Why should we care about inequality? Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June
Dutch economist Jan Pen once suggested a simple way of visualising the amount of inequality in a society. Imagine, he suggested, a parade, in which each person’s resources were represented by their height.
Suppose we were to conduct such a parade in Australia. People of average wealth would be average height. Those with half the average wealth would be half the average height. Those with twice the average wealth would be twice the average height.
Let’s suppose the parade took an hour to pass you. What would you see?
For the first half a minute, people would be literally underground. These are the people with more debts than assets. Perhaps they are homeless, but have credit card debts. Or they are a business owner about to go bankrupt.
Then would come the little people. For the first few minutes, they are no bigger than Lego figures. They might have some clothing and a television, but little else. By the ten minute mark, people are the size of a child’s doll. They might own an old car.
Twenty minutes have gone by, but still the marchers are no taller than a newborn baby. Most probably don’t have regular work. Few would dream about them – or their children – breaking into the central Sydney property market.
Forty-five minutes in, and the watcher can now look the marchers in the eye. These are homeowners with well-paying jobs – in many cases probably with two full-time workers in the household.
THURSDAY, 25 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Citizenship; IMF report; Q&A; Infrastructure
PETER VAN ONSELEN: Joining me now from Canberra I have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Christian Porter, and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, two men probably better known for their careers before politics. Andrew, you were a prolific professor of economics at ANU, and Christian Porter, you were a former state Treasurer in WA – I bet you're glad you're not in that role now with the way their budget is looking. Gentlemen, thanks for your company. Let's start by talking about citizenship. I want to ask you, Christian Porter: are you comfortable about stripping the citizenship of minors? That wasn't, as I understand it, in the 1948 Citizenship Act but it will be in the new legislation.
PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER CHRISTIAN PORTER: I'm not entirely sure whether your assessment there about the first run of the s35 drafting is correct. But nevertheless, the Minister here has the residual ability to exempt persons who would otherwise fall into the category. So I'm more than comfortable with the way in which it has been drafted. It seems to me to be rather elegantly drafted with a mind to constitutionality.
Senate passes motion of support for charities commission - Joint Media Release with Senator Penny Wong
SENATE PASSES MOTION OF SUPPORT FOR CHARITIES COMMISSION
The Senate has today voiced support for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission in the face of ongoing uncertainty about its future under the Abbott Government.
Labor moved a motion acknowledging the strong support the commission has within the charity sector and called on the Abbott Government to drop plans to scrap it.
In March last year the Government introduced a bill to Parliament to repeal the charities commission. That bill has remained on the Notice Paper even after Scott Morrison replaced Kevin Andrews as Social Services minister and acknowledged that abolishing the commission was not his priority.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s secret school cuts plans; Citizenship; People smuggling; Economic situation in Greece
CHRIS HAMMER: Andrew Leigh is Labor’s member for Fraser here in the ACT and he’s also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer – good morning.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDRW LEIGH: Good morning, Chris.
HAMMER: Now, suddenly out there this morning is a Government discussion paper on schools and education – your observations?
LEIGH: It’s a secret plan for cuts to Australian schools that I think ought to be deeply disturbing for all parents. One of the great things about our public education system is that it recognises that everybody can send their child to a local public school without needing to pay. That gives you a greater diversity of backgrounds and local schools, and reflects the fact that when a child gets more education there’s a public good component to that. One of the whacky things about this paper is it seems to suggest that the Commonwealth has a natural role for funding non-government schools, but no natural role for funding government schools. I can’t see any economic logic in that.
MORE HOLES SHOWING IN JOE’S FLIMSY TAX PACKAGE
The Abbott Government’s rushed and flimsy multinational tax package continues to unravel, with the Law Council of Australia warning Treasurer Joe Hockey not to go ahead with his draft bill.
In a submission on the Exposure Draft of the Government’s proposed changes to Part VI A of the Tax Act, the council has cautioned that the Treasurer’s plan:
“does not accord with, and in many respects derogates from, key design principles for a fair and effective tax and transfer system."
The Council has highlighted a range of problems with the proposal, including that it will create different levels of taxation for companies carrying out similar business activities, and risks breaching Australia’s existing Double Taxation Agreements.
LABOR READY TO MAKE TASMANIA THE INNOVATION ISLE
Joint release with Senator Lisa Singh
Federal Labor will encourage more Tasmanian school students to learn coding, entice more Tasmanian university students into studying science, and create the incentives for more people to start up their own firms in an effort to reduce the state’s unemployment.
“New firms generate a disproportionately large share of the jobs in any modern economy, so part of the answer to reducing unemployment in Tasmania has to be building its culture of science and research to generate start-ups,” said Dr Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer.
“Labor’s vision is to take advantage of Tasmania’s intellectual and infrastructure capacity and make it one of the first choices in Australia for science, research and new innovation industries.
ABBOTT GOVERNMENT FIDDLES AS CANBERRA OFFICES EMPTY
The release of BIS Shrapnel data on empty office space across Canberra has added to concern about the future of the Belconnen Town Centre if the Department of Immigration is moved elsewhere.
As another week passes without news on the potential move, the BIS Shrapnel data shows Canberra now has one of the highest commercial property vacancy rates in the country.
More than 100,000 square metres of space – enough for over 7,000 workers – is vacant in Commonwealth-leased buildings alone.
Our right to know if big firms pay their fair share, Daily Telegraph, 19 June
Here’s a question for you: who pays for your nearest hospital? Whose money fixed the road you use to get to work? Who shells out for the books and computers that keep kids learning at the local school?
You do, of course. We all contribute to funding these things through the tax that comes out of our fortnightly pay. Recently though, it has become clear that some of us are contributing more than others.
Someone earning the average Australian income pays about 21 per cent in tax; a small business pays the corporate rate of 30 per cent on their profits. But in the past few years there have been increasingly regular reports about huge companies paying just a fraction of that.
For instance, in a recent Senate inquiry we heard evidence that one big multinational firm may have paid as little as 2 per cent tax on billions of dollars in revenue. If the average Australian wage earner paid tax at that rate instead of their standard 21 per cent, they’d be paying almost $15,000 less a year.
Here's to a sharing economy, joint op-ed with Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon, Newcastle Herald, 17 June
On the second floor of an unassuming building on Beaumont Street in Hamilton, Justin Hales and his team (he’s the one inside the caravan in the photograph) are trying to shape the future of self-drive holidays. Their start-up, Camplify.com.au, lets owners of caravans and campervans rent them directly to other users.
Justin’s family used to take camping holidays when he was a child, and he fondly recalls their annual trips to the Breakers Caravan Park in Port Macquarie, where his family would park their blue and white Viscount caravan amid their neighbours, and enjoy the sense of community and freedom. His favourite part of it, Justin says, was knowing he was sleeping on the kitchen table every night.
Silence on the agenda at environment inquiry, Pro Bono, 16 June
For the past few years, the Australian Marine Conservation Society has been fighting hard to stop millions of tonnes of dredge spoil being dumped onto the natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Sometimes their fight has taken them out in the community – collecting signatures on petitions and making phone calls to let Australians know what’s happening. Other times it has taken them into courtrooms, where they’ve stood with other environment groups in seeking injunctions against the harmful dumping.
From time to time, it has also brought the Society into conflict with big resource companies and state and federal Liberal governments via the media and other public forums.
Today in the federal Parliament, the House of Representatives Environment Committee will meet to hear evidence on whether groups like the Society should continue to have Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status under Australia’s tax law. There are almost 600 environmental groups that currently qualify for this status; it allows them to offer tax breaks when accepting donations from the Australian community.