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Episode 65: Processing Events at the US Capitol

11 Jan 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
US Capitol Grounds East Plaza off First Street and East Capitol Street, Washington DC on Wednesday morning, 6 January 2021. Source: Elvert Barnes Photography

Allan and Darren unpack the events of the recent storming of the US Capitol Building. Listen in to hear how this event marks the dramatic denouement of the deterioration of US democracy under the Trump administration, and to speculate about the future of US politics post-Trump.

Following the shocking events on Wednesday 6 January when a mob of Trump supporters (incited by the president) stormed the U.S. Capitol Building, Allan and Darren offer their reactions in this episode recorded in the afternoon of Friday 8 January. Above all, does this drama change how they see the short- and medium-term trajectory of the United States? For Allan, the events reinforce rather than change views he’s formed over the past four years, while Darren tries, perhaps foolishly, to offer an optimistic assessment.

Missed the last episode? Catch up on Episode 64: A cabinet reshuffle, political ambassador appointments, the Richardson Review, and summer homework below!

Allan and Darren begin their final episode of 2020 with the recent cabinet reshuffle, specifically Dan Tehan becoming Minister for Trade and Andrew Hastie becoming Assistant Minister for Defence. Tehan replaces Simon Birmingham, the new finance minister, and Allan explains what he most admires about “Birmo,” giving Tehan—himself a former diplomat—big shoes to fill. On the defence side, we now have a defence minister, and an assistant defence minister, who have both served in the Australian Defence Force—something unusual and notable.

The discussion moves to the appointment of Will Hodgman, a former Premier of Tasmania, to be Australia’s next high commissioner to Singapore. Allan wonders what specialised skills (if any) the government believes head of mission posts require, while Darren offers a very personal reflection on the wide range of abilities required to be an ambassador, especially in a crisis situation.

Next the conversation turns to the Richardson Review, chaired by friend of the podcast Dennis Richardson and which, at over 1300 pages in length, is a deep and comprehensive inquiry into the legislation governing Australia’s intelligence community. Allan explains why the report is so significant and lists some highlights. Liberal democracies across the world are grappling with the perennial question of “freedom versus security,” and the powers (and oversight) of intelligence agencies are central to these debates. Getting the balance right is important not just in and of itself, but for demonstrating that the liberal democratic model can manage uniquely 21st century challenges.

Finally, Allan and Darren preview their “summer homework.” What is each looking to learn more about over the summer, and why? For Allan, the answer revolves around the degree of agency Australia has in the emerging international order, and for Darren the answer is—as always it seems—to understand more about China itself, and Beijing’s intentions.

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Episode 65 Relevant Links

Bruno Maçães, History has begun: The birth of a new America (Hurst Publishers):

All in: The fight for Democracy (Amazon Prime):

Matthew Continetti, “Trump must pay”, National Review, 6 January 2021:

Yuval Levin, “Trump’s rebellion against reality”, The Dispatch, 7 January 2021”

Bruno Maçães, “The roleplaying coup”, City Journal, 7 January 2021:

Episode 64 Relevant Links

Scott Morrison, Media Statement [Cabinet reshuffle], 18 December 2020:

Marise Payne, Media release “High Commissioner to Singapore”, 29 November 2020:

Daniel Flitton, “More pollies in more posts”, Lowy Interpreter, 3 December 2020:

Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Legal Framework of the National Intelligence Community, 4 December 2020:

Sun Yun, “‘Politics come first’ as ban on Australian coal worsens China’s power cuts”, Financial Times, 21 December 2020:

Pekingology podcast:

The Aubrey-Martin series (Wikipedia entry):

The Mandalorian, Disney Plus:

Brune Macaes, “Dune and the infinite game”, 17 December 2020:

The Realignment podcast: