Fenner Lecture 2017 - OpEd, The Chronicle

Fenner Lecture 2017

The Chronicle, October 24 2017

Not many genetic researchers can tango, but for Australian National University scientist Carola Vinuesa, it’s a welcome break from long hours in the laboratory.

Professor Vinuesa’s work on autoimmune diseases is vital for helping people with conditions such as type 1 diabetes and lupus. She has won a plethora of prizes, including the Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year and the Elizabeth Blackburn Fellowship for biomedical research.  And if that wasn’t enough, Spanish-born Professor Vinuesa has worked as a doctor in India and Ghana.

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Free trade is hard but better than the alternative - OpEd, The Daily Telegraph

Free trade is hard but better than the alternative

The Daily Telegraph, 27 October 2017

In February, President Trump gave a speech at a Boeing factory, lauding the launch of the newest model Dreamliner. He told the crowd: ‘This plane, as you know, was built right here in the great state of South Carolina. Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made right here in the USA.’

But the Dreamliner wasn’t just made in America. Sections of the fuselage are Italian and Korean. Parts of the wings are Australian and Japanese. The landing gear is British, the cargo doors are Swedish, and the passenger doors are French. Four out of five Dreamliners will be exported and all will be used for international travel. The Dreamliner is of the world, by the world, and for the world. Few products better epitomise globalisation.

World trade is just another form of comparative advantage, letting countries specialise in what they do best. Look at any individual transaction, and you will see benefits to both the importer and the exporter. After all, unless both buyer and seller were better off, the sale wouldn’t happen. Just as your hairdresser doesn’t defeat you when you get a haircut, Japan doesn’t defeat you when you buy a PlayStation. Sellers aren’t vanquishing buyers – both are benefiting from specialisation.

What are the risks of protectionism? On the campaign trail, President Trump repeatedly threatened to impose tariffs as a way of discouraging firms from moving manufacturing production to countries such as Mexico. Thankfully, the United States has not yet implemented these threatened 45 per cent tariffs. But we can get some insights into what the effects might be from the contrasting experiences of Argentina and Korea.

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Michaelia Cash needs to step down - Transcript, PVO NewsDay





SUBJECTS: Michaelia Cash, AWU, Multinational tax avoidance.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: To continue discussing this as well as some wider issues in his portfolio, I’m joined now by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh. Thanks very much for your company.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Pleasure, Peter. Great to be with you.

VAN ONSELEN: Forget to shave this morning?

LEIGH: It’s apparently all the rage. I’m following in the footsteps of your regular Sky guests Chris Bowen, Ed Husic, Stephen Jones. All the cool kids seem to be doing it.

VAN ONSELEN: [laughter] Is that the best you can do building a beard? We’ll move on, there are some very serious issues to be discussed. We will get to some of the issues in your portfolio around the government, in your words, not delivering a cent on multinational tax avoidance. Something that, if you like, has been overshadowed by the bigger news which is where I have to start. Michaelia Cash – Labor believes that she should resign because of the inappropriate actions of her staff. When’s Penny Wong going to resign over the inappropriate actions of her staff, vis-à-vis the New Zealanders?

LEIGH: Peter, it’s a ridiculous comparison. You know as well as I do that we’re talking about tipping off the media to a police raid. This is extraordinarily serious stuff and frankly, if the issue here was destroying documents, how much more ham-fisted can it be than to send the press along beforehand? Imagine the scene outside the AWU offices – ‘What are you television reporters doing here? Oh, we’re here for the police raid. Really? Why is the police raid happening? Well, it’s happening to make sure you don’t destroy documents’. I mean, this is public maladministration of the first order. Michaelia Cash needs to step down.

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Liberals yet to deliver a cent on multinational tax avoidance - Media Release


The Australian Tax Office today confirmed that none of the $4 billion clawed back from multinational tax dodgers over the past financial year could be attributed to Liberal laws – despite their attempts to claim otherwise.

In Senate Estimates, my colleague Chris Ketter asked the tax office’s International Deputy Commissioner Mark Konza:

Chris Ketter: In terms of the $4 billion that you announced was raised on the 23rd of August for the last financial year, just interested in knowing how much is directly attributable to MAAL [the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law]

Mark Konza: The answer is nil. The MAAL only came in in 2016. The $4 billion concerned audits that went back as far as 2008.

This shows that Scott Morrison and Kelly O’Dwyer have been telling blatant untruths when they have claimed that it was their policy responsible for cracking down on multinational tax dodging. 

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The ABS deserves better - Transcript, ABC Canberra Drive





SUBJECTS: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Malcolm Turnbull’s unnecessary marriage equality opinion poll, Malcolm Turnbull’s tax cuts for big business, Census fail, housing affordability, Malcolm Turnbull’s second rate NBN.

LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: Staff numbers at the Australian Bureau of Statistics will be cut by 17 per cent next year. It’s going to result in the loss of 480 jobs. Now up to about 100 staff were given voluntary redundancies back in march and there were about 120 staff members who were axed late last year as well. So, what is this all going to mean? Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh joins me. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good afternoon, Laura. How are you?

