That’s A Wrap! | Between the Lines

Volunteer rural firefighters from Victoria are seen refilling their water tanks in the town of Dalveen, Queensland, Thursday, November 2, 2023. A cool change may be forecast but Queensland firefighters will remain on high alert as blazes continue to threaten homes across the state. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING


The Wrap with Richard Denniss

As 2023 rapidly draws to a close, the festive season fast approaches. For many, that means thinking about Christmas or, more astutely, the cost of Christmas.

With profit fuelled inflation rising faster than most worker’s ‘real wage’ (that is the wage adjusted for inflation), many Australians can’t afford to buy much this year.

To add insult to injury, low income earners who are watching their purchasing power evaporate are paying more tax than they were this last year thanks to nominal wages rising and the end of the temporary Low and Middle Income Tax Offset (LMITO). That’s because income tax is calculated on the value of your pay packet – what economists called the nominal wage – not the amount of goods and services you can buy with your pay packet (the real wage).

Put simply, when Australia introduced our progressive income tax system it was meant to collect more tax from people as their income rose, but successive years of inflation rising faster than wages mean that tax bills are rising while spending power is declining.

It gets worse. When the Stage 3 tax cuts kick in on July 1 next year those earning over $200,000 will get more than $9,000 a year in tax cuts while those earning $45,000 will get zero. Not a cent.

While the Prime Minister is right to say that everyone earning over $45,000 benefits from the stage 3 tax cuts, it’s pretty misleading. Someone earning $46,000 will get $25 per year and someone earning $50,000 will get $125 per year. And again, someone earning $200,000 per year will get a $9,075 cut.

Do yourself a favour and read Stephen Long’s latest piece on the absurdity of the Stage 3 tax cuts, and Greg Jericho’s paper on 4 ways to fix the Stage 3 tax cuts.

Speaking of the high costs of Christmas, millions of Australians are worried about the price tag on running the air conditioner over summer and 6.1 million Australians are preparing to receive a gift they will never use. According to new research by the Australia Institute’s Nina Gbor and Ben Walters, the total cost of this ritualistic waste is estimated to be around $1 billion this summer. That expenditure is great for the companies that sell foot spas and novelty socks but does nothing to help reshape our economy or society.

I hope you have enjoyed our research, analysis, video and events this year. I’ve really enjoyed being back at the helm of The Australia Institute. Thank you to all of those who donated to support our work, shared our research or attended our events. We really couldn’t do what we do, without supporters like you.

We have many exciting events, announcements and new research ready for 2024, but until then, we at the Australia Institute wish you a happy holidays and a great new year.

Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Workers & Wages Under Pressure

Wages in Australia are going backwards compared to prices, as surging inflation and mortgage payments gobble up peoples’ pay. Yet workers of modest means are paying a far bigger slice of their earnings in tax – an extraordinary situation with no precedent in recent times.

Stephen Long explores why you’re paying more tax even though your real wages are shrinking.

Read more: Why You’re Paying More Tax Even Though Real Wages Are Shrinking

What’s the Problem with Biden?

In a country that prides itself on being the “oldest democracy in the world,” how is it possible that an explicit anti-democrat is outpolling the democratically elected president?

Why is Biden so unpopular?

Emma Shortis discusses why Biden is falling behind in the US Presidential race.

Read more: Biden’s Burden: Four Percentage Points, a Struggling Economy and a Fragile Democracy

Supporting Our Volunteer Firefighters

There is an opportunity to structure the voluntary firefighter service in a similar way to the Australian Defence Force reserves, that would see them receive benefits like medical support, tax incentives and financial compensation for their contribution, says new research from the Australia Institute.

The research shows an overwhelming majority of Australians support this model, as well as improved conditions, better funding and better equipment for volunteer firefighters.

Read more: Volunteer Firefighters Should Receive Army Reserve Style support, 85% of Australians Agree

Damn This Global Warming! | Judy Horacek

All cartoons © Judy Horacek

New Research

  • PALM Visa Workers Exploited 

Workers on the PALM Visa scheme, who work in some of Australia’s most lucrative industries, are employed under highly concerning conditions. The report found a high percentage of Pacific Nations workers were experiencing conditions that would be considered illegal if imposed upon Australian workers.

Read more: PALM Visa Conditions Exploit Pacific Neighbours Working in Lucrative Australian Industries

  • Growing Gig Work

The nature of self-employment in Australia has changed in recent years, towards fewer business owners and more gig work, which is insecure, often dangerous and with poor pay. A new Australia Institute report found how worker-suited standards and protections can be set for the growing number of gig workers.

Read more: A Better Future For Self-Employment

  • The Right to Die

The Australia Institute made a submission to the review of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2023, which was introduced as draft legislation in October 2023 to oversee the legalisation of voluntary assisted dying programs in the ACT. Previous polling conducted by the Australia Institute found strong support for the measures.

Read more: Ensuring Equitable Access to Voluntary Assisted Dying

First Half Term of Albanese Government

The Journal of Australian Political Economy, a peer-reviewed journal based at the University of Sydney published a special issue evaluating the record of the Albanese government during the first half of its term in office.

The special issue features 19 articles reviewing various aspects of the government’s legislative and policy agenda since its election in May 2022. Topics covered include economic and monetary policy, labour issues, energy and climate, foreign policy (including the AUKUS treaty), and the Voice referendum.

The special issue includes five articles from staff and associates of the Australia Institute.

Read more: Special Issue of Journal Marks Halfway Point of First Albanese Government

Follow the Money: Summer Series

Our summer podcast series brings you some of the best conversations from our webinars and live events in 2023.

Our first episode is Politics in the Pub: End of Year Wrap.

This year has been a doozy in Australian politics, and we need to talk about it. We invited a panel of distinguished press gallery journalists along to our Politics in the Pub live event, to give us the low down on what’s happened, and wrap things up for us for the year.

We’re Hiring!

We currently have two positions available within the Australia Institute for 2024:

  • Podcast Producer | Apply Here | Applications close Friday 12 January 2024 at 11:59 pm
  • Media Adviser | Apply Here | Applications close Friday 12 January 2024 at 11:59 pm

For more information visit ‘Come Work with Us‘ on the website.

The Win

AGL Energy

AGL Energy is building a large, 500 megawatt battery grid on the site of the former Liddell power station, with a target of 5 gigawatts by 2030. Construction will begin early next year.

The project will recycle more than 90% of the materials already found at the site which was formerly Australia’s oldest coal fired power station.

AGL, currently one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in Australia, has plans to close its final coal powered station by 2035, as part of the company’s decarbonisation pathway.

The Bin


Emails from Santos to the Federal Government have highlighted the stranglehold fossil fuel companies have on the government, Mike Seccombe revealed.

The correspondence, which was sent in March but made available last week, detailed Santos’ criticism of the government’s Sea Dumping Bill, for being too restrictive on their ability to pollute.

The company wrote that it “could not accept” the changes in the legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emission, and that if the government did not alter the documents to suit Santos, they would halt the million dollar projects run by them and their Japanese and Korean joint venture partners.

In response, the government acceded, allowing Santos to store its pollution under the sea using CCS, a technology not proven to work.

The exchange between Santos and the government perfectly encapsulates, in black and white, the power and influence of Australia’s fossil fuel industry.

The Quote

Whether you like it or not, fossil fuel phase out is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t come too late.

— António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, at COP28

What’s On

Australia’s Biggest Book Club | Webinar 11am Wednesday 24 January

Climate Integrity Summit 2024 | 20 March Parliament House, Canberra

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

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