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Jake Fraser – It’s a bird, it’s a plane … it’s a drone! | Week 2

Jake Fraser, 16 December 2016

I would like to begin with a reiteration of a comment I made in last week’s post regarding a mere blink —for the second consecutive week, the time has flown by in the blink of an eye. The consensus I am beginning to form is that when one is given an exciting journey and adventure to learn and grow, the level of engagement and stimulation in the tasks involved subsequently warps the perception of time; and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Although I thought not possible, this week has brought a new level of engagement – so I best be getting to it.

The crux of this week has seen me work alongside IPA research fellow Darcy Allen in contribution to an ongoing report on drones. This covers the issue of drone regulation in Australia which will be submitted to a Senate inquiry on the matter to be held before Parliament. My contributions were in depth market research, case study evidence, and comparisons of regulation authorities across countries. I also compiled statistics and designed graphs that have been implemented into the paper.

Left: Evan Muhlhollans, Middle: me, Right: Darcy Allen

Wednesday saw another post-work IPA event which was the general members end of year drinks. We were also fortunate enough to have Andrew Shearer, a policy advisor to the Howard and Abbott governments, present his thoughts on the monumental policy and political change of 2016 in the form of Trump and Brexit. As shown below I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Shearer and grabbing a quick snap shot with him.

Meeting Andrew Shearer

As evidence of the variation of interesting tasks I have been given, this morning I have been looking into the ongoing issue of renewable energy in Australia, what state energy targets are published, and how they are planning to implement their respective renewable strategies.

What a week!

Signing off for now,

Jake

Jake Fraser – Institute of Public Affairs | Week 1

Jake Fraser, 9 December 2016

Hello from Melbourne!

Last Sunday with a blink of both eyes and a deep breath I jetted off to Melbourne for my three-month stay undertaking an internship at the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). Having never been to the capital of Victoria before I found amusement in feeling like I had just travelled to a foreign country or place. Funnily enough, I quickly discovered they still speak English and use the word ‘mate’ freely here. Subsequently, I was assured some of the basic familiarities of home and continued on my way to my inner city accommodation.

Without understanding how, the first week has already flown by as since arriving at the IPA I was immediately presented with multiple tasks and events inside and outside of work. Currently, one of the main issues facing Australia is the attack on freedom of speech via section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. Coincidentally, submissions to the parliamentary inquiry to section 18C are due by Friday. So on my first day I was thrown right into helping finalise the final report, and have been doing so over the course of the week. Having done substantial pre-reading on the issue, I was able to delve into the crux of how this law affects every citizen and why the IPA’s case for repealing the law is so integral to the fundamentals of the democratic society we all value. However, after a week of hands on experience, the magnitude of the need for change has become even clearer.

If this is what I’ve been able to work on in one week, I can’t wait to see what the next three months holds!

Lastly, the first two days of stepping off the plane and into the organisation saw two after work events. The first was the end of year IPA Young Members drinks and presentation which covered the topic of climate change in a different perspective by Professor Peter Ridd. The second night was a formal dinner where IPA donors and even Senator James Paterson were in attendance. This served as a fantastic networking opportunity where I met and had dinner with Mr Richard Morgan who is a well-respected businessman and ex teacher of economics at the University of Melbourne.

What a first week!

Signing off for now,

Jake

Kurt van der Wal – Week 6

Kurt van der Wal, 3 August 2016

I’m writing this blog in a different setting to the one I am usually in. As opposed to being alone in my lodgement in an outer suburb of Melbourne, I’m home lying on the couch with a coffee in my hand and my very excited (to have me back home) German shepherd lying on the floor next to me. I’m happy to be home!

I am, however, also deeply sad to have left the IPA. Flying home yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to reflect on my experience at the think tank; all I had learnt, what I had achieved and the friends I had made in the brief six weeks of my internship.

Week 6 was my final and maybe even most enjoyable week at the IPA. It was also a busy one and quite possibly my most productive. I managed to complete my piece on the Banks Report, Rethinking Regulation, and also write a short blog on house-sharing regulation in Tasmania. I was lucky to have just completed the latter on time Friday afternoon – for obvious reasons I couldn’t extend the deadline much further.

I was happy with my work, I thought I wrote well and I was fortunate enough that my blog was posted on the IPA’s Red Tape Blog online, which you can find here. It was an awesome note to leave on.

