyond?
Aug 21, 2019
How secret apps are being used to stalk
Imagine if your partner or parents put a secret app on your phone, tracking your location, texts, and photos. The technology exists, it's becoming increasingly widespread and it's being marketed as totally harmless. Now, there are calls for a crackdown - but putting a stop to it is not as easy as it sounds.
Aug 21, 2019
SIGNAL SPECIAL: How Pell lost his appeal
Cardinal George Pell has lost his appeal against his conviction on child sex abuse charges, with two of the three judges agreeing the jury's guilty verdict was reasonable. He's back in prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence. So what was it like in court? Why did the judges dismiss the appeal? And where to now for Cardinal Pell? ABC reporter Sam Donovan was in court this morning, and joins us for this Signal special to explain what happened.
Aug 20, 2019
Understanding George Pell's appeal
This morning three judges in Victoria's Supreme Court will decide whether to dismiss or uphold George Pell's conviction on child sexual abuse charges. It doesn't have to be a unanimous decision. Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of child sexual abuse. The seventy eight year old has been in a Melbourne prison since March when he was sentenced to 6 years. So, what are the grounds for the appeal? And what could happen next?
Aug 19, 2019
Can a banker change their spots?
Fees for no service, dead people being charged for financial advice, credit cards for problem gamblers, you name it the financial sector tried it on. Now, six months after this mismanagement was revealed and the dust has settled on the banking royal commission, the Government has announced a plan to rebuild trust in the sector. So what is that plan? And what happens if it doesn't work?
Aug 18, 2019
Buyer beware: Australia's nightmare apartments
It's a crisis that's just beginning to unfold: thousands of dodgy apartments, riddled with defects, in cities across Australia. In today's episode of the Signal, we speak to Four Corners reporter Sean Nicholls who has been investigating the scale of the problem. So who's to blame? And what is the lesson for anyone living in or buying an apartment in Australia?
Aug 15, 2019
Tiananmen survivor's warning to Hong Kong
30 years ago Wu'er Kaixi led the protests in Tiananmen Square… today he's watching Hong Kong and nervously anticipating China’s response. For over two months Hong Kongers have been protesting what they see as Chinese authoritarian influence creeping into their city. As tensions ratchet up, the world watches on waiting to see how China will respond, many fearing a repeat of what happened at Tiananmen Square.. For Wu'er Kaixi it's all looking a bit too familiar and he's warning the protesters they will not win against China.
Aug 14, 2019
How did Jeffrey Epstein die?
Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein's death in his supposedly secure jail cell has baffled the world and sparked some wild conspiracy theories. What really happened to America's highest profile prisoner, and what does his death mean for the underage sex trafficking case against him? On today's episode of The Signal former NYC federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig takes us inside the prison and the investigations into Epstein’s death.
Aug 13, 2019
Why Muslims are boycotting Mecca
Millions of Muslims are making their way through Mecca in Saudi Arabia right now as the annual Hajj pilgrimage draws to a close. But a number of Muslims say they'll boycott it because of the Saudi government’s actions in Yemen. So what do you do when your religious duties clash with your morals?
Aug 12, 2019
Changing sexual assault laws
When she was 15, Grace Tame was groomed and raped by her high school teacher. Then she discovered she was blocked from talking about it publicly by the Tasmanian legal system. Now, she's one of a group of women campaigning to change the laws that stop victims from speaking out. On today's episode of The Signal, inside the Let Her Speak campaign - and where it's heading next.
Aug 11, 2019
On the climate change precipice
Tuvalu is on the climate change frontline and is in danger of being swallowed up by the ocean. The leader of the tiny pacific island has issued its neighbours with a challenge - 'if you can save Tuvalu you can save the world'. With the PM Scott Morrison heading to talks in Tuvalu this week, we take a look at what’s being done, and ask whether the tiny island can survive climate change.
Aug 8, 2019
How to start a currency war
The world's two largest economies are at war and this week it boiled over to shake down global markets. It was caused by a fall in China's Yuan that saw it labelled a currency manipulator by the US. But how do you manipulate a currency? And why does that move spell trouble for the rest of us?
