Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Mannkal Student Internship Blog


Herman Toh l Final Week@The CIS

Herman Toh, 27 February 2017

Having caught the influenza, I did not venture far from Sydney for the previous two weeks.  I finally managed to find some time to visit the Blue Mountains in the state of New South Wales.

The Blue Mountains – Three Sisters

The start and middle of the week saw me finishing off data modelling on renters, public and private. I read an interim report written by Michael Potter on rental affordability across different categories such as age and income.

Doing so afforded me a sense of accomplishment that I had contributed to the work done here the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS).

I am writing a last response in IDEAS@TheCentre about the recent media reports that the Federal government is looking to cut down the concession for capital gains tax and why that would be such a bad idea. Due to the scheduling, it will be published next week.

It has been a rewarding internship here at the CIS. What a wonderful experience for me to have exchanged ideas with everyone here. I shall miss the people here but I understand that there is a time and place for everything. I will be resuming my studies at university for the coming year and I am look forward to sharing my time in Sydney with my fellow students.

Especially the $11 meal deal at a local cafe which includes a burger with fries and a choice of carbonated soft drink.

I would like to thank Greg Lindsay, the Founder and Executive Director of the CIS and Jenny Lindsay, the General Manager and Student Program Coordinator for welcoming me to the CIS.

Thanks also go to Michael Potter, Research Fellow for the Economics Program for mentoring me during my time here and Karla Pincott, communications director for helping me with my responses in Ideas@TheCentre.

Informing Greg Lindsay of the wonderful time here at the CIS

Photo opportunity with F.A. Hayek, one of our intellectual leaders in the movement for liberty. He could hardly say no.

Finally, I would like to thank Ron Manners and the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation for spreading us out like seeds in the fertile soil of liberty and to be watered by free market economics.

Thank you to all for reading my blog and signing off from the CIS in Sydney.

Herman Toh – Have we reached an impasse? l Week 5

Herman Toh, 20 February 2017

This weekend I rented a motorbike and rode on Old Pacific Highway through what was the scenic route to the Mount Kuring-gai National Park. I rode through a road carved through the mountains and over the Hawkesbury river.

On the way back, I rode on the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge and marveled at its construction. I ended up at the West Head lookout where I could just make out the Barrenjoey Lighthouse. It felt really great that people from all over the globe came to enjoy the view. The overall ride experience was phenomenal.

Looking out from West Head Point

Signpost for Barrenjoey Lighthouse

Back in the office, there has been an expansion in the research parameters that I have been working on for Michael Potter, the Research Fellow for the Economics Program.

As he will be examining the effects of rental stress on both the private and public market in Australia, I have been familiarising myself with the effects and compiling the data that is available through Excel. I am excited to have contributed to research showing how housing affordability affects society.

I attended Q and A at the ABC studios and it was interesting to see how the various speakers interacted with each other and the audience. The panelists were Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, the Founder of The new Democracy Foundation, James Paterson, Victorian Liberal Senator, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, mechanical engineer and founder of Youth Without Borders, Tony Jones, the Host of Q and A, Jacqui Lambie, Tasmanian Independent Senator and Kate Ellis, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education.

Max Hawke-Weaver, Event Manager at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) and his partner, Gabriella also attended Q and A with me and we were put through the paces by the various program staff. We were then prepped for question time and had the process explained to us but were made aware that it may not have been possible to answer all the questions submitted.

The first two questions were topical as they touched on the recent blackouts in South Australia. We then moved on to other topics. The tension was palpable, and like matches to powder kegs, the reactions to questions were explosive as positions were defended.

Max and I reflected that it was hard to reach an agreement between any panelists and if this was played out worldwide in the political arenas of the world that we would be in for a bumpy ride if no one agreed. Society only works if enough of a consensus reached. Otherwise, we could descend into chaos.

Onward to the last week that I will be with the CIS. Time flies by when you are having fun.

Herman Toh – What about Robots? lWeek 4@The CIS

Herman Toh, 13 February 2017

I flew back to Perth on the weekend to attend the wedding of Justin Cobby and Bianca Talbot, a former Mannkal scholar’s event. The event was in Busselton and it was good to have a change of pace.

It was a joy to see friends being married and moving on with the next stage of their lives. I had a really good time catching up with old friends and making new ones. I returned to Sydney on what was a sweltering night.

I attended a talk this week given by Paul Mason, journalist and broadcaster at UK’s Channel 4 news held at the University of Sydney. The talk was titled Can Robots Kill Capitalism?

His main point of contention was that technology was going to make us obsolete and in the future, only low level jobs that robots could not do such as working as a masseur would still remain.

The term that he used was ‘neo-feudalism’ and his description was one where most of us would be serfs and only the wealthy that have their assets in high end property being at the top of society.

