Bringing the high flyers down to earth - Op Ed, The Canberra Times


The Canberra Time, 23 February 2019

When Clive Palmer was recently revealed to have registered his Cessna Citation X in the Cayman Islands, sources close to the billionaire said that it was for three reasons: ‘for tax benefits and cheaper operational and maintenance costs’.

The idea that Palmer can save money by getting his jet serviced in a small island 15,000 kilometres away is, frankly, ludicrous. Indeed, his $4 million plane may never even have touched down there. But the Caymans charges no taxes, and is notoriously uncooperative with other governments - which is helpful when your creditors are chasing you for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Those who choose to use tax havens are mixing it with a group of characters that make the bar-room scene in Star Wars look like a church picnic. As recent leaks have revealed, tax havens are used by drug dealers and extortionists, kidnappers and kleptocrats. Many have just a virtual presence - one building in the Caymans is home to 18,000 companies. Others visit occasionally, just to ensure that the lawyers are keeping their affairs secret and untaxed.  According to one estimate, four out of every five dollars in tax havens are there in breach of other countries’ tax laws.

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Labor takes the wheel for mechanics in Corio and Corangamite - Media Release













Labor is driving a better deal for car owners and independent mechanics with a plan to give them access to the technical information they need to get cars fixed.

No matter what you kind of vehicle you own, everyone should be able to choose where they get their car serviced. But independent repairers are struggling to get fair access to the standard service information they need.

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The Golden Whistle - Op Ed, Sydney Morning Herald


The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 January 2019

When investigative journalist Bastian Obermayer received the millions of leaked files from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, he was not having a good day. As the German reporter told Fraud Magazine, the rest of his family were sick, and he had just changed his sons’ sheets when the email arrived. ‘It went from being a bad day to a very good one’.

The Mossack Fonseca leak showed that the Panamanian law firm had established shell companies that were being used to perpetrate tax fraud and dodging global sanctions. The Icelandic Prime Minister resigned, as did other prominent officials. The Australian Tax Office began investigations into 800 people identified in what became known as ‘the Panama Papers’.

Just knowing an insider might blow the whistle makes firms less likely to break the law. A recent study of Israel’s tax whistleblowing scheme concluded that it significantly increased the amount of tax paid; particularly in industries that are more prone to tax evasion. The scheme had a powerful deterrent effect on tax dodging. Once firms knew that there was an incentive for employees to report wrongdoing, they were more inclined to pay what they owed. Tax revenue increased by more than one-quarter.

Whether it’s tax or other kinds of corporate fraud, whistleblowers are crucial. A study by Alexander Dyck and coauthors analysed hundreds of US corporate fraud cases. They found that the Securities and Exchange Commission caught just 7 percent, while auditors detected only 10 percent. By contrast, the media uncovered 13 percent of fraud cases, while the employees exposed another 17 percent.

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Refugees add to our rich tapestry - Op Ed, The Chronicle


The Chronicle, 22 January 2019

A decade ago, Pakao Sorn came close to dying as she took her first steps towards a new life. Fleeing Burma on foot, she endured crowded detention centres, rough terrain, and so much rainfall that she thought she might drown.

A few years later, she found out that she had been granted refugee status in Australia. Her first thought was ‘Oh my god, so far away. I never flew before.’

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Political parenting can be mortifying, but the imperfections can be glorious - Op Ed, The Guardian


The Guardian, 16 January 2016

At first glance, it seemed the last photo you’d put on the front of your Christmas card. Gweneth and I were smiling at the cameras, along with our eldest two boys. What we didn’t realise was that our toddler had left the group, and was sitting a metre away, with the world’s biggest scowl on his face.

But when we sent out the card, friends loved it. People didn’t want to see airbrushed politics; they preferred to know that our kids were just as grumpy as everyone else’s. Then someone put it online, and within a week, it had found its way into the global media, including a cameo appearance on the US Today Show.

Combining politics with parenting can be hazardous. A few months afterwards, I was live on my local ABC radio station when the interviewer asked “is that your child howling in the background?” I was torn as to whether to stick to my theme of castigating the Coalition’s economic mismanagement, or explaining that when you have three young boys, silence is as rare as a sleep-in.