Aug 7, 2019
Why Hong Kong is still protesting
Violent protests have shut down streets in Hong Kong for nine weeks now, with no end in sight. It all started with an extradition bill - but with that shelved, now protesters are angry about police treatment and Chinese rule. So what's happening on the streets of Hong Kong, and will China intervene?
Aug 6, 2019
Why women are asking to be arrested
More than 50 women have dared police to arrest them as New South Wales debates whether it should change it's 119 year old abortion laws. These women, who've all had abortions, are protesting this way because in New South Wales abortion is technically still illegal. The protest was actually inspired by similar action almost 50 years ago, so what's changed in that time?
Aug 5, 2019
Why 8chan's founder wants it shut
On Saturday a 21-year-old allegedly shot up a crowded mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people. Just minutes before the massacre, he reportedly uploaded a manifesto to the website 8chan. It’s the third time in just 6 months shooters have allegedly posted their plans on the site in advance. So how did 8chan come about and what role is it playing in these mass shootings? In today's episode we talk to 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan, who says his forum has morphed into something really ugly and now he wants it shut down.
Aug 4, 2019
Lawyer X's double life
During the height of Victoria's gangland wars Nicola Gobbo represented some of the big players, people like Tony Mokbel and Carl Williams. At the same time she was a police informer, handing over information that would help bring an end to the violence that was spilling onto Melbourne's streets. This double life has sparked a royal commission into how Victorian police manage informants and seen one criminal conviction already overturned. So how did she end up in that position and how many more people could walk?
Aug 1, 2019
Suing to silence protesters
When Sadie climbed on top of a coal train it was to protest climate change. Months later she was served with a $75,000 lawsuit. She isn't the only one, four other climate activists have been served with similar suits. So what do these cases mean for our right to protest? And is it time for new laws to protect activists?
Jul 31, 2019
Hospitality’s moment of reckoning
Former Masterchef star George Calombaris has publicly apologised for underpaying his restaurant staff $7.8 million. He's one of several celebrity chefs who have been accused of wage theft, and now the federal government is considering making it a crime. Today on the Signal we take a look at hospitality's pay problem - is this a moment of reckoning for the industry?
Jul 30, 2019
When Centrelink takes your tax return
Tom Joyner was expecting a few thousand dollars back in tax this year. Instead, Centrelink took his entire tax return. It’s being held to pay off an automated robo-debt from when he was a student, which Tom is contesting. In this episode of the Signal, we take a look at the robo-debts affecting about half a million Australians like Tom. We also examine the Federal Court case that could bring the robo-debt system down.
Jul 29, 2019
Amphetamines to gene therapy, the story of doping
As Australian swimming is caught in a doping scandal and medals from the 2012 London Olympics are forfeited after re-testing, we ask where performance enhancement in sport is heading. It's been more than 50 years since the Olympics started drug testing athletes, but it's clearly not stopping everyone. From amphetamines to gene therapy, we take a look at the evolution of doping.
Jul 28, 2019
Canada killings: How the manhunt unfolded
Two Canadian teenagers hit the road looking for work. A few weeks later they're suspected of murdering three people, including a young Australian man and his American girlfriend. The search for these suspected killers stretched across Canada and over the weekend focused in on the tiny town of Gillam. So how has this manhunt unfolded?
Jul 25, 2019
Earth's sacrifice zones: the parts we can't save
For a long time, the question has been how to stop catastrophic climate change. But lately, we've started asking something different. Policy makers are starting to consider which parts of the earth will still be habitable in the future, and which bits we should write off altogether. The places thought to be unsalvageable are sometimes called "sacrifice zones". So where in the world are they? And what happens to the people who live there?
Jul 24, 2019
Behind the Boris Johnson brand
Forget what you think you know about Boris Johnson. There's more to Britain's new Prime Minister than the bumbling eccentric you see in front of the camera. His political convictions are mysterious, and it turns out Boris isn't even his real name. So what's behind the image Boris Johnson works so hard to project? And what does that mean for the UK?
Jul 23, 2019
Are we heading for an accidental war?
Iran says it's captured 17 CIA spies and last week it seized an oil tanker and everyone on it. If you didn't know better you'd say the US and Iran are heading for a war. So does anyone actually want that? Today; why the world is watching the Strait of Hormuz.
