The Odd Couple | Between the Lines

United States President Joe Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese after a bilateral meeting during the The Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Sunday, November 13, 2022.
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas


This edition: American democracy on the brink, Assange freed and Australians want more action to end child poverty

The Wrap with Ebony Bennett

Australia is a big country.

We’re the 12th largest economy in the world. We’re the third largest exporter of fossil fuels. We’re a country that’s also a continent.

But too often, we act small.

Some might argue that there’s not a great deal Australia can do about issues beyond our borders. But Australia matters.

Here at the Australia Institute, we have a 30-year track record of bringing big ideas and big thinkers into Australia’s public policy debate to help Australia think big.

That’s why we’re delighted to be hosting Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz for his ‘Economics and the Good Society’ national speaking tour, as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.

It’s also why I was so proud this week to launch The Odd Couple: the Australia-America relationship, a new book by our International & Security Affairs Director, Allan Behm.

This week, I had the pleasure of helping to launch The Odd Couple: the Australia-America relationship, the new book by our International & Security Affairs Director, Allan Behm.

In the depths of World War II, Prime Minister John Curtin gave his famous address to the nation:

“Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.”

Since then, Allan writes, we became “emotionally glued to our new protector”. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Australia and America are natural partners, sharing deep social, cultural and economic ties. But as American democracy teeters, it needs a friend, not a flunkey—and Allan argues that Australia may become its best ally

On the subject of the United States, this week we also launched a new podcast series, After America.

Every Tuesday, Senior Researcher Emma Shortis will take a look at the 2024 US presidential election, and its consequences for Australia.

In the first episode, Emma reflected on the disastrous first debate and the release of Julian Assange, before speaking to former US correspondent for the BBC, Nick Bryant.

You can subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your favourite podcasts.

— Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of the Australia Institute

The Big Stories

Child poverty is a policy choice

Australia is one of the richest countries in the world, yet one in six Australian children live in poverty.

According to new Australia Institute research, more than 80 per cent of Australians want income support payments to be boosted to prevent children from living in poverty and for the Federal Government to officially define and measure poverty levels.

“There is no excuse for a country as rich as Australia to have one in six children growing up in poverty,” said Greg Jericho, Chief Economist at the Australia Institute.

“Adopting an official definition of poverty in line with the OECD or European Union – either half or 60 per cent of median income – would provide important information to inform government policy and would allow public oversight to keep elected representatives accountable.

“Poverty is not too big or too complicated to solve – it’s a question of choice.”


Right to protest in peril

Peaceful protest has an essential role to play in democracy.

But unfortunately, in Australia, state and federal governments are increasingly limiting the rights of citizens to protest.

“In fact, we’ve often got larger fines for peaceful protest than we have for companies causing enormous harm to their workers, to their communities or to their environment,” said Executive Director Richard Denniss.

Level the playing field, not native forests

Did you know that logging native forests in Tasmania, under a regional forest agreement, is exempt from federal environment protection laws?

Australia Institute research shows that logging Tasmania’s remaining native forests makes no sense economically, socially or ecologically.

Add your name to our petition, which calls on the government to ensure that native forest logging companies are made to operate under federal environmental laws like everybody else.

Add your name >>

Cost of property investor tax breaks soaring

New data shows negative gearing and capital gains discounts could could cost taxpayers nearly $23 billion a year by 2035, further pushing up soaring house prices, senior research fellow David Richardson told The New Daily.

“It’s bad enough now; in Sydney the cost of the median house is something like 13.5 times annual average weekly earnings,” Richardson said.

“If you project that forward 40 years in an intergenerational report, that ratio will be 32 times.”

These policies are making it particularly hard for young Australians, many of whom are already struggling to buy a place to live in.


Human vs machine

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way we work and the jobs we do.

But the risks are real—from potential breaches of privacy, bias and discrimination in recruitment and hiring, and unfair decision-making in performance measurement and evaluation.

