Asking All the Right Questions | Between the Lines


The Wrap with Richard Denniss

The Australia Institute has never been one to shy away from the big fights, but even after decades of fighting against subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and tax cuts for our biggest businesses, our recent fight with the RBA has been a doozy.

We don’t pick our battles because they are easy, we pick them because they are important – and what could be more important than helping workers get a pay rise in the middle of a cost of living crisis?

Our research has repeatedly shown that it is corporate profits driving inflation, not wages.

Put another way, our research shows that the responsibility is on the RBA to call on companies to reign in their price rises, not on workers to accept further cuts in their real wages.

Needless to say our research was not well received by the businesses whose profits have been surging, or by the RBA that has been turning a blind eye to them.

While big business groups and their allies suggested our research was ‘silly’ and ‘flawed‘ the reality is our research was based on sound methodology (developed by the European Central Bank) and the best data available (the Australian Bureau of Statistics).

When some even called for us to ‘retract’ our research we declined because we knew our work was solid.

And then the OECD said we were right.

After months of criticism of our method, results and conclusion, I can’t tell you how good it felt to wake up one morning and read that the OECD, headed up by former Liberal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, had published a report that completely vindicated our work.

In the words of the Sydney Morning Herald “corporate profits contributed far more to Australia’s rise in inflation through the past year than from wages and other employee costs.”

Whether it is debunking the failures of the RBA, calling out the contradiction between Australia wanting to host global climate talks while wanting to massively expand its coal and gas production, or working for a decade to help create a federal corruption watchdog, at the Australia Institute we are always working on the big issues.

None of this would be possible without supporters like you. So please, if you can, and if you haven’t already, consider making a tax-deductible donation to our Research Fund.

Support today 

Thanks to some very generous philanthropists, every dollar we raise in June will be matched, so you can double your impact.

— Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Advantages of Incumbency

As the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters considers election spending and donation caps, The Australia Institute’s Advantages of incumbency report examines how the process needs to be structured to ensure a fair fight between incumbents and challengers come election time.

Our research shows incumbents have huge advantages, with entitlements for MPs amounting to nearly $3 million and senators more than $2.6 million for staff, salaries, office supplies, constituent outreach and communications. It has also calculated that the floor for annual pay and perks amounts to $996,381 for MPs and $885,840 for senators.

While elected representatives should be adequately resourced to do their jobs, these sort of benefits give sitting parliamentarians a huge advantage at election time.

These benefits also raise questions around how we must balance donation transparency without creating further barriers to entry for new participants.

“Competition is always healthy for democracy and we cannot afford to make it even more difficult for new entrants to challenge incumbents” Bill Browne, the Australia Institute’s Democracy and Accountability Program director.

Won’t COP this

The Australian Government is bidding to host COP31, the 2026 UN Climate Conference in “partnership” with Pacific nations.

This move has been dubbed as “Australia’s Olympic moment on climate action” by its supporters, with no apparent irony about how the Olympics are notorious for being used by nation-states (see Russia, China) to sportswash their reputations.

If Australia continues to subsidise and approve fossil fuel expansion, while ignoring the impacts of climate change on our Pacific neighbours, this COP would be nothing more than an exercise in greenwashing, designed to repair Australia’s reputation in the region.

Read Polly Hemming’s article in the Saturday Paper: Australia’s greenwash plan to host COP31

Our report A Fair COP31 urges the international community to think twice before awarding hosting rights to Australia, noting that not only is Australia the world’s third-largest exporter of climate change inducing fossil fuels, but also that we have not acknowledged or met any of the conditions set by Pacific Leaders that would secure their support.

We recently hosted Pacific leaders the Honourable Seve Paeniu, Tuvalu Minister of Finance and Economic Development and the Honourable Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu Minister for Climate Change Adaptation at the Climate Change and the Pacific: Regional Climate Diplomacy Forum 2023 where they discussed the major climate concerns in the region and what Australia needs to do to meet Pacific needs to become a credible co-host of the next COP.

Watch the full Climate Change and the Pacific: Regional Climate Diplomacy Forum 2023 webinar.

Polly Hemming was also recently a guest on the 7am podcast, where she recorded an episode dedicated to discussing the pitfalls of a poorly thought-out COP, Peacock in the Pacific: Inside Australia’s bid to host COP31.

