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.

Poor Priority

Trisha Jha

12 June 2015 | ideas@TheCentre


One of the great things about technology is how it’s enabled us to take advantage of opportunities for exchange in a real-time and more convenient fashion.

Companies like Airbnb and Uber are not the first to integrate the internet and smartphone apps into their business strategy. They are, however, among a handful of companies that use technology as their primary means of doing business — where the business is about connecting buyers with sellers rather than selling.

My first Airbnb experience was on the long weekend in Orange, where I had a choice between a decidedly average motel in the centre of town, and a picturesque rural property a short drive from town with a lovely retired couple for roughly the same price.

The thing I find exciting about Airbnb in particular is how it has made it so much easier for people to make a bit of money from an asset — their home — of which they would otherwise only make personal use.

New guidelines recently issued by the ATO mean that people who make money from Airbnb are required to declare it on their tax returns, so it is subject to ordinary income tax.

But I doubt I’m alone in thinking that expecting the ATO to fully enforce these new guidelines and ensure this income is declared is rather churlish in the grand scheme of things. After all, this is happening against a backdrop of the federal government being happy to quietly increase the tax burden, and state governments being determined to keep people up to their eyeballs in debt with planning laws that stifle housing affordability.

Given this, it’s a very poor set of priorities that may see ordinary people so vigorously pursued for a little extra cash, in the same way that people might decide to pocket the proceeds of eBay sales or a market stall selling homemade goodies.

It’s true it’s technically correct that tax should be paid on this income. But there are rich, varied and valuable opportunities for exchange out there which could be threatened if enforcement is taken too seriously.

Victoria's quest to be the Education State

Jennifer Buckingham

12 June 2015 | ideas@TheCentre

rr1-imageThe Victorian government is on a quest to be the ‘education state’. Two discussion paperswere released this week to generate community interest and feedback. The discussion paper on schools is not lengthy but it is revealing.

It reiterates the Victorian government’s decision not to commit to the full term of the six year funding agreement signed with the previous Labor federal government – the so-called ‘Gonski’ funding package. Only the four years to 2017 will be funded; a new funding model is being developed for 2018 and beyond. While this decision has attracted criticism from the NSW education ministerand some of the members of the Gonski review committee, there are good reasons for it. First among them is the recognition that committing future governments to a very large increase in the school education budget is not defensible. In addition, the existing model can be improved, so locking it in for six years would be inadvisable. Funding for disadvantaged and struggling students can and should be targeted more effectively.

Importantly, the document also reveals the Victorian government’s commitment to autonomy and choice in schools. Its case studies demonstrate what can be achieved when schools have flexibility to use their resources to maximise educational impact ­­­- for example, electing to have slightly larger class sizes to free teachers for mentoring and feedback. It speaks of striving for excellence in all schools, ‘ensuring that all schools are schools of choice’. Teaching is rightly a focus in the document, but perhaps the most glaring omission is the lack of attention to principals and school leadership.

Federal systems of government are often frustrating, but they are also useful. States can be like ‘policy laboratories’ – if they are successful, other states can replicate their reforms. If they fail, only one state is affected rather than the whole country. The Victorian government’s approach to school education is in many respects quite different to that in other states and territories. No state has it entirely right, but there is a lot to like about Victoria’s approach.

Citizenship and the Rule of Law

Barry Maley

12 June 2015 | ideas@TheCentre

The hideous 30 Years War in the 17th century ended with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648; a treaty that, despite some lack of  clarity, established the notion of ‘nation’ as an entity with complete ‘sovereignty’ or control within its borders, and composed of ‘citizens’ owing allegiance to that entity.

The jihadist movement and terrorism are now forcing the federal government to wrestle with questions of citizenship, the rule of law, and the meaning of national sovereignty in a world becoming ever more tightly integrated through technology, trade, immigration (both legal and illegal), and the claims to authority of the United Nations and international law.

That’s the background. The immediate – and pressing – issue is the integrity of Australian citizenship and its protection by domestic law.

There is little doubt that past immigration arrangements have been careless about the value and integrity of Australian citizenship; an issue raised many years ago by our most distinguished historian, Geoffrey Blainey, and savagely dismissed by the bien pensants. We have made citizens of some who hate us and who now kill wantonly here and overseas as Australians. This shames us all and it is clear that we must take more care in the future.

As for the present, there is no serious argument against the view that such people should be stripped of the citizenship they have mocked, despoiled and betrayed. But how should this be done?

It seems the government wants to manipulate a distinction between those who have sole Australian citizenship and those who have dual citizenship. But that is a secondary issue. Surely nothing could be done until either sole or dual citizens have been shown to have betrayed their citizenship by the conduct at issue? If the rule of law is to be upheld, guilt has first to be established for both types of citizen before any form of punishment or dismissal can be effected.

Although proving guilt may be difficult, that difficulty should not be finessed away by abandoning the rule of lawand leaving judgment of guilt in the hands of a federal minister.