Mixing kids with life can have mortifying results, yet the imperfections can be glorious. If you go to the website of Robert Kelly, the Korea expert whose BBC interview was interrupted when his children gatecrashed his home office, you’ll see his bio page starts with “Firstly, yes, I am ‘BBC Dad‘ – the guy who got interrupted on BBC news by his kids in March 2017. Here and here are our family statements on that event.” Kelly is one of the foremost experts on the inter-Korean tinderbox, but most of the world knows him for his irrepressible kids.

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Shine a light on our quiet achievers - Op Ed, The Chronicle


The Chronicle, 8 January 2019

WHEN working with people with disabilities, Pam Beckhouse kept faith that her students had the capacity to learn.

“Be positive. Never stop. Keep trying,” she counsels. 

“One day, something will happen and you’ll realise they were taking it in all that time.”

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Tyres and Tax Havens - Op Ed, The Herald Sun


The Herald Sun, 29 December 2018

At its worst, Melbourne’s Stawell tyre dump held nine million tyres. The tyre recycling firm that owned the site was refusing to clean it up. Authorities were worried about the fire risk. Eventually, the Environment Protection Authority stepped in. Over two months, they took away 380 truckloads of tyres, at a cost to the taxpayer of $4.5 million.

But when they looked at where to send the bill, the Authority discovered something fishy. Ownership of the dump had been shifted from the Used Tyre Recycling Corporation to a firm called Internet Marketing Solutions Corp. It was based in Panama. That’s right - one of Melbourne’s ugliest eyesores was technically owned by an internet company based in a beautiful nation on the other side of the world.

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How the Fat Duck slimmed its tax bill - Op Ed, The Age


The Age, 19 December 2018

In the 1600s, Louis XIV’s finance minister famously described the art of taxation as being to get the maximum amount of feathers from the goose, with the least amount of hissing. At London’s Fat Duck restaurant, they’ve taken a different approach. By using tax havens, Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants appear to have goosed the tax authorities. By flying the profits to the tax haven of Nevis, which charges no company tax on the profits of foreign companies, the famous restaurant chain seems to have feathered its own nest at the expense of the rest of us.

Heston Blumenthal, who also operates the Dinner restaurant at Melbourne’s Southbank, isn’t the only one apparently using tax havens. By one estimate, four out of every ten dollars of multinational profits are now routed through tax havens. Dubbed ‘Treasure Islands’ by one expert, places like Panama and Bermuda have become infamous for their willingness to house companies and their unwillingness to share information about them.

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Loneliness a Problem We Must Tackle Together - OpEd, The Sun Herald

Loneliness a Problem We Must Tackle Together

The Herald Sun, 4 February 2018

Berenice Benson has always wanted to go to New York. At age 85, and suffering from dementia, the walls of her nursing home room are covered with pictures of the famous city. She told staff at the Uniting Care Mirinjani retirement village that if she couldn’t visit, the next best thing would be to meet a New York police officer.

It took two years, but a few weeks ago the staff arranged for her dream to come true. Detective Howard Shank, visiting from New York, stepped into the nursing home in her uniform and introduced himself with a smile. Ms Benson burst into tears. When she recovered her composure, she said ‘this has been the best day of my life’. She felt 20 years old again.

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Technology, Transitions and Teachers in The Tocsin

Technology, Transitions and Teachers*

The Tocsin
Published by the John Curtin Research Centre
Issue 2, October 2017

Andrew Leigh

The twentieth century saw an explosion in technologies, from aircraft to radio, antibiotics to smartphones. Living standards rose massively. Yet the middle of that century – the 1920s to the 1970s – saw the largest reduction in inequality in Australian history.

Australia today faces two intertwined challenges. First, how do we continue the pace of innovation in the twenty-first century that we saw in the twentieth? Second, how do we ensure that prosperity is broadly shared? As it happens, I will argue that a single policy recommendation offers the greatest promise to make us more entrepreneurial and more equal.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.