Reply to Laura Tingle, ‘The High Road: What Australia Can Learn from New Zealand’
Quarterly Essay, April 2021
Visiting Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum in Wellington, our family stopped in front of a dramatic exhibition on the Treaty of Waitangi. “Where can we see Australia’s treaty?” one of my young sons innocently asked.Read more
BILLIONAIREKEEPER: THE GROSS MISMANAGEMENT OF JOBKEEPER IN THE PANDEMIC
The Canberra Times, March 29 2021
A pair, a twin, a double. The number two has been dubbed by mathematicians ‘the oddest prime’. It’s a quirky number, and it’s the only number you need to understand some really odd things that have been happening in the economy lately.
Let’s start with billionaires. According to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, Australia’s billionaires have had a remarkable twelve months. Since COVID hit, the typical Aussie billionaire has seen his or her wealth almost double. That’s right - double. If you’re an Australian billionaire who started the pandemic with $1 billion, you’re now most of the way to $2 billion.
Some have been coy about this, others less so. A year ago, Gerry Harvey told 60 Minutes ‘Why are we so scared about getting this virus? There’s nothing to be scared of.’ Harvey Norman’s air purifier sales had doubled, he said, while freezer sales were up fourfold. ‘We've got enough sales people, enough customers and we're doing really good business’. By the end of the year, 1.8 million had died from COVID, and Harvey Norman had enjoyed its most profitable year ever.Read more
FRYDENBERG DEFENDS TAXPAYER-FUNDED EXECUTIVE BONUSES
In Question Time today, I asked the Morrison Government “how much of the taxpayer money used to fund JobKeeper has been spent on executive bonuses?”
Rather than condemn the misuse of JobKeeper to fund million-dollar bonuses for millionaire CEOs, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg defended the practice, saying “decisions by businesses about remuneration are matters for them”.
This bizarre defence of BonusKeeper is at odds with the many who have criticised the practice of firms paying executive bonuses after receiving JobKeeper, including:
- The Australian Taxation Office
- The Business Council of Australia
- The Council of Small Business of Australia
- Former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett
JOBKEEPER WASTE COULD COST 250,000 JOBS
A new report from Ownership Matters today analyses ASX300 firms that received JobKeeper subsidies in the second half of 2020. It finds that one-fifth of the JobKeeper they received went to entities that reported an increase in their underlying earnings metrics from pre-pandemic levels.
This is a shocking waste. JobKeeper was suppose to support firms that were suffering. JobKeeper was never meant to go to firms whose profits were rising.
The Treasurer has refused to release data on overall JobKeeper payments. If the pattern identified by Ownership Matters holds up for firms outside the ASX300, then it suggests that in the second half of 2020, almost $10 billion of JobKeeper went to firms whose profits rose.Read more
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER
MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE
BLUE MOUNTAINS AND HAWKESBURY CHARITIES ROUNDTABLE HIGHLIGHTS ONGOING STRUGGLES
Today we held a successful roundtable with local charities and not-for-profits in the Blue Mountains to discuss concerns over the Morrison Government’s ongoing war on charities.
Australia’s charities are under huge pressure. The double whammy of a pandemic and a recession saw a dramatic drop in both volunteer numbers and fundraising activities. These falls coincided with an increase in demand for services from people who fell through the cracks left by the Morrison Government’s poor planning and inadequate support.
Charities and not-for-profits need more support from the federal government, and recognition that they do so much to hold the social fabric together.Read more
TIME TO ENGAGE CHARITY GROUPS TO SPREAD THE RIGHT MESSAGE
The Daily Telegraph, 26 February 2021
When it comes to vaccination, the Morrison Government has been more gab than jab. Despite the Prime Minister promising that Australians would be ‘at the front of the queue’, almost 200 million people globally had been vaccinated by the time the first Australians received their shots. In Israel, around half the population has received a vaccination. In Britain, it’s around one-third. In the United States, it’s more than one in ten. If vaccination was an Olympic sport, the medal winners would be running laps around Australia.
