WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? TACKLING EXISTENTIAL RISK
Lowy Institute Interpreter blog, 23 December 2021
What would happen if you decided to cross the road without checking the traffic? Odds are that you’d survive unscathed. But do it enough times and you’re likely to come a cropper.
As a species, humanity is now playing with technological innovations that pose a small but real risk of ending our existence. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at major cities. Biotechnology that could allow the creation of deadly pathogens. Computer technology that could create a machine that is smarter than us and doesn’t share our goals. And all the while climate change could lead to unstoppable feedback loops.
As a teenager, I joined Palm Sunday anti-nuclear rallies. As an adult, I’ve been a strong advocate of climate change action. But when I entered parliament in 2010, the issue of existential risk didn’t loom large on my radar. My priority was people’s quality of life, not the end of life itself.Read more
WHY HAS NO PERSON OF COLOUR EVER SERVED ON THE HIGH COURT?
The AFR, 22 December 2021
In 120 years, no judge of colour has ever been appointed to the High Court of Australia. Asian Australians comprise 10 percent of the Australian population. Yet across all courts, the Asian Australian Lawyers Association estimates that only 1 percent of Australian judges are Asian-Australian.
When it comes to gender, the figures aren’t much better. Across federal and state courts, only 39 percent of judges are women. This is despite the fact that women comprise amajority of lawyers, and a majority of the population as a whole. The share of Australians with a non-Anglo background is high and rising. Yet if you go into any courtroom in the country, it’s most likely that you’ll see a white bloke on the bench.Read more
SCOTT MORRISON’S FAILURES ARE COSTING CHARITIES MILLIONS
Scott Morrison’s failure on charitable fundraising reform is costing Australian charities more than a million dollars every month.
On 15 December 2020, twelve months ago tomorrow, the Morrison Government promised to fix the country’s outdated fundraising laws. The Treasurer Josh Frydenberg even admitted that inconsistent regulations across states and territories created “an estimated regulatory burden of $13.3 million a year” for the sector. This is because charities who want to raise money online through a national campaign need to file paperwork registering in every state and territory (except the Northern Territory). These seven sets of forms can often take charities up to a week to comply with.
In another demonstration that the Morrison Government is all announcement and no delivery, a full year has gone by since the Treasurer’s empty promise. Charities are still burdened by unnecessary reporting requirements, which sees money being spent on excessive paperwork instead of causes such as feeding the homeless, protecting our environment and helping Australians rebuild their lives after natural disasters.Read more
CRACKING DOWN ON MULTINATIONAL TAX DODGING
The Australian, 14 December 2021
Appearing before a US Senate Committee in 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook flatly denied that his company was engaged in tax shenanigans. “We don’t depend on tax gimmicks,” he told the committee. “We don’t stash money on some Caribbean island.”
Months later, the Committee handed down its findings. It concluded that Apple had managed to create subsidiaries that were – for tax purposes – stateless. Like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, they were in a legal limbo. But rather than sleeping on hard plastic seats, Apple’s stateless subsidiaries didn’t have to file tax returns. As US Senator Carl Levin noted “Apple successfully sought the holy grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars while claiming to be tax resident nowhere.”
For multinationals and billionaires, avoiding tax has become a sport. In October 2021, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported on the Pandora Papers, a trove of leaked documents that revealed more than 100 billionaires who had been using secret offshore accounts. Like the Panama Papers, Paradise Papers and LuxLeaks, they showed that the use of tax havens is the province of the ultra-wealthy. One study which matched data from high-profile leaks to tax statistics estimated that half the money in tax havens was held by the top 1/10,000th of the population.Read more
RICHEST 10PC THREE TO FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO ATTEND UNIVERSITY
The Australian Financial Review, 6 December 2021
Few investments have so large an economic payoff as attending university. According to the OECD, Australians with a bachelor’s degree earn 26 per cent more than workers who have only finished high school (the average wage premium for a diploma is 9 per cent).
Yet the benefits of university are not evenly spread across the population. In the United States, one study found that children whose parents are in the top 1 per cent of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the poorest fifth of the population.
