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Tuesday, 29th July 2014

API Review of Books

Altitude BirdIssue 44
Features reviews by Kathleen Broderick, Linn Miller, Christine Choo, Bill Thorpe, David Ritter, Eve Vincent, Stephanie Bishop, Alison Miles, Richard Kay, Amanda Day, Bernard Whimpress, Mads Clausen, Marion May Campbell, Sylvia Alston, Catie Gilchrist, Eva Chapman, Lucy Dougan, Stephen Lawrence and Nathanael O'Reilly. Click here for more details.


Altitude BirdPopular Music: Practices, Formations and Change - Australian Perspectives
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. Click here for more details.

Some Responses Part VI

56. Here off the top of my head, are a dozen names which have come most directly to mind: Marcia Langton; Humphrey McQueen; Robert Manne; Raimond Gaita; Tim Flannery; Henry Reynolds; Hugh Stretton; Inga Clendinnen; Don Watson; Kate Grenville; Peter Singer; Michael Leunig. I also thought of Peter Carey, but the list is getting beyond the ten you require. I find it hard to narrow this down. These are a group of people whose work inspires me to think, even though I do not always agree with them. They are, for the most part, very good communicators; either in speech or print. And they are in general, open-minded, questioning and brilliant at their various specialities. I am sure that after I send this off, I will think of many others whom I might have included. But this will do.

57. I'll have to think about this Richard - too late now - but my immediate response is one of the really big problems in Australia is that the best and most important minds in the country are so marginalised they don't have much influence! Influence is inversely related to importance of what people have to say, which is contemporary Australia 's tragedy. Preliminary maybe: IMPORTANT: Bob Brown; Marilyn Lake ; Ghassan Hage ; David Malouf; Lindsay Tanner. INFLUENTIAL: Alan Jones; John Howard; Jamie Packer; Rupert Murdoch.

58. Interesting question! The inhabitants of my off-the-cuff list are people who say interesting and unexpected things, often crossing disciplinary boundaries, but i can only think of six: Geoffrey Blainey; Tim Flannery;; Julian Cribb (no relative); JM Coetzee;; Judith Brett; Peter Craven.

59. Forgive this very tardy reply. I gave the matter a lot of thought and I decided I really only could comment on humanities people and social scientists with a policy bent. Some of our intellectuals I don't think are particularly nimble when it comes to putting their ideas into political practice or getting them into the mainstream or defending their ideas, so that explains why my list misses some obvious people. I have chosen my top 5 women and my top 5 men, as follows: Geraldine Doogue uses radio with great effect to talk about interpersonal issues in our culture; R W Connell, who has undergone a sex change, is one of our leading thinkers around issues of gender and class ; Mary Kalantzis, although now at Uni Illinois, will continue to address Australian issues; Marcia Langton the shrewdest indigenous intellectual there is Fiona Stanley connects medicine to social issues.

The blokes: Stuart Macintyre consistent, hard-working Terry Moran head of premiers in Victoria , great policy brain Glyn Davis, ditto for Qld, but now transforming higher education Geoff Blainey quite sophisticated in his use of the media Iain McCalman first social scientist on PMSEC.

60. Still thinking and wondering where all the strong women are?

Alice Kelly(Mutti Mutti ), now deceased. Julian Burnside, Tim Flannery, Peter Read , Bob Brown, Kumi Kato, (culture for Conservation, UQ, Le Tuan Hung, founder of the Australia/Asian foundation , , Jonathan Mills, Leunig, Barry Jones, Phillip Adams.

61: As I think you probably guessed, this is actually a very difficult question to answer, especially without a great range of qualifiers. The real question is influence whom? Obviously, for a large strata of Australia none of the categories you list make much/any impact in forming opinion - that is done by talk back radio and daytime television. In defence and strategic affairs I would say Michael Evans. Amongst the religious it would be George Pell and Tim Costello. In indigenous affairs Noel Pearson. I'm not sure that anyone is listening on environmental affairs beyond those already committed to the cause. Probably ditto for science and technology, but I'd nod towards Peter Doherty. I think most of the 'obvious' candidates like Adams, Pearson, McGuinness et al speak only for and to themselves. I certainly can't think of anyone serious who I know who pays any attention to them at all. Most of the obviously politically motivated (Albrechtson, Barnett, McQueen etc) . . . I doubt that they carry much influence in shaping ideas.

I'd exempt Gerard Henderson from that stricture. His columns are widely read in my experience, and he shapes a lot of thinking on international and domestic issues through the Sydney Institute's work. In gender issues, Elspeth Probyn. I think John Hirst also commands attention - see his Quarterly Essay last year, for example. A very east coast and golden triangle collection, I'm sure.

62. 10 Most influential/important Australian Thinkers

Phillip Adams
The reason I like Adams is because of the veracity and lucidity of his arguments. Adams speaks out to counter the mindless and nasty commentary that is so rife in the Australian media today. He is witty and pithy and when he isn’t on the front foot he writes about his life experiences and what it means to him.

Barry Jones
Jones is always interesting to listen to, a truly great Australian thinker who has spoken and written on many topics from capital punishment to other human rights. A world class ideas-man.

Julia Gillard
I’m not going to hold my breath but I see Gillard as Australia ’s first Australian Woman PM. I like the way she is a thoroughly modern pollie and positions herself well in debates regarding gender issues and politics.

