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
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
CHARITIES FACING ANOTHER COSTLY YEAR UNDER COALITION
After many years of ignoring pleas for help from Australia’s charities, the Coalition has finally agreed with Labor’s call for the Commonwealth to take the lead in delivering reform.
Scott Morrison now wants the National Federation Reform Council to take charge of harmonising charitable fundraising laws, but expects the job to take another year.
The Prime Minister and Treasurer have finally woken up to their responsibilities, but this will see charities and not-for-profits facing another year of outdated fundraising laws. And another year means another $15 million hit to a sector that’s already running lean.
Our laws are broken. Right now, a charity that wants to raise money on the internet must register in seven different jurisdictions.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
STEPHEN JONES MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR WHITLAM
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER
A THIRD OF BIG CORPORATIONS PAY NO TAX
The Liberals have again failed to make Australia’s corporate system fairer, a fact revealed only by Labor’s tax transparency laws.
New figures from the Australian Tax Office show nearly one in three big firms paying no tax in the 2018-19 financial year.
This is despite promises from the Coalition to reduce tax avoidance.
Once again, the Morrison Government has been caught out making announcements, but failing to follow through.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
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 10 DECEMBER 2020
Yesterday, I went for an early-morning run with Lachlan Arthur and Cassie Cohen from the Canberra Refugee Marathon Project, and Zaki Haidari, a refugee on a temporary visa. A member of the Hazara ethnic group, Zaki's father was taken away one night by the Taliban. That was 10 years ago and he's never seen him again. Zaki's brother was beheaded when the Taliban stopped him and found out that he was a university student.
Zaki fled to Australia in fear of his life.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 10 DECEMBER 2020
The Liberals never liked superannuation. Tony Abbott called it ‘a con job’. Bronwyn Bishop said it was ‘designed to penalise business’. Paul Keating got universal superannuation going. John Howard broke his promise and froze it. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard raised it; Tony Abbott broke his promise and froze it.
Australians have seen this bad sequel of a movie before. After saying that low wages were a ‘deliberate design feature’ of their economic policies, and ignoring record low wage growth, the Liberals suddenly say that freezing super will boost wages. Yet their own retirement incomes review shows that a dollar less of super doesn't mean a dollar more of wages. And because returns compound, a dollar put into superannuation turns into two or three dollars at retirement.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