Shortly after, Friday night drinks began and I got to talk with everyone once more before saying goodbye. In my immediate department I had become quite close with many of my co-workers, and the departure was one of reflecting on good memories, inside jokes and what the future would hold. I also had the chance to catch up and say goodbye to co-workers from other departments and thank them for how welcome they had made me feel over the past 6 weeks. I took a couple of photos with my team to serve as a memory for what was an amazing journey.

After a few more beers than the average Friday night, I said my final goodbyes to everyone and was off, on my last Tram ride home down Collins Street. I must later write a blog to sum up my experience with the IPA this winter, but I feel a couple of points should be raised here nonetheless. I had a more wonderful time on this journey than I could have imagined when I first boarded the midnight flight from Perth airport all those weeks ago. I am immensely grateful to the IPA for hosting me and making me feel so welcome and valued in the office. And of course, none of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of Ron Manners and the team at Mannkal, of which I will be forever grateful for providing me with this invaluable experience.

I have taken away so much from my time with the IPA. I have developed skills and have learnt a lot about myself as well. So to everyone involved, again, a massive thank you!

Kurt van der Wal.

Still never got used to the winter of Melbourne!

Michael, my "Coffee Bro"

The Red Tape team and I.

Kurt van der Wal – Week 5

Kurt van der Wal, 25 July 2016

I can’t believe that my time with the IPA is almost over! My five weeks here have been fantastic and the experience this opportunity has afforded me has been amazing. At the moment the feeling is one of mixed emotions. I’ve made friends with the people I work with in my department and I’m going to miss them when I leave. On the other hand I’m excited to go home and see my family, friends and of course my dog. I can only conclude that this last week will likely fly by and that I’m ready to make the absolute most of it before my adventure with the IPA comes to a close.

Week five was another good week. It was the perfect combination of busy and purposeful: I always had something to work on and that work kept me content. For the most part of the week I remained working on the expenditure collection of Australia’s regulatory data. I’ve become very proficient with annual reports and so my speed at hunting down this data improved significantly from when I started a fortnight or so ago. As mentioned in earlier blogs, expenditure and employment of regulatory agencies in Australia has only increased over time, at astronomical rates in some cases. This project highlights the other side of the twofold effect of regulation. Obviously the first major impact that red tape brings to mind is the business compliance cost – essentially an ever increasing opportunity cost which draws resources away from employment, production and investment to compliance. The other negative impact – which this data shows – is the vast amount of taxpayer money spent on regulatory agencies having to enforce the growing amount of regulation. The sheer scope of the data that still needs to be collected and the fact that I have been moved on to a new project means that I am likely not going to be able to see the final statistics on this data before I finish my internship here. Nonetheless, this project will continue and I look forward to seeing the results in the future.

Thursday morning I was tasked with a new project. This time I’ll be reviewing what has been done in the wake of Banks Taskforce (2006) by successive federal governments as the tenth anniversary of their review approaches. After two days of research, reading and planning, I can conclude the following: nothing. I wish I could be a bit more positive about the performance of our governments in relation to simplifying or cutting red tape but the one step forward taken by the Howard government directly after this report has been stampeded on by many steps backwards by successive governments. My report is still at its genesis and I’ll have learnt a lot more to explain come this time next week.

This brought me to the conclusion of my week. I managed to quickly grab some photos with some co-workers at the end of week drinks before heading home and pondering how my sixth and final week at the IPA will pan out. I can’t wait for it to begin!

My fellow intern and I next to the 'Magna Carta' poster.

James and I at end of week drinks.

Look what mug I found in the IPA's kitchen!

Kurt van der Wal – Week 4

Kurt van der Wal, 18 July 2016

This week was definitely my most exciting week to date. It started normally and, which has been the case recently, has escalated as the end of the week draws near. It’s taken me to Sydney, which is a first for me, and has led me to meet Andrew Bolt, which is also a first. The week was very busy but had nonetheless been an experience never to forget.

