Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Open the borders

Trisha Jha

20 March 2015

ideas-image-150320-1March 16 is unofficially ‘Open Borders Day‘, drawing attention to the moral and practical case for more movement of people across national borders. It refers to the presumption that people should be able to move freely – the burden of proof lies on those who favour restrictions.

Apart from the ever-present issue of asylum seeker and refugee policies, and stoushes over 457 visas, immigration policy largely flies under the radar. This a positive by-product of a relatively bipartisan consensus on immigration benefits, but also means creative thinking in this area is lacking.

There has been a largely unremarked shift in the government’s rhetoric. Michael Pezzullo, secretary of the Department of Immigration, Customs, and Border Protection, (the delineation of these three functions is indicative) has said mass migration is a mission “long accomplished”, describing the department as a “gateway”, and emphasising the border.

The Howard era approach – where a deterrence narrative for asylum seekers sat comfortably alongside a welcoming attitude to immigrants – appears to be going out of fashion.

Due to the budget pressures outlined in the Intergenerational Report, which can be ameliorated by higher levels of immigration, a substantial restriction in immigration policy is unlikely. But it’s also worth asking why, then, scant attention is being paid to it outside the government’s latest plan to crack down on 457 visas.

Given the government has had much success in negotiating freer movement of goods across borders, it could also be successful in negotiating freer movement of labour, particularly with countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and United States, in a manner similar to the arrangement with New Zealand. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has expressed interest in the idea.

The Productivity Commission has suggested changes to visa conditions to make it easier for live-in au pairs to stay with a family longer than six months, and another suggestion involves allowing Indonesian women to live and work in Australia as nannies, as a partial solution to the problems plaguing childcare.

These are the kind of innovations that could revitalise discussion around immigration policy. It shouldn’t continue to fly under the radar.


Trisha JhaTrisha Jha is a Policy Analyst with the Centre for Independent Studies.



Not pro-homeopathy, but anti-anti-homeopathy

Helen Andrews

20 March 2015

ideas-image-150320-2There was something unseemly about the round of crowing that followed the release of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s report on homeopathy. The report itself was unobjectionable: It found there is no evidence homeopathy works – which is unsurprising, since if alternative medicines were supported by science they wouldn’t be ‘alternative’.

But before jumping on the anti-homeopathy bandwagon, you should consider that the report and its champions were motivated as much by a political agenda as by any high-minded fidelity to science.

Homeopathy is not covered under Medicare, so the government does not subsidise it directly. However, the private health insurance rebate can go toward plans that cover natural therapies.
Supporters of the NHMRC report have called for an end to this indirect subsidy. But as Health Minister Sussan Ley pointed out, “It’s not as simple as turning off the tap for one type of treatment.” The rebate goes toward a person’s whole policy, making it difficult to separate out any particular component like homeopathy.

Insurance companies have obviously found that including natural therapies in some of their insurance plans attracts customers. The government should not try to micromanage these kinds of business decisions, certainly not if the result will be to make private health insurance less attractive.
But for many in the anti-homeopathy crowd, making private health insurance less attractive is the whole point.

The reason the NHMRC looked into homeopathy in the first place was that the previous Labor government commissioned a whole spate of reviews into the private health insurance rebate. This was around the time the rebate became means-tested, which for some was a second-best alternative to abolishing it entirely.

The private health insurance rebate is a subject on which there is plenty of room for debate – unlike homeopathy. We should not allow these two separate conversations to get mixed up by opportunists posing as champions of science.


Helen AndrewsHelen Andrews is a Policy Analyst at the Centre for Independent Studies.


It's war on PowerPoint!

20 March 2015

ideas-3 Apparently PowerPoint presentations are the new thing we love to hate. Even Jeff Bezos, founder of the giant tech firm, has allegedly banned such nuisance from the company meetings.
That's it: place your bets, because the war on PowerPoint is on!
The anti-PowerPoint movement claims that slide presentations – generally long and dull – constitute a 'crutch for nervous speakers' or even turn a once-attentive audience into a 'robotic crowd reading bullet points rather than listening the speaker'. In Switzerland, the Anti-PowerPoint Party – yes, there actually is such a political party – claims that presentation software 'causes national-economic damage amounting to 2.1 billion Swiss francs [almost AU$3bn], and lowers the quality of a presentation in 95% of the cases'.
Enough, I say. If there is a problem, it is not a software problem. It is a user problem.
A slide presentation can be an effective and efficient way to present your plan and proposals. Used properly, it can be an extremely powerful tool to pitch an idea. Modern luddites should understand that the same rationale to ban PowerPoints in the work environment could be also used to veto emails, text messages and – yes, please! – those extensive, tedious internal meetings. Before long, we are all back to chalk blackboards…
Let's not demonise the tools for a poor result, but recognise that users are the ultimate culprit. We should be open to new technologies, and their countless spontaneous forces, always remembering who is in charge.
If it is true that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, then let the same picture populate the next slide you bump into.


Patrick CarvalhoDr Patrick Carvalho is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies – and loves PowerPoint.