In a submission to the Government’s Inquiry on the Digital Transformation of Workplaces, Dr Fiona Macdonald and Dr Lisa Heap set out principles for new legislation regulating the uses of AI in workplaces with a goal of protecting workers.

Read the submission >>


America: at war with itself | After America

Can Biden recover from a disastrous debate performance?

On the first episode of After America, Dr Emma Shortis reflects on the first presidential debate performance and the release of Julian Assange, before former BBC United States correspondent Nick Bryant joins the show to discuss the country’s long history of authoritarianism.

Listen now:

Democracy (handle with care) | Follow the Money

Will the government’s political finance reforms keep vested interests out of politics or ensure the major parties dominate Australia’s political landscape?

On this episode of Follow the Money, the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Director Bill Browne joins Ebony Bennett to discuss political finance reform.

Listen now:

Supermarxist? Dutton and the duopoly | Dollars & Sense

The prime minister joked that the Coalition is turning communist, but having strong powers to break up the Coles-Woolies duopoly is sensible economic policy, Matt Grudnoff says.

On this episode of Dollars & Sense, Matt dives into supermarket divestiture and the impact of the new stage three tax cuts.

Listen now:

The Quote

“With a heavy heart but a clear conscience, I announce my resignation from the Australian Labor Party.”

— Independent Senator Fatima Payman

The Win

Assange finally free

Julian Assange’s ordeal is finally over, after he signed a plea deal to secure his freedom.

Escorted by senior diplomats Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith, Assange touched down on Australia soil last week for the first time in 14 years.

While is release is welcome, the prosecution of Assange “sets a dangerous precedent that should be of concern to journalists everywhere”, according to his legal advisor Jennifer Robinson.

The Bin

Environmental activism is on the rise… and apparently that’s a bad thing?

The Liberal Party-linked Menzies Research Centre put out a paper last week showing big increases in public support for Australian environmental organisations. They actually see this as a bad thing, and grabbed headlines with claims that climate lawsuits are costing the economy and jobs with some truly fanciful figures.

Having been involved in most of the big climate cases as expert witnesses, our researchers took about five minutes to debunk the report. For a start, it includes two defunct coal mines that were shut down without a lawyer lifting a finger.

Our colleagues at the Menzies Research Centre seem to miss the key point – public support for the environment is growing because governments aren’t doing enough to protect it. It’s really that simple.

What’s On

The Odd Couple: Allan Behm Book Tour

The Odd Couple | Allan Behm book tour

As rich and powerful first-world nations, America and Australia share a problem: how to recalibrate their relationship to deliver peace and prosperity rather than conflict and disharmony.

In The Odd Couple, International & Security Affairs Director Allan Behm suggests ways that America and Australia can transcend military glitz to strengthen wellbeing and human security worldwide. America needs a friend, not a flunkey, and Australia may become its best ally.

Join Allan and special guests at public events in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide throughout July.

Find out more >>

Transparency for the planet | 6pm AEST, Friday 12 July

Join some of Tasmania’s leading voices on truth and transparency for a discussion about whistleblowing and the ecosystem of accountability.

Presented by the Human Rights Law Centre and the Australia Institute Tasmania.

Register >>

My Efficient Electric Home Handbook | 11am AEST, Friday 19 July

Tim Forcey’s My Efficient Electric Home Handbook is the Australia’s Biggest Book Club book for July.

Sharing insights from working with thousands of Australians in their homes, as well as from hands-on experience modifying his own home, Tim Forcey explains best-practice heating and cooling, hot water heat pumps, induction cooktops, draught-proofing, insulation, solar energy and much more.

Register >>

Work with us

Want to work with one of Australia’s most influential public policy think tanks?

Australia Institute staff with Yanis Varoufakis

We’re hiring for several positions to help us deliver high impact research that combines rigorous fact-driven material with cutting-edge communication strategies.

Applications close for a WordPress Developer on Sunday 7 July – then for several other positions throughout this month.

Find out more via the links or on our website.

Apply now >>

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