Monday through to Thursday was business as usual. I juggled a few tasks ranging from data analysis and presentation to regulation research. While I have a preference to be working with numbers – I find it more enjoyable and it comes naturally to me – it has been a worthwhile exercise to throw myself into the deep end and work on something I have had no experience in before. I recall how lost I felt in week one when I started on the Roy Hill approvals project. Having never studied any law before, I had no idea what I was doing. With enough persistence and caffeine I’ve come to understand something I’d never taken an interest in before. Most importantly, I’ve learnt how to make progress working through difficult tasks in areas I know nothing about. This is skill that can’t be taught at university and one which an experience like this could only have taught me.

My alarm went off at 5:00am on Friday morning.  I needed to be up earlier as I was not off to work today, but off to Sydney. The plan was to help at Andrew Bolt’s book launch. I couldn’t wait to take off as I had never been to Sydney before. In comparison to my flight from Perth to Melbourne, the one to Sydney felt over in the blink of an eye. After checking in to my accommodation, a friend from work was nice enough to show me around the city a bit and of course take me to see the harbour bridge and opera house. A couple of generic photos later it was time to grab some lunch before commencing preparations for that evening’s book launch.

A lot more work goes into planning these functions than I initially thought. It was a new experience for me but it was a great one. The night went smoothly and the speeches by Andrew Bolt, Rowan Dean and Janet Albrechtsen were very insightful into the many issues facing Australians today. Their commentary on 18C and free speech resonated particularly well with me as this is an issue I am passionate about. If a society starts to shut down elements of speech it embarks upon a slippery slope which may continue to curb freedoms, hence the importance of abolishing 18C. After the function I had the chance to meet the man himself and get a quick photo.

My trip to Sydney was amazing and is an experience I will not forget! I cannot express how grateful I am to the IPA for sending me over to help and attend the event, and of course the entire six week trip to Melbourne would not have been possible without the generosity of Mannkal. I don’t know what the next fortnight will bring, but I cannot wait to find out!

Kurt van der Wal – Week 3

Kurt van der Wal, 11 July 2016

I ended last week’s blog on a good note in regards to the weather. I should have known that in Melbourne it was bound not to last. With the exception of yesterday (Friday), the rest of the week was overcast and drizzling for what seemed to last almost hours. In and of itself, this wasn’t too bad when working in an office, but it is the absolute worst if you want to go out and get coffee! But at least I can say that I’ve had the Melbourne experience in regards to weather this week.

On the note of coffee, I believe I’ve discovered the best value for money purchase. Melbourne is absolutely packed with small coffee stores. I was surprised on my first morning that I managed to walk by four cafés in a row for example – something seen much less often in Perth. Despite this competition, your average large coffee is around $4.50. Melbourne is equally saturated with 7/11s so I was bound to enter one eventually. Turns out they have self-serve coffee machines which produce a “Super” sized coffee for only $3. Not only does this coffee dwarf ordinary “large” coffees, it also tastes just as nice as other coffee as it comes from a decent machine too. So that’s been part of my legacy with the IPA so far: spreading the good news of this discovery to everyone in the department.

This week has seen me move on from the compiling of legislation that has stifled the Roy Hill mining project, to data collection on the explicit cost of regulation. The aim is to work my way through all the state authorities in the country which act as regulatory bodies and record expenditure data through time. This is an attempt to quantify the cost taxpayers’ bear which is solely used on regulation. I discovered three things which I knew deep down were going to be the case but was no less surprised when the sheer magnitude of the red tape state was realised:
(i) The number of regulatory agencies this country has is an absolute joke.
(ii) The amount of taxpayer money (I’m talking billions in some of the larger departments) these regulatory agencies use is not even funny anymore, it’s scary.
(iii) The rate of growth in regulation expenditure supersedes that of inflation, population growth and growth in GDP.

That last point I haven’t even gone on to prove yet mathematically – it’s just so blatantly obvious. In some cases expenditure growth is upwards of 20 or 30% per year, even when it peters out as the agency reaches its (hopefully) maximum size, growth is still in the 5-10% range. Without even calculating the exact values, it has become abundantly clear to me that the red tape state has grown well beyond the realm of necessity to downright intrusion in the path of business and in the lives of individuals.

With every week that I work on the Red Tape project it becomes clearer that this is a growing issue facing Australia. Australia is lucky that the IPA is so strongly fighting the breadth and depth of red tape in our lives, and I’m so lucky to have this opportunity to contribute to the good fight.

