The Good Life: Andrew Leigh in Conversation

Our society places a lot of emphasis on 'smarts' but not enough on 'wisdom'. In this podcast, I seek out wise men and women to see what they can teach us about living a happier, healthier and more ethical life.

If there's a guest you'd like to hear on the podcast, please drop me an email to let me know.

The podcast is available through Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Recent transcripts:

Robert Putnam on bowling alone and living together

Andrew Leigh:

Robert Putnam was once described as the General Motors of American academia, a compliment delivered before the auto maker was bailed out. He's produced nearly a dozen books on topics ranging from arms control to poverty. But these aren't just any books. They're both door stoppers and conversation stoppers, intensely researched, peppered with insightful anecdotes and rigorously analysed data.

I first got to know Bob when I took his Social Capital course in 2001, and spent a year working part-time as one of his research assistants. The team of half a dozen of us would analyse data or prepare literature reviews, and then present them to the others who'd pick them apart. Once Bob was satisfied we'd comprehensively tackled the narrow topic we'd been assigned, it'd be filed away as an input for him to use when writing the relevant section of his next book.

I'd never seen anything quite like it in academia. When I returned to Australia, I wrote Disconnected, a much shorter, Australian version of Bob Putnam's seminal book, Bowling Alone. Bob gave me thoughtful feedback on the draft even though he'd, by then, moved onto other topics. He isn't just someone who writes about the ties that bind. He practices social capital too. Bob, thanks for appearing on The Good Life Podcast today.

Robert Putnam:

It's great to be with you.

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Tim Minchin on free will, anger, success and failure

Andrew Leigh:

As a science-loving rationalist, I've always loved Tim Minchin's songs, and everything from dogma to alternative medicine. He's even been kind enough to let me quote snippets of them in two of my books. But I remember the moment when I thought, "This guy's a genius." It was midway through the School Song in Matilda when they start turning lettered blocks over. And you realise the song doesn't just work lyrically and musically but also visually because every line corresponds to the next letter of the alphabet. Now 43 years old, Tim grew up in Perth before moving to Melbourne, London and Los Angeles. Then he had a really bad experience with a project. And now he's home. I think I speak for many Australians in saying we're sorry that Larrikins didn't work out but delighted to have Tim back here. He's presently doing a tour, the Back Tour, which is currently showing in Canberra. Tim, welcome to The Good Life podcast.

You seem to have grown up in a fairly musical family. Your uncle, Jim, was a bluegrass musician. You talk about family singing around the piano. You played with your brother, Dan, in bands. Did you always expect you'd go into entertainment?

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Alain de Botton on How to Live.

Andrew Leigh:

Alain de Botton is the closest thing Western society has to a secular priest. Born in Switzerland, raised in Britain, he's written books on Proust, travel, architecture, religion, sex, arts, the news, and love. In 2008, Alain founded The School of Life, an educational company that offers advice on life issues like achieving calm, having better relationships, and making sense of a messy world. It's videos with titles like How to Get Attention Without Attention Seeking, The Importance of Kissing, The Charms of Unavailable People, and Why You Don't Need to be Exceptional, have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. His new book is titled The School of Life. Alain, welcome to The Good Life podcast.

Alain de Botton:

Thank you so much. What an honour for me.

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Julia Gillard on friendship, purpose and the cone of silence

Andrew Leigh:

Australia's 27th Prime Minister, Julia Eileen Gillard was born in the Wilshire port town of Barry. When she was a child, her parents John and Laura were told that Julia's chronic lung problems would improve with warmer air. So to seek better jobs and to help the younger daughter's health, they became 10 pound poms and sailed to Australia when Julia was four years old, clutching a toy koala. She attended Unley High, Adelaide Uni and Melbourne Uni, before becoming a partner at Slater & Gordon at age 29. Pre-selected third on Labor's Victorian Senate ticket in 1996, the nation narrowly missed out on Senator Gillard, and Julia became the Member for Lalor in 1998.

In opposition, she held the immigration and health portfolios. When Labor won government in 2007, became Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and Deputy Prime Minister. In 2010, she challenged Kevin Rudd for the Prime Ministership and served for three years and three days, before again losing the leadership to Kevin Rudd. Among her attainments are education reform, climate change and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Since leaving Parliament in 2013, Julie has served as a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, Chair of Beyond Blue, and Chair of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, For a woman who wants to get a seat in Parliament, she now has no shortage of chairs. Julia's one of my great heroes, and not just because she appointed me as her Parliamentary Secretary in the final months of her Prime Ministership. And it is a true delight to have her on the Good Life Podcast today.

Julia Gillard:

Thank you Andrew. It's wonderful to be here.

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Markus Zusak on stories that mean everything

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ANDREW LEIGH, HOST:  Marcus Zusak is one of Australia's great storytellers, aged 45. He's the author of six novels, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, When Dogs Cry, The Messenger, The Book Thief, and Bridge Of Clay. Marcus has a flair for phrases and talent for tales. He also really loves other people's books, and regards reading as an essential part of a good life. Marcus, it's a delight to have you on the podcast today.

