'Is Democracy Broken?' - Latrobe University, Melbourne, 25 October 2018

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Six changes in the office of Australian Prime Minister in the space of ten years and three parliaments; have we entered a new political normal where the convention of PM is changing, or is this a symptom of a broader political malaise?

Dual Walkley award winner journalist Tony Walker joins liberal party strategist Mark Textor, Labor heavyweight Geoff Walsh, Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy and Roy Morgan pollster Michele Levine to dissect the business of politics and undertake a warts-and-all examination of the Australian political system.

Has the subscription mindset of younger voters impacted on the political party system in the digital age and what is the outlook for Australia in the context of global political instability, strongman tactics, online activism and data mining scandals?

You’re invited to delve into the dynamic space of Australian politics with us for a fascinating conversation offering behind-the-scenes insights in the race to the top from some of the major players in the world of political research, campaigns, strategy and commentary.

This event will be followed by tea and coffee.


Vice Chancellor’s Fellow Tony Walker began his career as an ABC Specialist Trainee after graduating in politics and international relations from the Australian National University. In his early career he worked for the ABC’s Radio Australia, making programs and broadcasting from Melbourne before re-locating to Canberra where he served as Radio Australia’s first Canberra correspondent and diplomatic correspondent. He transferred to The Age in 1976 and served in various posts, including defence and foreign affairs correspondent and chief of staff before being posted to China in 1979 for Fairfax newspapers. There began a long career as a foreign correspondent for both Fairfax and the Financial Times of London. This included, Beijing (1979-1983); Cairo (1984-1993); Beijing again (1993-1998); and New York (1998-1999).

He returned to Australia as political editor for The Australian Financial Review (2000-2004) before being posted to Washington as the AFR’s North American editor. He returned to Australia in 2010 as the AFR’s international editor. He is now writing fortnightly columns for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, along with columns for The Conversation, among other writing assignments. In his lengthy career he has won a number of journalist awards, including two Walkley’s for commentary and the Paul Lyneham award for excellence in press gallery journalism. He is a published author, including a biography of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat (Arafat: The Biography), and most recently a tribute to the golfer, Peter Thomson for MUP (The Peter Thomson Five).


Geoff Walsh AO, a La Trobe graduate and 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, has built a career spanning politics, government, the media and business, including roles at BHP Billiton as Special Adviser to the CEO and as Director of Public Affairs. Geoff also served at the International Labour Organisation in the United Nations Office in Geneva and as the Australian Consul-General to Hong Kong. Geoff was National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party (2000-2003) and a Senior Adviser to Australian Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. He served as Chief of Staff to Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and held a senior advisory position for Victorian Premier John Brumby.

Geoff has been a member of the boards of Obesity Australia, Andrology Australia, the Western Bulldogs Football Club and the Council of La Trobe University.

In June 2005 Geoff was awarded an AO in the Order of Australia for service to politics, tertiary education and promoting closer ties between Australia and Hong Kong.

Mark “Tex” Textor’s record of success speaks for itself. Best known for his strategic insights, he has held the unique position of being the pollster and electoral strategist behind the election victories for seven Commonwealth Prime Ministers over scores of elections. Described by Channel 4 in the UK as “one of the most influential political strategists and pollsters to walk the planet”, and in Australia as “… A genius at transforming raw research into compelling communication”. Former London Mayor and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Boris Johnson, who has sought Tex’s counsel on his two Mayoral victories described Tex as the “sorcerer of numbers”.

Tex is the co-Founder of Australia’s only home grown Global research, campaigns and communications firm, the Crosy|Textor Group; with over 100 employees across major offices in London, Sydney, Washington DC., Milan, Dubai and Canberra.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research was born with a passion for people and what makes them tick, social justice and an insatiable curiosity about life. With over 30 years’ experience as a researcher, Michele has been responsible for thousands of surveys, including many of the largest research projects ever undertaken in Australia, many of which continue to play a critically important part in shaping our society today.

With a fundamental belief in the empowering value of information, Michele was instrumental in the development and refinement of Roy Morgan Single Source, the world’s leading consumer study (based on over 50,000 interviews a year) and, in 2010, the introduction of the Roy Morgan Business Survey. Michele was ahead of her time in foreseeing the exponential growth of Big Data and, consequently the need for software (like ASTEROID) which can manage and order massive volumes of data – as well as the need for highly trained analysts who can help make sense of it.

Katharine Murphy has worked in the federal parliamentary press gallery since 1996 for Fairfax, News Corporation and Guardian Australia, where she is currently the political editor. She is the host of the podcast, Australian Politics Live, a regular panelist on the ABC's Insiders program, a director of the National Press Club and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra.

In 2008, she won the Paul Lyneham award for excellence in press gallery journalism, while in 2012 she was a Walkley award finalist in the best digital journalism category. She is the author of the recently published book On Disruption (MUP) about the challenges facing democracy and is considered one of the most influential political journalists of her generation.


Thu. 25 October 2018

6:30 pm – 8:00 pm AEDT


State Library Theatrette

Enter via Entry 3

179 La Trobe Street

Melbourne, VIC 3000


Organiser of Is democracy broken?

La Trobe's Bold Thinking Series is a public lecture series unlike any other. Featuring some of our most influential academics, these events challenge the audience to broaden their minds and do as the title suggests - think boldly. Drawing on the University's plethora of high-impact research, these sessions tackle some of the hottest topics trending in Melbourne; including Disability, Diet and Identity, Cybersecurity and more. Hosted by respected broadcaster, journalist and writer, Francis Leach, the sessions feature a panel of La Trobe University academics in discussion with industry experts to share their bold thoughts and discoveries, and how they relate to modern society. These public events are open to anyone who wants to learn more or share their opinion.