The sensible centre: can it hold? Nine News Political Editor Chris Uhlmann in conversation with Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines

Sep 28, 2021 | Announcements, News & Media

Sydney, Tuesday 28 September 2021: With the pressure point of Covid-19 putting our elected politicians, bureaucrats and fourth estate in full glare, is it possible to find a middle ground…a sensible centre? And if so, can it hold?

In our fifth Ramsay Lecture for 2021, Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines interviews Nine News political editor Chris Uhlmann about Australia’s response to COVID-19, and what it reveals about our politics, Federation, media and leadership.

In a wide-spanning conversation, Professor Haines and Mr Uhlmann discuss:

  • The merits or otherwise of Australia’s initial and continued COVID-19 response, including reliance on health advice over all other advice
  • The potential cost to young people of Australia’s risk-averse approach
  • The social and class divides exposed by the most recent outbreak
  • Whether it’s possible to find a ‘sensible centre’ between conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and over-zealous health bureaucrats
  • What the response reveals about Australia’s federation and our national psyche
  • How social media has affected recent media and political leadership in Australia.

Professor Haines and Mr Uhlmann also discuss how Australia would benefit from a greater sense of unity and sense of self in the face of a potential threat from China.

“We’ve seen ourselves split into states and split into suburbs. Now we’re quite happy to have neighbour against neighbour. This is not a society, a society that can stand on two feet and fight for ideas and ideals that it believes in. So I think we need to have a conversation about this,” Mr Uhlmann says.

“I think we do need a better idea of what an Australian identity is. I don’t know exactly what that would look like but I think there should be some starting points that we can all agree on, and then argue about everything else, which are parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and association. Surely these are all things we can agree on and we should recognise that we’ve taken some of those things away during this pandemic, and they’ll be hard to get back.”

Chris Uhlmann replaced Laurie Oakes as Nine News political editor in late 2017. Before that he spent 19 years with the ABC, working in a range of roles, on a variety of programs, including flagship national programs like 730, Insiders and AM. He won a Walkley Award for broadcast interviewing in 2008, and was part of the 4 Corners team that won the Golden Quill in 2017 for an investigation into China’s power and influence in Australia.

With Steve Lewis, he co-authored three works of political fiction: The Mandarin Code, The Marmalade Files and Shadow Game. The first two were adapted by Matchbox Pictures as a six-part television miniseries, Secret City.

Due to COVID-19, this Ramsay Lecture event has been pre-recorded. It will be available via our website as both a video and podcast from Thursday 30 September.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/

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