Curious to see how this plays out in Australia, I crunched the numbers for a study that recently appeared in the Australian Economic Review.Read more
CANBERRANS SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO DIE WITH DIGNITY
The RiotACT, 20 October 2021
What do 87 percent of Australians agree about? Not which party to vote for, and certainly not which football code to barrack for. You wouldn’t find 87 percent agreeing about tax or whether cats make better pets than dogs.
Yet when it comes to voluntary assisted dying, the ABC’s VoteCompass survey in 2019 found that 87 percent agreed with the statement ‘Terminally ill patients should be able to end their own lives with medical assistance’. That included 79 percent of Coalition voters, 77 percent of Catholics and 76 percent of Protestants.Read more
JobKeeper wasted billions, and the ‘politics of envy’ defence doesn’t stack up - Op Ed, The New Daily
JOBKEEPER WASTED BILLIONS - AND THE ‘POLITICS OF ENVY’ DEFENCE DOESN’T STACK UP
The New Daily, 3 September 2021
A billion is hard to wrap your head around.
Some billionaires say that they’re part of the ‘three comma club’. In the comedy series The Hollowmen, the political insiders decide they’ll need to spend billions of dollars before the public whistles in awe.
So if you haven’t been watching the scandalous waste from the JobKeeper scheme, don’t blame yourself for forgetting to groan on cue.
Some quick background. In the year from March 2020, JobKeeper paid out $89 billion to firms based on their salary bill.
For companies that would’ve otherwise fired their staff, that’s money well spent.
For those that would’ve kept trucking along regardless, it was free cash for the bottom line.Read more
AUSTRALIANS DESERVE TO KNOW WHERE JOBKEEPER WENT – IT SHOULDN’T BE A STATE SECRET
The Guardian, 2 September 2021
As economies locked down in early 2020, many countries around the world established wage subsidy schemes. Economists know that employment relationships are easier to break than make. So wage subsidy schemes incentivise firms to maintain employment through a temporary slump.
The British scheme was called the job retention scheme. In New Zealand, it was the Covid wage subsidy. Canada set up the Canada emergency wage subsidy. The United States created the paycheck protection program.
Some of these schemes were established by progressive governments; others by conservative governments. But whether it was Johnson or Ardern, Trudeau or Trump, other countries’ wage subsidy schemes had one thing in common: full transparency. Taxpayers could log on to a website and find out the names of every firm that got wage subsidies.
Transparency isn’t a left- or right-wing value; it’s simply good government. It reflects the fact that taxpayers are the people who pay the government’s bills, and taxpayers should know how the money is spent. As former US supreme court Justice Louis Brandeis put it, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Australia too created a wage subsidy scheme (though not before Scott Morrison called it a “dangerous” idea). Yet JobKeeper didn’t include any transparency. The government provided no information about which firms received JobKeeper. None, zilch, nada.Read more
VACCINE INCENTIVES WORK, AND MR MORRISON KNOWS IT
The Canberra Times, 9 August 2021
Just 16 per cent of Australians are vaccinated against COVID-19 - the second-lowest rate in the OECD group of advanced countries. According to the Grattan Institute's modelling, Australia needs to vaccinate 80 per cent of the population (or 90 percent of adults, if children are unvaccinated) before life can return to normal. The Morrison government's modelling sets a slightly lower target, with Phase C of its plan (which lifts all restrictions on outbound travel) taking effect when 80 per cent of adults are vaccinated.Read more
NO NEED TO PLAY AGATHA CHRISTIE GAMES WITH THE NATION'S CHARITIES
The Canberra Times, 30 June 2021
If you listen to the Morrison government talk about activist charities, you'd think they were engaged in an epidemic of lawlessness.
Yet over the past three-and-a-half years, the charities commission deregistered just two charities for breaking the law in pursuit of activist goals. With 59,000 charities in operation, that means the annual chance of a charity being deregistered for illegal activism (10 in 1 million) are about the same odds that the typical Australian will commit a murder (9 in 1 million).Read more