Jul 22, 2019
Is Mack Horton out of line?
Australian swimmer Mack Horton might have lost the 400m freestyle final at the World Championships, but he's certainly made his point. The 23-year-old came in second to his rival Sun Yang, but refused to share the podium afterwards, because he sees the Chinese swimmer as a drug cheat. Other top international athletes have supported his stance in the media and on twitter, with the hashtag #cleansport. So what's the case against Sun Yang? Why is he so deeply mistrusted by his peers and the media? And is it fair?
Jul 21, 2019
Has YouTube been hijacked?
The internet can be a pretty dark place, where the nastiest strains of racism and sexism thrive, not to mention some dangerous conspiracy theories. Most of the time you have to go looking for those things, but on YouTube they find you. The platform's critics say its algorithm is being used to push misleading and extremist content, but YouTube denies that. Today we meet an engineer who helped design the system and a guy who blames it for his drift into the alt-right world.
Jul 18, 2019
When could we live on the moon?
50 years after the moon landing, there's a new race to get back there. This time, there are a bunch of countries in the contest, plus the private sector. So why is everyone suddenly so keen, after decades of disinterest? And how soon could we actually live on the moon's surface?
Jul 17, 2019
Is there a case for human extinction?
If you've had kids, Les Knight feels sorry for you. He’s from the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and he wants us to stop having children to save the planet. So could it be good news that the birth rate is tanking?
Jul 16, 2019
Our $36 billion population problem
Australia is getting old. Our ageing population is pushing the private healthcare system into a 'death spiral' and it doesn't end there. In the next decade the bill for healthcare, aged care, the pension and lost taxes will total $36 billion dollars a year. So who has to pay and can we fix this mess?
Jul 15, 2019
Prepare for a space war
It's been called the cold war of our generation: superpowers are arming up and heading to space. So what are the US, China, and now France trying to do with their space forces? And will it turn into a space war?
Jul 14, 2019
Running out of water
Imagine your town only has 200 days of water left. You've cut down on your showers and your washing, but it's not enough - and day zero is fast approaching. That's the reality for at least ten country towns in Australia right now. So, what happens when you run out? And how did this happen in the first place?
Jul 11, 2019
Can we stop festival deaths?
Why are young people dying at music festivals? That's the question a New South Wales inquest into drug-related festival deaths is asking right now. In today's episode we look at what the inquest has uncovered so far and if it could change how Australia thinks about drugs.
Jul 10, 2019
Indigenous recognition explained
Within a few years, you could be casting a vote on whether you think Indigenous Australians should be recognised in the constitution, and have a voice to parliament. So where has this idea come from, what is constitutional recognition, and what difference would it make? In this episode of The Signal, the ABC's Indigenous Affairs Correspondent Isabella Higgins explains what it all means.
Jul 9, 2019
Who is Jeffrey Epstein?
Mega-rich American financier Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with trafficking underage girls. He’s been associated with two US Presidents and British Royalty and now faces up to 45 years in prison. Epstein's been here before though, in 2008 he cut a plea deal which meant he only served 13 months for sex offences. So why was he let off so lightly last time? And could the same thing happen again?
Jul 8, 2019
Where are all the indigenous statues?
Tear them down, leave them alone, crowd them out, or add new plaques? No-one can agree on what to do with statues of early white colonialists, some of which immortalise men who ordered the deaths of Indigenous Australians. So how do you change that without erasing history?
Jul 7, 2019
Trying to survive mental illness
Melissa and Gus met on a train when they were 18, but over the next six years they would find themselves in and out of hospital emergency rooms as Gus struggled with his mental health. During this time, as Mel tells it, there was no diagnosis, no follow-up and nowhere near enough for support. As the very first Royal Commission into mental health continues in Victoria, we find out what it’s like trying to care for someone who's struggling to survive and how the system needs to change. This episode does cover some heavy ground, including suicide, so if you need support you can reach Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Jul 4, 2019
A surprising truth about whaling
Arguments against whaling often hinge on the idea that whale populations are critically low. But is it possible that modern commercial whaling is actually more sustainable that we realise? Japan restarted its hunt this week, this time on a commercial basis, rather than relying on pretence of scientific whaling. In today's episode, a former chair of the International Whaling Commission, Peter Bridgewater, explains some unexpected truths about the reality of global whale populations in 2019. We also get an up close look and taste of whale meat, when we start our story in a Tokyo restaurant.