The Maugean Skate – the creature you need to hear about!

Eloise Carr, Director of the Australia Institute Tasmania, recently wrote to Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek, urging her to intervene and end salmon farming in Tasmania’s Macquarie Harbour, which is threatening the endangered Maugean skate.

If this is a creature you have never heard of, The Guardian’s First Dog on the Moon is here to help! The iconic Guardian cartoon created a handy visual guide to Maugean Skate, and why it’s important we fight to keep it around.

The Maugean skate is only found in Macquarie Harbour, one-third of which lies within Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area. The skate is facing imminent extinction thanks to fish farm pollution which is causing oxygen declines in the water.

Minister Plibersek has previously declared there would be no new extinctions under her watch as Environment Minister, so if the Minister fails to act to stop salmon farming in Macquarie Harbour, we think she will be in breach of the law.

Clean them up and ship them out

Australians believe consulting firm PwC should face the consequences of its actions, with a majority calling for the company to be banned from receiving new government work.

Our research found four-in-five Australians (79%) want a total ban on new work, including nearly half who back a permanent ban.

The polling results come as PwC is subject to both a police investigation and Parliamentary inquiry over its tax leaks scandal.

Add your name to our petition to ban consulting firms that breach public trust.

The Quote

“Parliaments pass laws, but it is people that make history…this is your time, your chance, your opportunity to be a part of making history.”

– Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, on the passage of the legislation for the Referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

The Win

One Step Closer

The Senate has passed the bill to alter the Constitution and enable the Indigenous voice, cementing the decision to present a Referendum to the Australian people later this year.

If you missed it, we recently hosted a webinar discussing the Voice to Parliament Handbook, with the book’s authors Indigenous leader Thomas Mayo and acclaimed journalist Kerry O’Brien.

Watch the Voice to Parliament Handbook webinar.

The Handbook is a clear, concise and simple guide for the millions of Australians who have expressed support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, but who want to better understand what a Voice to Parliament actually means.

Booktopia has a special offer for Australia Institute supporters, order your copy of the Voice to Parliament Handbook today.

The Bin

Don’t Let Em’ See It

NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley wants police to contact social media companies and ask them to remove footage of protests, following multiple demonstrations by Blockade Australia on the rail to Port of Newcastle this week.

“Their actions do absolutely nothing for the environment or climate change…all they’re doing is bringing attention to themselves and it’s very, very dangerous.”

The Minister was insistent that no-one see the footage of the protesters, saying “they’ve got an audience of very few people, but we need to cut that audience off completely” and also said the protesters would be charged.

This comes amid a wave of concerning anti-protester laws passed around the country.

The NSW police have recently been caught censoring the media release related to the fatal stunning of a 95 year old woman, removing any mention of a taser, a knife or how the frail, elderly woman was moving towards police.

What’s On

Nation in a Nutshell, Our New Live Show!

Tune in for the first episode on June 23, at 2pm on YouTube.

Join us for our new live show where we unpack the stuff you need to know from the week.

This week, we comb through the RBA’s minutes to see what they think is causing inflation, debunk some gas industry nonsense and Australian Government greenwashing, and talk about the risks of a recession, like we’ve seen in NZ.

We’ll answer your questions, too!

Get Involved

No New Coal and Gas Forum | 11 July

Join us at St Kilda Town Hall for this special event, to find out about Australia’s plans for vast new export coal mines and gas fields, despite calls by the International Energy Agency, United Nations as well as scientists and civil society organisations from Australia and around the world to stop all new investment in fossil fuels.

St Kilda Town Hall, 11 July, 6:30pm 

National Manufacturing Summit | 2-3 August

The Summit gathers leading representatives from all the major stakeholders in Australia’s manufacturing sector—business, unions, universities, the financial sector, suppliers, and government—to discuss the sector’s prospects, and identify promising, pragmatic policy measures designed to support an industrial turnaround.

With the theme of ‘Manufacturing the Energy Revolution: Industrial Opportunities from Renewable Energy’, the aim of the Summit is to leverage the opportunities currently available in the manufacturing sector, and translate these into action.

Old Parliament House, Canberra, 2 & 3 August, 2023

Thank you for supporting the Australia Institute. There are massive issues to tackle this year and we couldn’t do it without supporters like you.

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