Reaching the Summit | Between the Lines


The Wrap with Ebony Bennett

The Australia Institute has had a massive March, full of incredible and exciting events.

Over the course of the month, we have hosted prominent thinkers from across the world such as Yanis Varoufakis and His Excellency Anote Tong in celebration of our 30th anniversary, organised speaking tours in major cities, chaired festival talks, brought together panels of politicians, hosted webinars with world renowned economists like Stephanie Kelton and housing experts like Dr Cam Murray and put together a sold out Climate Integrity Summit at Parliament House.

(L-R Polly Hemming, Polly Cutmore, Dr Aunty McRose Elu, Liz Morison, His Excellency Mr Enele S Sopoaga PC)

Although it might not feel like it, March is just the beginning and we are looking forward to a 2024 filled with more amazing efforts and successes.

To each and every supporter, thank you for being a part of our massive March, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Head on over to our website to find our latest news, analysis and events.

— Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Climate Integrity Summit

The Australia Institute held its second Climate Integrity Summit last week, bringing together leading thinkers from across Australia and the Pacific regions for an earnest discussion about the state of our climate, and how policy can move forward with climate integrity.

Throughout the day, guests were addressed by scientists, climate activists, community leaders and politicians, all delivering the same resounding message: the enormous risk of unabated climate change is upon us, and it’s directly related to the burning of fossil fuels.

The Climate Integrity Summit speakers were unanimous: if we can stop burning fossil fuels, we can reduce the cyclones, heatwaves, catastrophic floods, fires and landslides that are killing people, destroying our ecosystems and decimating our communities.

Climate Integrity Summit 2024

You can watch and read every address at Highlights from the Climate Integrity Summit 2024.

Mutually Assured Distraction

Nuclear energy solves so many political problems without solving any real-world problems.

As Richard Denniss writes in The New Daily, the political debate about nuclear power is only serving as a distraction from the elephant in the room—Australia’s polluting coal and gas exports—a strategy that will cost the Coalition and Labor seats in the long run.

Read more: The Coalition’s nuclear power crusade is a futile distraction

Minimum Wages & Inflation

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work has released new research pushing back on claims that increasing the minimum wage would not drive up inflation.

The findings coincide with submissions from the Albanese government and Australia’s leading unions to the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review.

As Dr Jim Stanford tells SBS News In Depth, “There is no evidence at all of a connection between changes in the minimum wage and changes in the inflation rate.”

Read Jim and Greg Jericho’s research.

Tasmanian Crossbench

As Tasmania waits to hear the final outcome of the 2024 state election, it is clear that there will be a minority government with a broad crossbench.

This is good news for the campaign to end native forest logging, which saw fifty-seven independent and minor party candidates across all five electorates signing Sophie Scamps MP’s Forest Pledge in the lead-up to election day.

Australia Institute research shows 57% of Tasmanians are opposed to the Liberal Government’s plan to make 40,000 hectares of native forest available for logging, and the prominence of this issue will maintain pressure for meaningful action in the new parliament.

Read more: Pledge results show widespread independent and crossbench support for an end to native forest logging

More of these Please | Judy Horacek

Ending native forest logging is a quick and cheap way to help meet our target of 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Much cheaper and far less polluting than the $41 billion spent on fossil fuel projects in 2023.

All cartoons © Judy Horacek

Fire Extinguishers, Not Guns

The loss of life in Gaza has now surpassed 30,000 people.

As Dr Emma Shortis writes this week, Australians are right to be ashamed that our agency on the international stage is not translating into action.

Emma’s analysis highlights how the Australian Government should use its unique position to leverage our close relationship with the United States as the conflict continues.

Read more: Fire Extinguishers, Not Guns

It’s Good that Trump Doesn’t Like Us

With awkward insults between Donald Trump and Kevin Rudd captivating media attention this week, Dr Emma Shortis highlights that the Australian Government is not willing to wear Trump’s disdain with pride because of the risk he poses to the AUKUS pact.

Should we really be “alarmed” if such a man doesn’t like us? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if he didn’t?

Read more: It’s a good thing if Trump doesn’t like us

Who Pays the Piper…Universities Dance to the AUKUS Tune

The AUKUS debate continues to swirl, with a government commitment of $4.6 billion for a Rolls-Royce plant in the UK and questions about the US commitment to provide Australia with Virginia-class submarines.

As Allan Behm writes this week, when AUKUS was announced, universities saw an opportunity for a new line of business: the creation of “social licence” for government policies, new technologies and new products – monetising a form of advertising and promotion that was once known as propaganda.

Read now: Who Pays the Piper…Universities Dance to the AUKUS Tune

The Academic Publishing Rort

New research from Dr Kristen Scicluna finds that hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money intended for research and education are funnelled to giant international academic publishers each year.

As reported in The Guardian and The Australian, Kristen’s report finds that some academic publishers are generating profits approaching 40%, rivalling tech giants such as Google or Apple.

Read more: The Academic Publishing Rort


Follow the Money

After scarcely mentioning it for nearly a decade while in government, the Coalition are now hot to trot on nuclear power – but why?
On this episode of Follow the Money, energy researcher Matthew Ryan and host Ebony Bennett discuss the cost of a massive nuclear energy rollout, the legal and environmental barriers standing in the way and why the Coalition’s plans would be dreadful for Australia’s emissions in the coming decade.

Listen now: The Coalition goes nuclear 

Dollars & Sense

Unemployment dropped in a big way in February, so is the Australian economy now out of the woods?

In this episode, Greg Jericho discusses the link between unemployment and recessions, what message the data holds for the Reserve Bank and why Treasury should hold off on the party poppers – at least for now.

Listen now: Too good to be true? Employment spike exceeds expectations

The Quote

We are trying to make our voices, our knowledge and wisdom heard by those with the power and the responsibility to create change to do better. We must not give up hope. We have no more decades to make these changes.

Dr Aunty McRose Elu speaking at the 2024 Climate Integrity Summit 

The Win

Delay to Rushed Deportation Bill

The government’s Migration Amendment bill did not pass the Senate as expected this week, with the Greens, crossbench and Coalition referring it to a Senate Inquiry.

The bill has been criticised by the Refugee Council of Australia as an abuse of the criminal process, with immigration detainees and unlawful non-citizens being threatened with a minimum of one year in prison if they refuse to cooperate with efforts to deport them.

There are serious concerns that the bill could be used to send people back to dangerous situations in their home countries. The Senate Inquiry is due to report in six weeks time.

The Bin

Government Weakens Vehicle Emissions Standards

The government has made changes to its vehicle emissions standards bill, resulting in weakened pollution caps for vehicles like large SUVs and utes – allowing cars to emit more emissions than under the original proposal, and reducing the incentive for car manufacturers to bring low and zero emissions models to Australia.

As Research Director Rod Campbell told ABC Current Affairs: “It’s a surrender to the car lobby. The idea that you would have two separate standards: one for small and efficient vehicles, and another for larger, less-efficient vehicles, really leaves it open for being gamed and basically allowing the size of Australian cars to continue expanding.”

What’s On

Politics in the Pub: Bri Lee Book Launch – The Work | 6:30pm Thursday 4 April

Australia’s Biggest Book Club: Lech Blaine | 11am Friday 12 April 

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

To get our newsletter sent directly to your inbox, sign up.

If you enjoy these fortnightly updates, consider supporting our work with a monthly contribution.

Between the Lines Newsletter

The biggest stories and the best analysis from the team at the Australia Institute, delivered to your inbox every fortnight.