TCHILINGUIRIAN: I’m well. What are your concerns over this announcement?

LEIGH: I’ve got concerns for Canberra and concerns for the rest of Australia. For Canberra, this is yet another cut to a public service which has been so savagely slashed over recent years by the Liberals. But for the rest of Australia, they rely on the data that the Bureau of Statistics produces. When councils are considering where to put new investment, they look to ABS data. When state and territory governments look at new bus routes, they look at the Bureau of Statistics. Businesses look to the Bureau of Statistics data for consumer demand. As we policy makers deal with challenges like housing affordability, of course we’re looking to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. They’ve been doing such good work and such vital work for Australia, Laura, that it’s just so deeply unfair that they’re being punished because Malcolm Turnbull wants to give his big business mates a $65 million tax cut.

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The Liberals’ war on evidence continues - Media Release


The Liberals are continuing their war on evidence: forcing job cuts and survey cuts at the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that:

‘The ABS does not have the resources to undertake all the activities that our customers demand… Average staffing levels will need to decline by around 17 per cent over the next two years.’

The latest Australian Public Service Statistical Bulletin lists the total number of staff at the Australian Bureau of Statistics at 2833. As even the most underfunded statistician could tell you, 17 percent of that equates to 482 job losses.

Malcolm Turnbull now needs to confirm whether nearly 500 jobs are set to be axed as the Bureau  struggles with the Liberals’ ongoing campaign to weaken the public service.

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Still buffering - OpEd, The RiotACT

Still buffering

The RiotACT, 24 October 2017

‘When the internet is too slow to do my homework, it means I have to stay up late to finish it’.

‘My daughter drives into university at night because our home connection is too slow. I worry about her returning to a deserted campus in the late hours and spending long periods alone in computer labs, but it’s the only way she can get the speeds she needs to get core coursework done .’

‘I’m trying to build cybersecurity start-up, but it’s hard to do it from home when we don’t have a stable broadband connection.’

On a warm spring evening, nearly one hundred Canberrans gathered at the Belconnen Community Centre to discuss with Tara Cheyne MLA and me the ways they use broadband, and the challenges many are facing in getting a decent connection.

In days gone by, fast internet was a luxury. Now, it’s becoming a necessity. Streaming television. Watching university lectures. Video calls between grandparents and grandchildren. Speedy internet is like water and electricity – we expect it to be there when we need it.

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Dick Smith is living in a bubble if he thinks immigration is to blame for the property boom - OpEd, HuffPost

Dick Smith is living in a bubble if he thinks immigration is to blame for the property boom (plus other common misconceptions about the pros and cons of migration to Australia)

HuffPost, 19 October 2017

Across the globe, there are 250 million migrants. If they all lived in the same nation, it would be the fifth-largest country in the world. International tourism visits now exceed 1 billion people annually. The rate at which humans are travelling internationally is increasing every year. 

In Australia, concerns about migration grew from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, with the share of people who thought that immigration was 'too high' rising from 20 to 70 per cent.

Since the early 1990s, Australians' views of our migrant intake has warmed. In early 2017, Lowy Institute polling found that 35 per cent thought that immigration levels were 'about right' and 18 per cent thought they were 'too low'.

The share of people who think that immigration is 'too high', which was around 70 percent in the early 1990s, is now at 40 per cent.

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Labor brings a win for workers’ rights - Media Release




Workers’ rights have been protected after the Senate crossbench joined Labor to back in an amendment to the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2017, by a vote of 33 to 25.

The support of the entire crossbench – with the exception of One Nation Senators - helped block a move by the Turnbull Government to increase the maximum penalty for breaches of the secondary boycott provisions, or ‘sympathy strikes’, from $750,000 to $10 million.

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Australia needs action on climate change - Transcript, Sky News Agenda





SUBJECTS: ACCC Report; Energy prices; Newspoll.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Dr Leigh thanks very much for your time.


GILBERT: This ACCC report comes out today, Newpoll showing about 60 per cent of people don't want to pay a dollar more for subsidising clean energy and you can see why given the pressure they're under?

LEIGH: I think if you talk to anyone who has got solar panels on their roof, they'll tell you how they brought down their power prices. Australia has got more solar per square metre than any other country in the world, it's got great opportunities for wind and wave and combined with battery and backup systems allows you to get that sustainability of supply that you need.

GILBERT: But to get the solar panels on the roof you need thousands of dollars in the first place? That's thousands many households wouldn't have.

LEIGH: The cost of these have come down significantly, which has been driving the uptake. Renewables produce about a fifth of our total electricity generation at the moment, Bloomberg forecasts that it will be three fifths in a couple of decades’ time. And we've got the situation now where three quarters of our coal plants are operating beyond their planned life, so we need to make that transition to renewables, not just to drive down power prices but of course to tackle climate change – given that we're the nation with the highest per person emissions in the world and doing so little to address climate change.

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