WHAT BOOKS OUR LEADERS SHOULD BE READING... AND WHY
The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 2022
Forced into teenage work to support his family, John Curtin made up for his lack of formal education with a lifetime of reading. As a young man, he would stay late at the Melbourne Public Library. As Curtin's great-grandson Toby Davidson notes, an hour each Sunday was reserved for reading poetry. When he became Prime Minister, Curtin’s deep inner life engendered respect across the political spectrum. He had read enough in foreign policy to know that Australia needed to reach out to the United States ‘free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom’. His reading of Keynes and Pigou shaped Curtin’s decision to introduce unemployment benefits and plan for a full-employment economy after World War II. Books shaped Curtin, and Curtin shaped Australia.
2021 has been a bumper year for books about big ideas. In fact, you might say there’s been a cabinet-full of books, in the sense that there’s something for every member of cabinet to devour.
For the industry minister, Kazuo Ishiguro’s science fiction novel Klara and the Sun explores a world of artificial intelligence and genetic engineering. Walter Isaacson’s The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race delves into what current CRISPR gene editing technologies can achieve. Like Isaacson’s previous biographies of Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs, the focus isn’t just on the outcomes, but on how extraordinary minds think differently. Reading their stories is a reminder that breakthroughs are more likely to happen when every child has the teachers, mentors and funding that empowered the world’s best innovators.Read more
TOO SLOW IN A FAST WORLD
Daily Telegraph, 4 January 2022
Sports stars are getting more remarkable every year. In 1950, no-one in history had run a four-minute mile. Now, there are more than a dozen high school students who have managed the feat. In 1950, the bench press world record was 181 kilograms. Now, it is 355 kilograms.
Today’s elite athletes have better equipment, better nutrition and better coaching than in past generations. Competitors start training at a younger age, and train harder than ever before.
Yet while today’s sporting stars are faster, higher and stronger than ever before, the same cannot be said for the Australian economy. Even before COVID hit, economic growth had slowed. Wage growth was tepid. Construction and business investment were languishing.Read more
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CANBERRA
The Canberra Times, 30 December 2021
They’re only a few dozen kilometres apart, but there’s a remarkable difference between the conversation about climate change in schools in my electorate, and from conservative Liberal and Nationals in Parliament House. Canberra’s school students know that Australia needs to take stronger action on climate. They’re excited about renewables. They love electric vehicles. The tinfoil hat brigade in the Coalition party room want to use taxpayer money to fund new coal fired power stations that the private sector won’t touch with a barge pole. They fearmonger about renewables. They claim that electric vehicles will end the weekend.
Sadly, Australia’s most progressive jurisdiction has one of the most conservative senators in the federal parliament. When Zed Seselja isn’t voting against territory rights, he’s peddling baseless fear campaigns about the dangers of climate action. Zed is a walking example of why Australia recently ranked last for climate policy among 64 countries in the Climate Change Performance Index – worse than Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Brazil.Read more
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
TUESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s inaction costing charities millions; Cost of food at Parliament House.
TONY PILKINGTON, HOST: Joining me on the program right now is Dr Andrew Leigh, who's the federal Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities. God, that's a mouthful. By the time you actually do the introductions, it’ll be time to go. Andrew, good morning and welcome to Adelaide.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Thanks, Tony. Great to be with you.
PILKINGTON: Now. Tell us sir, you say that charities because of the colossal amount of bookwork that they've got to go through - something like, I can't believe this, well I can because of the red tape. You say there are seven sets of forms that can take charities weeks and weeks to complete before they can actually launch an advertising campaign to get some money, so charitable donations and especially at this time of the year. What's this all about?
LEIGH: Tony, when we were kids, charities that wanted to raise money would typically go door to door. So charitable fundraising laws are written in the pre internet age, and it's done state and territory one at a time. But that means that if you're a charity that wants to raise money over the internet nationwide, you have to register in seven different jurisdictions. And that can take a staff member up to a week of charity time to do all of that paperwork. That's time they're not spending helping the vulnerable, focusing on the environment, looking after their parishioners. So as a result of this outdated patchwork of laws, charities are being cost over a million dollars a month. It's a sensible thing to get fixed. A bipartisan Senate report came down in 2018, and yet the Morrison Government's done absolutely nothing. Charities are going into another Christmas season with those outdated laws still in place.Read more
2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
TUESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: The ACT’s world leading vaccination rate; Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccines and quarantine; Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s failures on the economy; MYEFO; What’s the Worst That Could Happen; Migration.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Andrew Leigh for the last time this year, until next year 2022. Let's chat to Andrew Leigh about a little federal politics. Morning, mate.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Morning, mate. How are you?
PAUL: All right. You've been on your run this morning?
LEIGH: Absolutely. Beautiful day out in Canberra today.
PAUL: What is it there? Is it 98 or 99 per cent fully vaxxed?
LEIGH: So our big risk was we go over 100 per cent, Marcus-
LEIGH: We're working off 2016 Census numbers, so we weren’t sure precisely how many adults we have. But yes, it’s almost universal among over 12s, which is really, really good to see. I think this reflects the kind of community mindedness of many Canberrans - the willingness to get vaccinated not just for yourself, but for your community too.Read more
ABC MELBOURNE MORNINGS
MONDAY, 13 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: ‘What's the Worst That Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics’; Populism and anti-vaccination protests; taxation; climate change; the federal election.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister, of course, for Treasury, and the Federal Labor MP for Fenner. He joins us now. Andrew Leigh, good to talk. Good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Virginia. Great to be here.
TRIOLI: It's not an easy sell this, talking about the existential threats to humanity and how we've got a one in six chance of being wiped out. I mean, it's not a nice sunny Monday morning chat, Andrew Leigh.
LEIGH: Disaster movies do surprisingly well. I think The Matrix will rate well when it opens. The Terminator, Waterworld, Blade Runner 2049, Contagion - you know, we're interested in these things as entertainment. What I'm trying to do in this book is to segue that into actually taking steps to make sure that we avert catastrophe. You know, if it's true that we're got a one in six chance of humanity being wiped out in the next century, that means you're 15 times as likely to die from catastrophic risk as you are from a car accident. So we should be taking pretty seriously.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