Jul 3, 2019
Are we getting a 'Netflix tax'?
How would you feel about paying extra to stream video online? NBN Co has been asking the 50 top internet service providers, Like Telstra and Optus, whether they want to charge users more for things like video calls, or Netflix and iview. It's been called a 'Netflix tax'. So how would it work, and could it really happen?
Jul 2, 2019
Does Australia need nukes?
There are nine countries in the world with nukes, and dozens more that could build one at short notice. So is it time Australia joined that list? We secretly started down the nuclear path in the 60s, but stopped not long after. So what happened and has enough changed for us to think seriously about building the bomb.
Jul 1, 2019
New Government, who dis?
The election's over and Parliament's back, but what exactly is the Government planning, apart from tax cuts? Patrica Karvelas, the host of RN Drive and The Party Room podcast, takes us through the big players, the likely battlegrounds for 2019 and introduces us to the new 'Queen of The House'.
Jun 30, 2019
From Perth to Pyongyang
Australia is scrambling to work out what's happened to its only citizen living in North Korea, who dropped off the radar almost a week ago. 29-year-old Alek Sigley was studying Korean literature in Pyongyang, and he stopped answering texts and calls from his family and wife on Tuesday. So what does it take to get you locked up in North Korea? And what are Alek's chances of release if that's what's happened? Featured: Sally Rawsthorne, reporter, Sydney Morning Herald Dr Ben Habib, lecturer in International Relations, La Trobe University
Jun 27, 2019
How not to save a soul
Israel Folau's sacking is escalating into an international story about religious freedom. His post on Instagram which said gay people were destined for hell has been characterised by some people as hate speech. But his defenders say he was only expressing and spreading his faith. So do Christians have an obligation to evangelise, and if so, how do Australian churches tell them to get it done? We visit one to find out. Featured: Hywel Griffith, Sydney Correspondent, BBC Mike Paget, Pastor, St Barnabas' Anglican Church Sydney
Jun 26, 2019
Why Facebook's 'bank' won't save the world
There are about 1.7 billion people in the world who don't have a bank account and Facebook says it has a way to help them. The world's biggest social media company is launching its own cryptocurrency, Libra, to give the "unbanked" a leg up. So is Facebook really here to help, or is banking just its next frontier?
Jun 25, 2019
Why we're probably not alone in space
Scientists have detected a methane spike on Mars, which has raised their hopes of finding microbial life there. It's not a guarantee, but the statistical likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the galaxy is remarkably high. In which case, why does space seem so devoid of intelligent life? Today we explore the possible explanations.
Jun 24, 2019
There's a problem with wellness crystals
The wellness industry is booming, and that includes crystals. But where exactly do they come from? Plenty of crystals are mined unethically, using child labour or damaging the environment, and it's hard to know which ones to trust. Today's episode traces the source of so-called healing crystals from far flung mines, to shiny Australian shop fronts. Featured: Jed Underwood, part-owner, Mineralism Emily Atkin, Staff Writer, The New Republic Dr Andrew Christy, University of Queensland
Jun 23, 2019
Inside the Situation Room of the aborted Iran strike
Last Friday morning, Australian time, the US was about to bomb Iran. But it backed off at the last minute. The strikes were planned as retaliation for an Iranian attack on a US surveillance drone. The US military was primed to respond but with as little as 10 minutes to go before they launched, the US President pulled the pin. Today we take you inside the White House situation room to see how close the US came to war with Iran and find out how they stepped back from the brink.
Jun 20, 2019
Which Democrat could beat Trump and how?
Top Democratic presidential candidates are polling ahead of Donald Trump, but they've all got very different ways of trying to beat him. So how would each of those fights play out? Matt Bevan, host of Russia If You're Listening, takes us through the frontrunners to explain their pitch, their weak spots, and the nicknames Donald Trump has already given them.
Jun 19, 2019
Why are high-rise buildings falling apart?