Kurt van der Wal – Week 2

Kurt van der Wal, 4 July 2016

As Turnbull has drummed into the heads of the electorate this campaign, “there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian.” My first fortnight at the IPA has made it clear that there could have not been a more exciting time to join the think tank. Last week there was the Brexit referendum, this week lead up to the Federal election, and this Friday was the end of financial year lunch! It’s been a truly exciting experience so far.

The first few days of week 2 were spent primarily working on the Roy Hill mining project in WA and the countless legislative barriers which get in the way of production. Despite making significant progress there appears, as it had last Friday, to be no end in sight to the monumental task of outlining all the red tape Australia has imposed on the mining sector.

Come Thursday the red tape struggle was real. But to my salvation I was given a chance to cast my mind towards something other than permit forms and ministerial approvals. I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting and presentation by Dr. Jennifer Marohasy. Jennifer studies climate temperature data, and has a particular interest in the data from Rutherglen, a small town in north-eastern Victoria. It turns out that the data most climate scientists analyse is homogenized, as is the data studied from Rutherglen. If done correctly, homogenization should remove outliers, human error elements and account for shifts in data levels due to the relocation of thermometers. However, the homogenization of Rutherglen’s data by Australia’s climate research authorities is so perverse that it goes beyond correcting outliers and adjusts down old data while adjusting up newer data. Ultimately, the new data looks nothing like the actual real data gathered. Essentially, the new data shows an upwards temperature trend, while the raw, unadjusted, data shows a slight downward trend. Obviously Rutherglen is an extreme example of creating climate change from data manipulation, but it was shocking to learn that all the data collected around the world is homogenized before analysed. Ultimately, the raw data and what it says, is irrelevant. This was a fascinating presentation, one that I am most grateful to have attended.

I couldn’t wait for the end of financial year lunch. Not because it was the end of the week, not because it essentially meant I had a half day, but because there were going to be steins! Lunch was at a lovely Bavarian pub called Hofbrauhaus, the food was fantastic and the atmosphere amazing. I had never drunk from a stein before, and it was definitely a new experience for me. It was great to relax and talk with everyone over a few beers, and the week couldn’t have ended on a better note.

My first fortnight at the IPA has been great and I’ve loved every second of it! This morning’s weather is surprisingly sunny for a Melbourne winter and I think I’ll go for a walk at some stage. I can’t wait for next week to begin, but for now I just want to relax and reflect on what was two very exciting first weeks indeed.

Kurt van der Wal – Week 1

Kurt van der Wal, 27 June 2016

If I asked you to guess how many legislative barriers would need to be hurdled in order to get a mining operation up and running in Australia, how many would you guess? 100? 1000? Most people wouldn’t believe me if I told them that it could be as many as 4062. This is how many regulatory obstacles were in the way of the Roy Hill mining project in Western Australia. Believe me; I was as shocked as you are when I was told this number on the morning of Monday the 20th of June when I began my adventure at the IPA.

This was an apt way to start my internship as I am to work with Chris Berg, Senior Fellow at the Institute, on his Red Tape Project for the duration of my visit. I spent most of my week researching the countless acts, regulations, licences, permits, consent requests, compliance and environmental reports as well as a plethora of other loopholes needed to be circumnavigated in order to do the simplest things within the project.

Now granted, it wasn’t 4062 different pieces of red tape, (many licences were required hundreds of times for instance), but it was definitely so many that even after a full week working on this project there appeared to be no end in sight. I think everyone should at least look at the list of red tape facing most commercial projects in Australia these days – this would surely spur a movement amongst the electorate to desire change for the better. Raising awareness about the explicit and very high implicit costs of regulation is one thing I know the Red Tape Project will succeed at doing.

The rest of week was a dive into the countless regulation plaguing Australian business. Come Friday I was dying for a break from ‘section this of act that’, I study economics and finance, not law, after all. The results from Brexit were going to be coming in very slowly over the day so I kept a couple of news tabs open to cheekily look at between my research. Turns out in Australia’s leading free market think tank I wasn’t alone. Every single person in my department was as eager to see Brexit as I was and throughout the day there were shared emotional ups and downs as the live results were switching between leave and remain. The mood was ecstatic when it became clear that Brexit was going to happen.