Yet now that the vaccine rollout has finally started, the challenge is to ensure high uptake across the community. According to a survey conducted by the federal health department, 64 percent of Australians will ‘definitely’ get a COVID vaccine, while 9 percent will ‘definitely not’ get vaccinated. That leaves 27 percent of the population who are unsure of whether or not they will get vaccinated.Read more
ENGAGED EGALITARIANISM: REINVIGORATING GLOBALISATION IN THE POST-COVID AGE
The Canberra Times, 1 February 2021
Pandemics increase our fear of foreigners and lend power to the isolationists. COVID-19 has empowered those who believe in shutting out the world, and made life tougher for those who believe in the benefits of engaged multilateralism and diverse multiculturalism. Not since the twenty-first century began has there been a better time to be a racist, xenophobe, protectionist, chauvinist, or jingoist.
But just as the cost of coronavirus has been disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable, so too a retreat from global engagement would hit disadvantaged people the hardest. A more closed economy means slower growth, which in turn means that unemployment will stay higher for longer. Less overseas investment will constrain productivity growth, limiting potential wage rises. Weaker international institutions will slow the rate at which vaccines flow to the world’s poorest nations. Nations that depend on remittances and foreign aid are especially vulnerable in the face of a downturn.Read more
Australian billionaires must repay JobKeeper, not pocket millions in bonuses - Op Ed, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age
AUSTRALIAN BILLIONAIRES MUST REPAY JOBKEEPER, NOT POCKET MILLIONS IN BONUSES
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 20 January 2021
When the pandemic hit, billionaire Solomon Lew was quick to plead for government assistance. In one telephone call, he reportedly cried when asking Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to establish the JobKeeper program. Lew’s firm, Premier Investments, temporarily shut down many of its stores, including Smiggle, Dotti, Portmans and Just Jeans. The company applied for JobKeeper and ultimately received more than $40 million in taxpayer assistance.
Then Lew’s business came roaring back. Stores reopened and online sales boomed. In 2020, Premier Investments made a bigger profit than it had in 2019. The company paid shareholders $57 million in dividends. As the largest shareholder, Lew himself received more than $20 million.
Despite receiving a handout from the taxpayer, Premier Investments also paid its chief executive Mark McInnes a $2.5 million bonus, taking his total pay packet to more than $5 million.Read more
Engaged Egalitarianism: Reinvigorating Globalisation in the Post-Covid Age - Op Ed, the Australian Fabians Review
ENGAGED EGALITARIANISM: REINVIGORATING GLOBALISATION IN THE POST-COVID AGE
The Australian Fabians Review, December 2020
The 1918 Spanish flu didn’t originate in Spain. It got its name because Spain was neutral during World War I, so Spanish newspapers weren’t muzzled from reporting on the new epidemic. The disease was also variously called the Bolshevik disease (by the Poles), the German flu (by the Brazilians) and the Brazilian flu (by the Senegalese). In all likelihood, the 1918 flu originated in France, China or the US.
Similar xenophobic conspiracy theories have abounded about COVID-19. That it was created by the CIA. That it was an escaped Chinese bioweapon. That it was stolen from a Canadian lab. That it was invented by Jewish conspirators seeking to short-sell amidst a global share market collapse. That the virus is spread by 5G telephone towers. That it was part of a global population control scheme, masterminded by Bill Gates.
Pandemics increase our fear of foreigners and lend power to the isolationists. In many countries, the divide between globalists and nativists is more salient than the division between left and right. COVID-19 has empowered those who believe in shutting out the world, and made life tougher for those who believe in the benefits of engaged multilateralism and diverse multiculturalism. Since the twenty-first century began, there’s never been a better year than 2020 to be a racist, xenophobe, protectionist, chauvinist, or jingoist.Read more
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