Please Explain

40 Episodes

By: The Age and Sydney Morning Herald

From the newsrooms of The Age and SMH, Please Explain gives you a daily insight into the stories that drive the nation. Please take the time to rate & review us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your pods. We love to hear your thoughts and it makes it easier for the rest of the podcast world to find us. Become a subscriber: our supporters power our newsrooms and are critical for the sustainability of news coverage. Becoming a subscriber also gets you exclusive behind-the-scenes content and invitations to special events. Click on the links to subscribe https://subscribe.theage...

What does the AUKUS alliance mean beyond nuclear-powered submarines?
Yesterday at 3:20 AM

Australia will acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of a historic new pact between this country, the US and the UK. The AUKUS alliance will see the US help Australia develop the capability to build nuclear submarines locally in Adelaide. The new alliance was announced in a press conference on Thursday morning by US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with the trio affirming a commitment to ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Today on Please Explain, North America correspondent Matthew Knott joins Nathanael Cooper to look at the new a...

Why are Aussies investing in ETFs (and what are they)?
Last Wednesday at 5:28 AM

Record low interest rates are driving a radical shift in the way Australians save and invest their money. With money stashed in the bank earning only about 1 per cent – if you’re lucky – many are turning to the sharemarket, in hopes of higher returns.  One of the ways they’re doing it is via Exchange Traded Funds, or ETFs, which have just celebrated 20 years in the Australian market. Today on Please Explain, personal finance editor John Collett joins Jess Irvine to discuss. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Mounting the case for a four-day working week
Last Tuesday at 2:39 AM

Iceland recently conducted trials of a four-day working week and found not only were workers happier but firms reported increased productivity. As Australia looks towards a post-COVID life and begins to imagine how we might want to juggle returning to the office after spending so long indoors, is a four-day week the way of the future? Today on Please Explain, senior economics writer Jessica Irvine joins Nathanael Cooper to look at whether it is possible. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

On the ground in Lebanon: a country in crisis
Last Monday at 1:46 AM

The collapse of Lebanon’s economy has been described by the World Bank as likely to be one of the top three economic calamities to strike any nation for the past 170 years. The magnitude of the economic depression the country is experiencing with no clear path out has caused a significant social crisis with three quarters of the population below the national poverty line. Today on Please Explain, Europe correspondent Bevan Shields joins Nathanael Cooper to look at what led the country to this point and what it is like on the ground there. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: https://sub...

Twenty years on from the terrorist attack that changed the world

Twenty years ago the world changed forever when 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial aircraft and launched a series of co-ordinated attacks on the United States. The images of planes flying into the twin towers in New York, the burning wreckage of aircraft in a field and at the Pentagon, and the devastation left as the towers collapsed, are burned into the memories of the entire world. Today on Please Explain, North America correspondent Matthew Knott joins Nathanael Cooper to look at what has occurred in the twenty years since the September 11 attacks. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: https://subscribe.smh.c...

What’s behind News Corp’s new stance on climate science?

After years of taking aim at government policy intended to reduce carbon emissions News Corp, the publisher of several Australian newspapers, will end its long-standing editorial hostility towards carbon reduction policies and advocate for the world’s leading economies to hit net zero emissions by 2050. Today on Please Explain, media writer Zoe Samios joins Nathanael Cooper to look at this editorial about-face from News Corp. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Super’s 13 worst products: how to protect your nest egg

Australia’s compulsory superannuation system was introduced in 1992 by then Treasurer Paul Keating. In that time, there have been few developments as dramatic as this month’s naming and shaming of 13 super products which have failed a performance test set by the regulator. Today on Please Explain, business reporter Charlotte Grieve joins Jess Irvine to discuss. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

How can we keep women safe?

On the opening day of the National Summit on Women’s Safety on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said not enough progress had been made on attitudes towards women, and sexual and domestic violence. Mr Morrison attempted to highlight this during his keynote address to the summit, reading aloud from emails and letters women had sent him detailing their experiences. Today on Please Explain, senior writer Wendy Tuohy joins Bianca Hall to discuss the event; growing calls for Aboriginal women and women from diverse cultures to be prioritised in discussions; and why young women are leading the way. Subscribe to The...

Behind the photo that captured Wilcannia's COVID-19 plight

A cavalcade of motorhomes has arrived in the far-western NSW town of Wilcannia, where about one in seven of the population has tested positive for COVID-19. As of Sunday, 98 people in the town of 745 people had contracted the virus. Last week, Indigenous photographer Rhett Wyman’s photo of Catherine Bugmy being forced to wash her clothes in the river made the front page. Today on Please Explain, photographer Nick Moir joins Bianca Hall to discuss what’s happening in Wilcannia and how that front-page photograph came about. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See

Cult heroes and astonishing achievements at the Paralympics

Australia’s Paralympic athletes have racked up more than 60 medals in Tokyo already this year with another two days of competition to go. From the pool to the track to the court, Australia currently sits in eighth place in the medals tally after an impressive performance from our athletes across the competition. Today on Please Explain, sports reporter Tom Decent joins Nathanael Cooper to look at Australia’s success at the Paralympics. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

How did the economy grow in the middle of a pandemic?