By about 4 it became clear that all productivity in the office was going to come to a standstill. Everyone took it easy and unwound from another week as we watched the live news coming in from Britain on one of the worker’s computers. It was great to relax and talk with everyone about what we thought would happen next with Britain. I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end my first week with the IPA, and I know I’m going to love the rest of my time with them.


Bianca Talbot – Week 11

Bianca Talbot, 22 February 2016

My time with the IPA has come to an end… for now. It has been an amazing experience and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity which Ron Manners and the rest of the Mannkal team has given me. Without doubt, what I have learned while interning will carry on with me in my future endeavours. WA students are very fortunate to have this organisation which dedicates itself to informing students about freedom.

I have been an IPA young member for a year now. During this time I have enjoyed reading their articles and quarterly magazine, Review. Before arriving in Melbourne, I was excited to meet people like John, Hannah, Chris, James, Simon and Morgan as I have read lots of their work. It has been terrific getting to know some of Australia’s most dedicated and hard-working freedom fighters.

Being able to see how this free-market think tank operates from the inside has been really interesting. It never occurred to me how difficult it is to actually get your articles widely exposed so that people can read what you have to say. I also never realised how much this organisation relies on donations as it receives no government funding.

The team at the IPA puts in vast amounts of effort to ensure that Australians can hear their message about free markets and how they are the key to a free and prosperous society. Everyone is constantly working on multiple projects at once and it is quite common to witness them delving into a task past normal working hours.

I discovered how diverse their workload is by being involved in many tasks myself, and for this I am thankful that the IPA trusted my help. I assisted Simon and Morgan with their Legal Rights Project, Hannah with her Future of Freedom project and John with various other research tasks. The dedication and passion that the IPA team puts towards their work is impressive and definitely commendable and I am proud to be able to say that I’ve had the chance to briefly work with them.

I would like to thank Mannkal for providing me and many other students with amazing experiences like the one I just had. I would also like to particularly thank everyone at the IPA for providing such kind hospitality during my time in Melbourne. I look forward to seeing the team again.

If you are considering applying for an internship through Mannkal, I recommend applying for the IPA. Melbourne is an awesome city to explore and the work you will be tasked with will be relevant (as it is focused on Australian issues) and highly rewarding.

I now plan on spending my remaining time over east in stunning Bondi before returning to the grind. Bye for now.

Bianca Talbot – Week 10

Bianca Talbot, 15 February 2016

This week left me feeling extremely optimistic about the future of freedom of speech in Australia. It is really encouraging to see how the IPA is leading the fight against restrictions on this freedom. With the recent case concerning s 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act coming to light, a new opportunity has arisen to discuss the repeal of such an abhorrent provision. The recent case at the Queensland University of Technology is but one example of how just a broad provision can be used as a chilling constrain on such a vital right.

I assisted the IPA with lodging a Freedom of Information request with the Australian Human Rights Commission. We aim to find out how many complaints under s 18C are currently under conciliation. After talking to their Freedom of Information officer over the phone, I was made aware that there are over four thousand documents which relate to current complaints under the 18C provision! I suspect that many people make a complaint under racial hatred, and then also include a complaint under 18C just incase the first ground fails. If this is the case, 18C is used as a provision which people fall back on in case their original claim is defeated. This isn’t surprising as the provision is extremely broad with offence, humiliation and insult all being relatively determined according to each individual who experiences it. The affects this can have on freedom of speech is chilling, and I’m glad the IPA is fighting to uphold such an important value, among many others. With the debate about constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders approaching, we can not tolerate one side being silenced due to fear of being dragged to the Courts.

To celebrate the Chinese new Year, I went to the Docklands and treated myself to some good food and pleasant scenery after work. Melbourne city has an abundance of decorations celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Monkey and it’s great to see how Melbournians embrace the event.

On the weekend I went to a virtual gaming centre called Zero Latency which is exclusive to Melbourne. You put on an Oculus Rift head-set, a set of headphones and you grab a gun controller. You are then immersed in a virtual scenario where you and your squad need to reach safety while shooting zombies and other enemies who shoot back at you. It was probably one of the most awesome things I have ever done and I’m really excited about the future of gaming!

I am now entering my final week at the IPA. Despite being quite sad about this, I’m looking forward to spending my final night at their gala dinner with Mark Steyn!