Bob Ellis
The eternally grumpy/myopic Labour scribe. His mumbled grumblings are a perfect foil for his great writing and his thoughts about Australia and its people.

Greg Combet
Would have to have the toughest job in Australia at the moment but Combet is just what the working people of Australia need. An intelligent and determined man who can articulate his position for the good of the worker.

Martin Flanagan
Not just Australia ’s best sports writer but a conduit between white and black Australia . If anyone knows how hard this is, and I do, the fact that Flanagan has been writing on these subjects for so long with such great insight stands as a great testament to his character and empathy for the people he writes about and for.

Bob Brown
An icon and an institution with a voice that resonates like a cathedral bell it makes listening to his ideas about the environment and Australia’s involvement on the ‘war on terror’ more bearable and gives one hope. A true statesman

Michael Long
Long’s stance against racial abuse was probably the greatest real act Australian Sport has ever seen because it rippled out into the broader community. While Nicky Winmar gave us the great symbolic act Long made it happen.

Tim Costello
Decent, hardworking, humble yet fearless and thought provoking.

Ian Chappell
One of the few in the cricket world to publicly come out and criticise ‘the Don’ for his fiscal meanness. A brave act followed by other brave acts taking into account his further views on Tampa and the first Australian Test side that toured England in 1867.

63. OK. Here are the people whom I regularly read or contact (in no particular order): Sara Ahmed (in know she's in the UK but grew up in Adelaide ); Liz Grosz (ditto--in the US but Sydney based for a long time;) Meaghan Morris (I gather she's returning); Brian Castro Ghassan Hage ; Ien Ang; Ivor Indyk ; Marcia Langton; Nikos Papastergiadis; Paul Carter; John Frow ;Leela Ghandi; Inga Clendinnen Elspeth Probyn.

64. If you want to quote me, which you may or may not given my scepticism, my views are that: 'Most influential thinkers' lists are, like any 'top ten' list, a parlour game played out in the media. They encourage a confusion between celebrity and impact. At a time when the government is about to establish time-consuming, wasteful and nonsensical methods to create artificial lists for 'academic impact' (how many times a journal article is cited by others - which usually depends on whether they or their field like long lists!!) lists have limited value - or even utility.'

65. Thanks for getting in touch on this. Very interesting project. My first take on this would be, in no particular order:

1. David Burchell – the academic who most consistently impresses me with an ability to challenge the orthodoxies of the Left from within, in circumstances where (as an Australian humanities academic) it is easiest to go along with them, even if they do not have popular resonance and it is widely acknowledged that this is a problem;

2. Malcolm Turnbull – when the pendulum in the Liberals swings from big government populism to identifying the party as a low tax party that should be committed to returning surpluses to taxpayers in ways that are not politically driven, as it will, he has positioned himself to be the strongest advocate of that position;

3. Peter Craven – has established good platforms to be a leading thinker on the arts and literature in Australia from a variety of angles (e.g. pro Charles Dickens in schools AND Big Brother on TV);

4. Mike Rann – of all of the labor state premiers, has done the best in articulating a vision for SA with a considerably weaker hand than other premiers, such as Beattie;

5. Fiona Stanley – putting children back onto the policy agenda in a serious way;

6. Catharine Lumby – this will be apparent when ‘Why TV is Good for your kids’ comes out this year;

7. Stuart Cunningham – a colleague, sure, but the most consistent public champion of ‘creative economy’ arguments;

8. Andrew Leigh – an ANU economist who can actually talk to popular issues;

9. Keith Suter – actually gets thoughtful commentary on world events onto the Sunrise TV program, of all places!!!

10. Guus Hiddink – not an Australian, sure, but look at what he turned the sow’s ear of Australian soccer talent into.

66. The question does not make much sense to me, as 'intelligence' is so context specific. I worry about Australia 's and the world's energy futures. It's a big problem. I don't know who is the cleverest person in Australia working on solar and wind energy-generating technologies at the moment, but whoever it is he/she goes to the top of my list, closely followed by the entrepreneur who can find away to make such technology attractive in market terms. None of the humanities/social science intellectuals that you and I could name (with the possible exception of some senior public servants) would come close to them in significance.

67. The professor of intellectual history at Cambridge , Stefan Collini, recently published (through Oxford ) Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain . The notice and interview I saw was bright and interesting. My quick-time TEN for mixed important/influential, without moral judgment! And without prejudice . . . Hugh McKay – consistently puts the key social questions (and some answers); Paul Keating – huge effort of will to reshape the national economy and retain some vestiges of the ‘new province of law and order’ from our history; Frank Lohey, think of a field (no pun intended) and he’s generating ideas and funds; Michael Chaney – most articulate spokesperson for Australian business and neo-liberal ideas, and relation of arts and business; Colin Rubinstein – person of ideas and action for the US and Israel commitments of Australia, as well as Australian multiculturalism; Helen Nugent – Bank director, corporate approaches to the arts and to multiculturalism; Peter Tannock – from mid 70s with the Schools Commission to today he has enabled the ‘private’ to flourish in Australia where it matters greatly, namely education; John Sanderson – remarkable powers of expression in the service a a balanced Australia internationally, and concern for Aboriginal peoples internally; Tom Griffiths – the single most important historical voice of the nation in a generation; Graeme Hugo – his statistical understanding of us is without peer.


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