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday showed the economy expanding by 0.7 per cent through the June quarter, taking annual growth to an all-time high of 9.6 per cent. But the figures pre-date the majority of the lockdowns the country has been experiencing this winter, leading economists to warn the September quarter results aren’t likely to be as strong. Today on Please Explain, senior economics writer Shane Wright joins Nathanael Cooper to explore what helped boost the economy last quarter. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Aussie home values surge 18 per cent, but can it last?

Australian home values rose 1.5 per cent in August, according to data released today by CoreLogic. They are now up 18.4 per cent over the past year – the fastest annual pace of growth since the late 1980s. Today on Please Explain, business reporter Clancy Yeates joins Jess Irvine to discuss why prices are rising so fast, and what hope there is for first time buyers looking to get into the housing market. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Crisis in western NSW as COVID-19 hits Aboriginal communities

The situation facing the far-western NSW town of Wilcannia is dire. As of Monday, 69 people in the town of 720 had tested positive for COVID-19, the highest transmission rate in the state. Despite being identified as a priority group for vaccines 18 months ago, only 6.3 per cent of Aboriginal people in western NSW are fully vaccinated, compared with 26 per cent of the wider population. Today on Please Explain, Gamilaroi man and Indigenous affairs reporter Cameron Gooley joins Bianca Hall to discuss the worsening outbreak among Aboriginal communities. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for p...

Vaccine passports? Open borders? Voters have their say

New polling shows the majority of Australians support vaccine passports and mandatory vaccines for vulnerable workers as part of the pathway out of lockdowns. An exclusive Resolve Political Monitor survey for The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age on the weekend showed 73 per cent of people either agreed or strongly agreed that a vaccine passport to prove you’ve had the jab is a good idea. Today on Please Explain, federal political correspondent James Massola joins Bianca Hall to discuss the freedoms widespread vaccinations could bring. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy i...

Afghanistan in crisis: terrorists in Kabul leave scores dead

In the early hours of Friday morning Australian time, suicide bombers detonated a number of explosives outside Kabul airport, killing dozens and leaving many more wounded. The explosions happened where thousands of Afghans have gathered as they try to escape the country after the Taliban seized power. Today on Please Explain, foreign affairs and national security correspondent Anthony Galloway joins Nathanael Cooper to discuss the rapidly evolving crisis in Afghanistan. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

A fractured industry spells trouble for local streaming services

Today on Please Explain, media writer Zoe Samios joins Nathanael Cooper to look at the challenges faced by local streaming services. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

How the mortgage war for your home loan is heating up

It’s the biggest expense in many household budgets, and mortgage interest rates are on the move again. The Reserve Bank has not changed its official cash rate in over a year, but a competition war has broken out in recent months between lenders looking to attract new borrowers – with some offering so-called “cash back” offers of up to $5000. Today on Please Explain, personal finance editor John Collette joins Jess Irvine to discuss how mortgage holders could score themselves a better deal. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Childcare centres close, leaving parents on the brink

After a weekend of rapidly changing advice in Victoria, childcare centres and outside school hours care are closed, except for families where one parent is an authorised worker with a permit, and for vulnerable children. In New South Wales and the ACT, parents have been strongly encouraged to keep their kids home unless they are unable to care for them at home. With centre operators on the brink, the federal government stepped in on Monday with financial support for early learning centres and outside school hours care. Today on Please Explain, federal political reporter Katina Curtis joins Bianca Hall to d...

Kids and COVID-19: when will they be vaccinated?

There have been growing tensions between state governments and the Commonwealth about the national road map to reopening the economy and the country. With most of the eastern seaboard still in lockdown, Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed on Monday we “can’t stay in the cave forever” once vaccination targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent are reached. But those targets only include the eligible population, currently those aged over 16, which would leave millions of children unvaccinated. Today on Please Explain, federal health reporter Rachel Clun joins Bianca Hall to discuss the federal vaccination rollout, and when we can expect younger c...

Inside the bizarre rituals of Australia's Neo-Nazis

An eight-month investigation by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald has exposed the inner workings and the growing threat of Australian neo-nazi group the National Socialist Network. The investigation exposed leaders of the white supremacist group advising members to hang onto their guns and raise funds to buy up rural property to form the genesis of a new, racist state, along with bizarre rituals that take place when young men are inducted into their dangerous cult. Today on Please Explain, investigative journalist Nick McKenzie joins Nathanael Cooper to look inside the insidious white supremacy movement in Australia. Subscribe to The...

