HOW TO MAKE SURE THINGS ADD UP
The Canberra Times, 29 December 2020
How well do you know the world around you? In recent years, pollster Ipsos MORI has been asking people questions about everything from sex to death in order to figure out how our perceptions square with reality.
On crime, the typical Australian thinks that 7 per cent of deaths are due to homicide (the true figure is 0.2 per cent), and 4 per cent to terrorism and conflict (the correct number is less than 0.1 per cent). Seventy-two per cent of Australians say that the murder rate is stable or rising; in fact, it’s dropped by one-third since the start of the century.
Australians think immigrants comprise 40 per cent of prisoners (the actual number is 19 per cent). We think that 18 per cent of teen girls give birth annually (it’s really 1 per cent). We think that 12 per cent of the population is Muslim (the correct figure is less than one-quarter of this). We think that 26 per cent of people live in rural Australia (the true share is 11 per cent).Read more
CAN WE FIND COMMON GROUND ON CHINA?
The Canberra Times, 21 December 2020
In 2000, the Reserve Bank of Australia held a conference reviewing the 1990s. The US was mentioned 93 times. China wasn’t mentioned once.
In some sense, the omission was unsurprising. In 1990, Australia’s economic output was almost as large as China’s. The country that mattered most economically was the US. Conveniently, the US was also our top security ally.
In the 21st century, economics and geopolitics diverged. Much is made of the differences—between Americophiles and Sinophiles, hawks and doves, businesspeople and national security experts. But perhaps everyone can agree on six points.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper as BonusKeeper; Cycling crash; China; Climate change.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is with us now on the program. Let's talk about the potential audit of the JobKeeper scheme. Andrew has been fighting hard on this, he's asked the Auditor General to look for companies using it to pay executive bonuses. We've gone through and named and shamed a number of big business corporations. They've done okay, if you like, in the last six to 12 months - so much so they've been able to turn over a profit and they've also paid their executive bonuses and they've ensured that their CEOs are very well rewarded. But the kicker of course is that they've done it, in my opinion, with the help of, in some cases, up to $70 or $80 million worth of Australian taxpayer dollars through the JobKeeper scheme. Or as Andrew has dubbed it, BonusKeeper. Morning, mate. How are you?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Great to be with you.
PAUL: Alright, where are you on this JobKeeper scheme? Will the Auditor-General look for companies using it to pay executive bonuses?
LEIGH: I certainly hope he will. The Auditor-General said that he was going to do a broad audit into JobKeeper. I wrote to him saying you need to look specifically at the issue of executive bonuses. Firms like Qube, the logistics company which got $14 million of JobKeeper and paid a $1.3 million bonus to its CEO - despite its earnings barely moving. So one of the other questions I've asked the Auditor-General look into is how many companies had a better 2020 than 2019, and yet received JobKeeper. There seem to be a few, like the company that owns Just Jeans and Smiggle, that have had a really strong 2020 in a profit sense but yet received taxpayer subsidies which they've used to pay out to shareholders and CEOs.Read more
ABC BRISBANE DRIVE
THURSDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: Hundreds of companies paying no tax in Australia; the Coalition failing to crack down on multinational tax avoidance; companies using JobKeeper to pay out executive bonuses.
STEVE AUSTIN, HOST: Andrew Leigh is the federal Labor MP for the electorate of Fenner in Canberra. He's the Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Economics. Dr Andrew Leigh, thanks for coming back on.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Always a pleasure, Steve. Great to chat with you.
AUSTIN: Alright. How significant is it overall that a third of Australian companies paid no tax at all?
LEIGH: It's pretty significant, Steve. This is a time in which we need every cent we can get, with a million people out of work and government debt going towards a trillion dollars. Not only do we have a third of companies not paying tax, but as you said, there’s 80 companies that haven't paid tax for the last six years. Among the companies that didn't pay any tax this year are some of the giants of the resources sector - Woodside Petroleum, Chevron, BHP [Aluminium], as well as firms like IBM, CITIC and BNP Paribas. So these are significant entities, and in some cases there might be good reasons why they haven't paid tax. But we also know that there's a big fight going on between the well-paid accountants at large firms who are looking to try and find every tax loophole available and the under resourced Australian Tax Office, which has had its budget cut and has been put in a position where it's increasingly finding it difficult to go after the big end of town.Read more
ABC NEWS RADIO
THURSDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Hundreds of companies paying no tax in Australia; the Coalition failing to crack down on multinational tax avoidance.
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: The Australian Taxation Office’s latest corporate tax transparency data shows about a third of companies didn't pay any tax. More than 2300 corporate entities are included in the report looking at the 2018-19 financial year, which finds hundreds of companies reduced their tax bills to zero during that period. So why is that okay? Andrew Leigh is a former professor of economics who is now the Deputy Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Glen. Great to be with you.
BARTHOLOMEW: Explain to people how it can be that about a third of companies did not pay any tax.