Imagine your partner shaking you awake and telling you that you've got 15 minutes to grab what you can and get out of your million dollar apartment. That's what happened to Fabiano dos Santos last week, a resident of the still empty Mascot Towers in Sydney. It's not the first time a high-rise has been evacuated recently. Other apartment buildings have been breaking too. So what happens when you find yourself suddenly homeless because your apartment complex might be falling down? And why does this keep happening?
Jun 18, 2019
What's stopping euthanasia laws?
Today is the first day in Victoria where in certain circumstances, terminally ill people can legally end their own lives. National polling suggests there's widespread support for that change, somewhere in the order of 70 to 80 per cent. So why has it only happened in one state? Is there a big disconnect between politicians and the public on this? And if so, why? Featured: Andrew Denton, Director and Founder, Go Gentle Australia
Jun 17, 2019
What killed Tanya Day?
In late 2017 Tanya Day tried to catch a train from Bendigo to Melbourne. Two weeks later she was dead. Today, we retrace that path; from being kicked off the train and being arrested in Castlemaine, to injuring herself in the watch house, and ultimately the emergency department. Was she treated differently because she was an Aboriginal woman? Her family wants the Victorian Coroner to consider whether systemic racism could be responsible for her death. If she agrees, it'll be the first time that question has been considered from the start of an Australian inquest. We speak to someone who works directly with police to try to fix that problem in the US, and the people who want police in Australia to try the same thing. EDITORS NOTE: Victoria Police has provided a statement to the ABC, saying it's doing an audit of existing police stations to try to make them feel welcoming and safe for Aboriginal people. It says "The Victoria Police Aboriginal Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan w…
Jun 16, 2019
Why New Zealand's media is censoring its biggest story
Brenton Tarrant, who's accused of murdering 51 people in the Christchurch mosque shootings, is being tried in New Zealand. The whole world will be watching, but you might not find out about everything that goes on in court, because five key news outlets have made a pact to limit what they report. The idea is to avoid giving a platform to hate speech or conferring notoriety on the accused. It's self censorship, theoretically for the greater good. But is it the right call? Or is it possible that in censoring the coverage, we'll miss an opportunity to confront and understand a problem? Featured: Peter Fray, Professor of Journalism, University of Technology Sydney Megan Whelan, Digital Editor, RNZ (Radio New Zealand)
Jun 13, 2019
Understanding Bob Hawke
Everyone has regrets, even Bob Hawke, and today's episode is all about the political paradox of trying to stay true to your values and still bring everyone along with you. The former PM is being remembered today at a State Memorial Service at the Sydney Opera House and we wanted to understand what drove him to make the changes he did to Australian life. He leaves behind an impressive legacy, floating the dollar and introducing Medicare, but he was most proud of the work he did ending aparthied and saving Antarctica from mining development. We talk to one of his closest offsiders to find out about the glory and the hazards of having such strong values. Featured: Dr Craig Emerson - Economist and former Labor Minister.
Jun 12, 2019
Hong Kong's last stand
About a million people have marched through the streets of Hong Kong this week, in sweltering heat. That's one in seven people who live there. The protests have rolled on all week, and there have been clashes with police. It's not clear when the marches will stop, or how much they'll escalate. Hong Kongers are protesting against a proposed extradition law, which could see dissidents sent to China, but the roots of their anger goes a lot deeper. Mainland China has been trying to erode Hong Kong's independence ever since the British handover in 1997. In fact, what's happening now is just the latest chapter in a long and weird history that involves being passed between two world powers over the course of more than a hundred years. So how did Hong Kong get here, and is this its last stand? Featured: Jerome Taylor, AFP Bureau Chief, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Dr Graeme Smith, Research Fellow, Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University
Jun 11, 2019
What's wrong with a holiday in Chernobyl?
Today we're going to some very dark places: massacre sites, prisons and the town next to an exploded nuclear reactor. Chernobyl is having a tourism boom, bookings are up 40% this year alone, fuelled by the release of an HBO mini-series. It's known as dark tourism, but you don’t have to go overseas to find places where things have gone horribly wrong; Australia has plenty of places that fit the bill. So what's the pull to dark tourism? Where should you never go, and is there a way to do it right? Featured: Dave May, filmmaker, Chernobyl visitor & friend of the pod Liz Killen, nuclear chemist and Chernobyl visitor Robert Clarke, University of Tasmania