Afghanistan on the brink as Taliban 2.0 reclaims the country

The Taliban has resumed its grip on power in Afghanistan after taking control of the capital, Kabul, on Sunday. The speed with which Taliban forces reclaimed the country has sparked chaotic scenes at Kabul’s airport as Afghans, foreigners and diplomats try to flee. Today on Please Explain, world editor Michelle Griffin joins Bianca Hall to discuss the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and whether Western governments should have seen this coming. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Should we have brought back JobKeeper?

With more than half of Australians now in lockdown, the economic scars of this crisis are beginning to show. Economists are debating exactly how big the hit to economic output and jobs will be in the September quarter and, indeed, if lockdowns continue into the December quarter, whether it will be appropriate to pull out the dreaded “r” word again: recession. Today on Please Explain, economics editor Ross Gittins joins Jess Irvine to discuss the adequacy of support for people whose incomes have been affected by COVID-19. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See

Is there such thing as having too much choice?

In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, American psychologist, Barry Schwartz, suggested that it is possible to have too much of a good thing, including choice. Now, around Australia we are testing that theory, with much of our freedom of choice taken away. The freedom to choose where we go, where we eat, where we socialise and even who we socialise with has been removed as our worlds shrink further under more onerous lockdown restrictions. But when the world eventually return to normal, will the return of choice make us happier? Or will the buffet of c...

As lockdown fatigue sets in again, how have things gotten so bad in Australia

On Thursday residents of Melbourne will pass the sombre milestone of having spent 200 days in lockdown since the country first shut down in March last year. In Sydney, case numbers have remained persistently above 400 with multiple cases infectious in the community and today stricter lockdown measures came into place limiting people’s movement even further. 18 months after Coronavirus reared its ugly head, Australians who initially sailed through the pandemic as the envy of the global community now peer enviously overseas at successful vaccination programs, life returning to normal and a broadly effective management of living with the virus. Today on Ple...

What is the role of the media in the middle of a global crisis?

Australia is facing, possibly, its worst health crisis as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues its march around the country sending multiple states into lockdown. Away from the pandemic the global climate change crisis has come even more in focus with the damning report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released this week and tensions between global superpowers become increasingly fraught. The role of the media in covering the unrelenting and constantly evolving news cycle has never been more important nor more scrutinised. Today on Please Explain, executive editor Tory Maguire joins Nathanael Cooper to explore the role the m...

Can employers force workers to be vaccinated?

As Sydney faces the reality of a protracted lockdown and Melbourne’s sixth lockdown is extended at least one more week, various levels of government have mooted that only vaccinations will end the cycle of opening and closing the country. Last week, fruit and vegetable manufacturer SPC announced unvaccinated people would not be welcome at their workplace, sparking debate over whether employers would be able to make vaccines compulsory. Today on Please Explain, industrial relations reporter Nick Bonyhady joins Nathanael Cooper to discuss the latest news in the mandatory vaccination debate. Subscribe to The Age & SMH:

How long will the Greater Sydney lockdown last?

NSW is stuck in limbo. More than six weeks into lockdown COVID-19 case numbers are stubbornly refusing to drop. There are growing calls for us to accept living with the virus, or face remaining cut off from the rest of the world indefinitely. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is starting to talk of lifting restrictions at the end of August if the state reaches 50 per cent vaccination. That feels like only a little bit of light at the end of a very long tunnel. On this episode of Please Explain, state political reporter Lucy Cormack joins Tory Maguire to discuss. Subscribe...

‘Code red for humanity’: UN climate change report predicts dire future

The Earth will continue to warm and environmental catastrophes will become more frequent and more intense, according to a new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report, released yesterday, shows the planet has warmed 1.1 degrees since the late 1800s and, even in the best-case scenario, will warm a further 1.5 degrees by 2040. It has prompted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call it a “code red for humanity”. Today on Please Explain, national environment and climate editor Nick O’Malley joins Nathanael Cooper to discuss the IPCC report. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: ...

Lockdown politics: does the PM’s plan involve more than just spin?

It’s the beginning of another slightly strange sitting week in Federal Parliament, as Canberrans get to enjoy being some of the few Australians in the east not in lockdown. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has woken up to yet another poll today showing just how much damage the vaccine rollout has done to him politically. On this episode of Please Explain, national affairs editor Rob Harris joins Tory Maguire to discuss what the political stage might look like after the vaccine effort fully ramps up. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for pr...