LEIGH: In some cases it’s because they're doing significant investments. But in other cases, it looks as though there may be questions about their adherence to the laws. There's 80 companies that paid no tax six years in a row, and that's got to raise an eyebrow or two. We know that globally there's around 40 per cent of multinational profits that are shifted to tax havens like the Cayman Islands, and that's a number that's been rising in recent years. Around $600 billion of profits are being funnelled off to low tax or no tax jurisdictions. And it gets easier, Glen, when firms are engaged in weightless production - where it's not immediately obvious where the value is being produced - and firms have been using some sharp accounting tricks in order to exploit some of those loopholes. Unfortunately, while other countries have stepped up to try and close those loopholes, Australia’s been a bit of a laggard when it comes to acting on multinational tax avoidance.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: BonusKeeper; Industrial Relations proposals; Sports rorts.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Imagine, if you will for just a moment, getting $70 million in taxpayer subsidies for JobKeeper and then using that money to perhaps dole out executive bonuses and dividends. Well, that's what Solomon Lew's Premier Investments have apparently done, and there are increasing calls for Premier to repay around $70 million in government subsidies. Let's speak to Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury about this. Morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. Great to be with @MPinthemorning.
PAUL: Thank you. You and I have discussed this before at length. It’s JobKeeper, but you effectively have renamed it BonusKeeper, it that right?
LEIGH: Absolutely, Marcus, just for a small number of firms. Of course, most businesses did exactly the right thing when the pandemic hit. They used that money to support workers. But a small number of firms - and I'm sad to say that Premier Investment seems to be one of them - have used the money to pay out significant dividends, a large portion of which goes to their billionaire owner, and to pay executive bonuses. And I said: if you're doing so well that you can take taxpayer subsidies and pay it out to millionaires and billionaires, maybe you should give it back to the taxpayer first. Maybe we can support some of those people in nursing homes who are suffering right now, and we can support some of those people who are going to lose their jobs between now and Christmas. There are people out there really hurting, and I don't think it's the people with billion dollar wealth or million dollar salaries.Read more
Volunteering is in a slump, it's time for some caremongering - Op Ed, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
VOLUNTEERING IS IN A SLUMP - IT'S TIME FOR SOME CAREMONGERING
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 4 December 2020
When masks became mandatory in Melbourne, Sewing for Charity Australia got to work. Across Australia, it mobilised over 3000 volunteers to sew colourful masks and send them to Victoria. ‘In a time of pandemic we have to come together’, said founder Cass Gell. ‘I have my kids threading elastics.’
As sporting events were cancelled, former Socceroo Craig Foster encouraged teams to replace playing for points with playing for lives. ‘Play for Lives’ mobilised athletes to pack food hampers, transport essential medications and deliver Meals on Wheels.
The initiative was especially timely because coronavirus had caused two-thirds of volunteers to cut back on their efforts. Some charities had to reshape how they delivered services, while in other cases older volunteers simply had to self-isolate.Read more
2SM WITH MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 1 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: China; Giving Tuesday; Charities.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and Treasury Andrew Leigh joins us on the program each and every Tuesday. Good morning, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Marcus. How are you?
PAUL: Good, thank you, mate. Can we deal with this issue first? No doubt you were shocked by this image that was posted on Chinese state sponsored Twitter accounts over the last 24 hours. What did you make of it?
LEIGH: Utterly appalled. I felt the Prime Minister put it very well when he spoke before. Just shocking to all Australians.
PAUL: What are we going to do about it, Andrew? We've really - we’re lying down in the bed that we've made with China, if you like. We've been so reliant on them for so long. We bet on red every time and now things are coming up not so rosy.
LEIGH: The Prime Minister's rightly demanded an apology from China, and I'd hoped that that would be forthcoming very swiftly. That’s a false image which is repugnant, and disgusting to all Australians.Read more
LET'S CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT GIVING TO CHARITY
The Canberra Times, December 1 2020
Just as coronavirus hit, Dawn was diagnosed with stage four cancer.
The preschool teacher mentioned it to the parents of one of the children in her class. Not long afterwards, the family said they wanted to give her a gift of $10,000. They had been saving it for a holiday, but figured Dawn could better use the money in her battle with cancer.
When coronavirus hit at the start of 2020, countless Australians reached out to help those around them. Three young women who had lost their jobs went out to their first dinner in months to celebrate a birthday. A couple at the next table heard their story, and quietly paid the bill before slipping out. The women were reduced to tears at the generosity of complete strangers.Read more
CAN WE MAKE WORK WORK?
Inside Story, 27 November 2020
Liberty Ashes is a private waste collection company operating in New York City. Over a six-year period, one of the company’s garbage trucks severed the fingers of three employees. Two pinkies and one ring finger were lost because the truck lacked a safety latch.
Garbage collection is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Each year, around one in 2000 workers in the industry lose their lives. Standard economic theory tells us that a risk of this magnitude should be accompanied by substantially higher pay. But the median hourly wage for American garbage collectors is only US$17.40, which hardly seems sufficient to make up for a death rate comparable to serving in a war zone, not to mention the daily risk of other injuries.
In You’re Paid What You’re Worth: And Other Myths of the Modern Economy, sociologist Jake Rosenfeld outlines many of the injustices that underpin the American economy. In Oklahoma City, Walmart workers took up a canned goods collection to support people who couldn’t afford food. The beneficiaries? Fellow Walmart employees who weren’t able to make ends meet on the company’s meagre salaries. Across the United States, home-care workers subsisted on an average hourly wage of $10 an hour. Many couldn’t find full-time work, so they worked multiple shifts at different aged care homes. This precarious arrangement not only made life tough for workers, it also helped to spread Covid-19 among aged Americans when the pandemic struck.Read more