MARCUS ZUSAK, AUTHOR THE BOOK THIEF: Thanks for joining me. There's absolute pleasure. And yeah, I'm really looking forward to it. We'll see how we go. Hopefully I can, you know, do your program justice.

 

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Alice Pung on tragedy, cultural appropriation and the craft of writing

ANDREW LEIGH, HOST: Alice Pung is one of Australia's most talented young writers. The author of Unpolished Gem, the Edited Collection Growing up Asian in Australia, Her Father's Daughter, Laurinda My First Lesson, Writers on Writers, Alice Pung and John Marsden, Close to Home Selected Writings. And then four children's books - Meet Marley, Marley’s Business, Marley and the Goat and Marley Walks on the Moon. Alice also writes for nonfiction publications such as the monthly and has a part time job as a as a lawyer at the Fair Work Commission, when she's not looking after her kids. I have no idea how she manages to be so talented and so prolific, but I'm delighted to have her on the good life podcast today.

PUNG: Oh, thanks so much, Andrew. It's a delight to be on this podcast today.

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Leigh Sales on luck, doubt, trolls and what makes a great interview

ANDREW LEIGH: Leigh Peta Sales has worked as an Australian journalist for a quarter of a century. In that time, she has covered floods, murder trials, sporting scandals, surf accidents, and the Royal Brisbane show. She has worked in Brisbane, Sydney and Washington DC, interviewed innumerable world leaders including Hillary Clinton, Tony Blair, and celebrities like the Dalai Lama, Henry Kissinger, Leonardo DiCaprio and Patti Smith. Until moving to 7:30 in 2011 Leigh anchored the Lateline programme and before that was the ABCs national security correspondent. From 2001 to 2005, she was the network's Washington correspondent covering stories including the aftermath of September 11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Leigh has two Walkley awards and is the author of three books Detainee 002: the case of David Hicks, On Doubt, and Any Ordinary Day. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including the monthly in the Australian literary review, with Annabel Crabb Leigh hosts pop culture podcast Chat 10 Looks 3, which is nearly at its 100th episode. Leigh Sales, Welcome to The Good Life podcast.

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Maree Crabbe on pornography and gender equality

ANDREW LEIGH, HOST: In the mid 2000s, Maree Crabbe was working as a youth worker with Brophy family Youth Services when she became aware that many of the troubled young men she was assisting had poor relationships with their partners and watched a lot of pornography. As someone who's worked on sexual violence prevention for more than two decades, Maree became increasingly interested in the role of pornography in shaping modern sexuality and relationships. It led her to produce two documentary films, Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography, and the Porn Factor. She has also produced in the picture resources to support secondary schools dealing with the rapid changes in the nature of pornography, and how young people consume pornography.

A warning to regular good life listeners. This is an episode about pornography. I think it's an important question in terms of thinking about how one lives a good life. But if you're listening with children, you might want to be aware that we're going to be talking about porn for the next hour or so. Right?

Welcome to the podcast. So hasn't porn always been around? I mean, what's changed?

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Sisonke Msimang on exile and home, hatred and belonging

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ANDREW LEIGH, HOST: Sisonke Msimang describes herself and her sisters as born in exile, and says that they spent their whole lives making your way and making our way back home. Always Another Country chronicles her journey from South Africa through Zambia, Kenya, Canada, the United States, back to South Africa, Mozambique and finally to Australia. It's strong, punchy and funny. confronting the reader with a sense of the complexities of race and identity. At a time when many around the world are seeking to create racial divisions. It carries an urgency and a sense of wisdom that's sorely needed. Sisonke has written for a range of international publications, including the new york times the Washington Post's The Guardian, Newsweek, and Al Jazeera.

Okay, I want to start off with your father, who was the reason that you left South Africa. What was it that led him to become a freedom fighter for the ANC?

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Nat Heath on Ironman Triathlons and Indigenous Identity

ANDREW LEIGH, HOST: I first got to know Nat through my involvement with the indigenous marathon project. He's just the most relaxed bloke, somebody who is incredibly comfortable with his extraordinary athletic ability, and Nat has knocked off no fewer than six Iron Men run multiple marathons and can run a marathon in less than three hours. He is the manager for the Aboriginal services team at the New South Wales Department of Education, and has completed a Bachelor of Science, social science Majoring in Aboriginal studies, sociology and social policy. He’s somebody who's deeply steeped in the worlds of athletics, indigenous education, and somebody who at this particular moment in history, I thought could offer us some really fresh and thoughtful insights. Now, thanks so much for joining us in the good life podcast today.

NAT HEATH, FOUNDER AND CO-PRESIDENT OF TRIMOB AND INDIGENOUS MARATHON FOUNDATION BOARD DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me. Andrew. Just want to acknowledge that on meeting on Bidgigal country here in Sydney, currently based over in Maroubra, beautiful little suburb here in Sydney. And yeah, Big thanks for obviously giving up your time and having the interest to I guess, share my story and have a yarn with you.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.