Celebrating Australia’s Olympic success

The Age’s chief reporter Chip Le Grand wrote this morning that Australia has never won more gold, or been more cool at any Olympic Games. How long we can hang on to that feeling while so many of us are in lockdown will be quite the test of optimism. On this episode of Please Explain, Chip Le Grand joins Tory Maguire to discuss Australia’s incredible showing at this year’s Olympics. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

How the federal government plans to address inequality faced by First Nations people

The federal government has committed more than a $1 billion as part of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and will now hand down the implementation plan to address inequality faced by First Nations people. The centrepiece of the plan is a $378 million reparations scheme for Stolen Generations survivors in the Northern Territory who will get up to $75,000 each for suffering inflicted on them by forcibly removing them from their families. Today on Please Explain, Nathanael Cooper is joined by Indigenous affairs reporter and Gamilaroi man Cameron Gooley. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See omnystudio...

Why is Afterpay’s takeover such a watershed moment?

It’s an extraordinary story of entrepreneurialism and good timing. On Monday, Australian tech company Afterpay became subject of Australia’s largest ever corporate deal when US giant Square bought it for $39 billion. The company was founded by two Sydney men just 8 years ago. And one of those men, Nick Molnar, is now just 31 years old. On this episode of Please Explain, business editor John McDuling joins Tory Maguire to explain how it happened. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

How your life and body changes when you quit alcohol for a year

Drinking and getting drunk are a rite of passage in Australia, part of antipodean folklore, but we are also a country with a fraught relationship with alcohol. Amid impacts including alcohol-fuelled violence and the negative health effects of heavy drinking, more and more studies are demonstrating the positive benefits of cutting down or giving up. But with Australia’s social life centred around our drinking culture, putting down the beer or the wine is a difficult decision for many. During the coronavirus pandemic, many alcohol support services have reported an uptick in people turning to them for support. Sunday Life ass...

How long before we hit our vaccine targets and come out of lockdown?

Late on Friday Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced National Cabinet had agreed on a roadmap out of COVID-19 lockdowns, with greater freedoms triggered by reaching vaccine targets of 70 and 80 per cent. The million dollar question he gave no answer to was how long will it take us to get there? Senior economics correspondent Shane Wright has crunched some data from the Health Department and joins Tory Maguire on Please Explain to give us an indication. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Pressure, focus, culture: lessons to take away from Olympics week one

It’s been a huge and wonderful week in Tokyo for the Australian Olympic team, and for the rest of us back at home trying to get through various degrees of lockdown. Today on Please Explain, senior sports writer Andrew Webster joins Tory Maguire to discuss some of the lessons gained out of the first week of the Tokyo Olympics about pressure, focus and culture. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Job losses and stagnant wage growth as cost of living rises during pandemic

Australia’s major banks are projecting up to 300,000 Sydney jobs will be lost as a result of the protracted lockdown which is now tipped to conclude at the end of August. It comes as prices for staples such as fruit, vegetables and petrol rise at double the rate of wages growth. Today on Please Explain, economics correspondent Jennifer Duke joins Nathanael Cooper to discuss what this grim outlook means. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

How the coronavirus pandemic has affected young people

A new report from charity Mission Australia has painted a grim picture of the impact the various lockdowns around the country have had on young people. The Young Voices of the Pandemic: Youth Survey COVID Report 2020 took written responses from people aged between 15 and 19 who said the pandemic impacted their education and mental health and left them feeling isolated. High school seniors, particularly those in Victoria, said their final years of high school were severely impacted by COVID-19 while young people around the country said they were left feeling worried and stressed without their usual supports. Today on Please Explain...

Triumph and defeat as Australia begins its medal haul in Tokyo

Australia’s Olympic campaign is off to a strong start, racking up six medals in Tokyo by Tuesday morning – including two gold. From Brendon Smith’s first medal of the Games, winning bronze in the men’s 400-metre individual medley on Sunday morning, to Ariarne Titmus' spectacular race yesterday to win gold, Australia has once again dominated in the pool. Today on Please Explain, sports reporter Sarah Keoghan joins Nathanael Cooper to take us through the highlights of the first few days of the Games. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy i...

Should you get the AstraZeneca vaccine?

On the weekend the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation changed its advice to the people of Greater Sydney - telling them to “strongly consider” getting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine no matter what their age. What does that mean exactly? When “strongly considering” AstraZeneca who are you supposed to listen to? Science reporter Liam Mannix, got his first AstraZeneca shot last week after carefully weighing up the evidence, joins Tory Maguire on this episode of Please Explain to discuss. Subscribe to The Age & SMH: See for privacy information.

Parents feeling forgotten as lockdowns drag on

As the second week of this stint of remote schooling draws to a close many parents are feeling like they might crumble under the weight of supervising education while trying to do their own jobs. Australian Institute of Family Studies research from last year’s lockdowns found that in these circumstances 40 per cent of parents are actively caring for their children during work hours, and 21 per cent are actively and passively caring for them. Today on Please Explain, education editor Jordan Baker joins Tory Maguire to discuss the struggle many parents are facing between work and overseeing their child’s remo...