His solution to inequality in society is a Universal Basic Income. I did not agree with any of his points and found it interesting to contrast his talk with the presentation below.

The Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) organised a lunch meeting on one of the work days with Daniel Hannan, a former Member of the European Parliament who campaigned for Brexit. He is an urbane speaker and I found myself enjoying hearing him speak and seeing his interaction with the rest of the staff and people in attendance.

His view with regard to technology was that there are now more jobs created rather than killed off by technology. His personal example was that of his grandfather in Chatham, UK where he was a welder at a shipyard and was laid off. Currently, Chatham has even lower unemployment than during the shipbuilding days due to the jobs in the computer animation industry.

I am thankful to the CIS that they regularly organise events where I can learn more about free market principles as well as being able to interact with people in the liberty movement.

There was some discussion in the office about Trump’s preference for a weaker US dollar vs what the Fed prefers. You can find my response IDEAS@TheCentre here.

I managed to find some free time during the week to visit the Sydney Mint. It is Sydney’s oldest surviving public building and I found it history fascinating. However, it is not a working mint like the Perth mint.

Nevertheless, I was able to find reminders of it’s past and see how it must have been like for people of that age.

Till next week.

Coin Press@The Sydney Mint

Australia's first gold coins

My first lucky "coin" from the Sydney Mint

Herman Toh – Could The Donald Happen Here? l Week 3@The CIS

Herman Toh, 6 February 2017

For me, this week started on Australia Day. I took some time to reflect and think how fortunate I was to be in Sydney, able to celebrate with all Australians and to call Australia home. I had a quiet day  and so I started on the book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nicholas Taleb. Especially in light of recent events.

I then headed out in the evening for a stroll around the Sydney Harbour area and watched the fireworks.

Fireworks overhead at the Opera House

I wanted to explore more of New South Wales and so headed on to the Bundeena village and the adjacent Royal National Park. I took a train to Cronulla and then the ferry over to Bundeena. I then used the Jibbon Head trail where I reached Port Hacking Point.

I viewed the aboriginal engravings there with signs that explained the story behind them. I then hiked through what felt like a film set for the Lord of the Rings movie scene to the Balconies but was unable to spot any whales. Perhaps they were holding their breath and not surfacing.

Whale watching out of season

Hobbit Trail

I had an exciting start on the Monday when I went back to the office. Simon Cowell, the Research Manager and the Director of Target30, was beginning a campaign to reduce government expenditure had an interview with the ABC. The ABC wanted to interview him on proposals to introduce Universal Basic Income (UBI) to Australia.

We had to leave our mobile phones at our desks as only the ABC could record the interview. Simon was able to outline why having the UBI in Australia will be such a bad idea. He stated that it would place an exceedingly large burden on all tax payers and making any person on welfare worse off, a sentiment that I agreed with wholeheartedly.

Simon Cowell and Karla Pincott, the Communications Director, later debriefed myself and Lili Havers, another CIS intern. I learnt that it is good to be mindful on how we present ourselves during an interview and to be careful of verbal tics that we might have.

I carried on researching housing affordability and using excel to consolidate data from several decades to see the trends in luxury spending by consumers. I was also able to write an response in IDEAS@TheCentre with regard to a solution to housing affordability.

Most of the office was geared up to prepare for the event Trump in Oz? The main speakers were Ross Cameron, the former member for Paramatta, Louise Clegg, Barrister and opinion writer and Tom Switzer, Senior Fellow at University of Sydney’s United States Study Centre. The  event was sold out days before the event started.

Behind the Scenes at Trump in Oz

Q and A after the panel presentation

The panel presentation by the three speakers was thought-provoking to say the least. Louise was sure that the Donald could not happen in Australia due to the differences in culture and mindsets. Tom Switzer mentioned our professional political system and having vested interests in parliament was enough.

Ross Cameron raised an point that our PM should have, at the very least read Donald Trump’s book Trump: The Art of the Deal. This may have prevented the embarrassing call from Trump that has been currently trending in the news media. He also indicated that the first thing Malcolm Turnbull should have done was to call Trump up before he took power and made a trade deal instead.

Tom Switzer mentioned trade and how Trump would hurt the US economy by raising tariffs against China. His view was that the old jobs that went to China would themselves be going to other countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. I think he has a point in that technology has and will make a lot of current jobs obsolete worldwide. We need to prepare ourselves for that eventuality.

It was also instructive to see how everyone was so clued into using technology to spread the CIS’s message of free markets. Greg Lindsay AO, the Executive Director and Founder of the CIS, was showing me how the CIS was live streaming the event from his media devices. Sky News was also here recording the event and adding to the media presence.

This week has been an extremely busy week and I am looking forward to flying back to Perth for the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. Until next week!

Herman Toh – Sydney and the CIS l Week 2

Herman Toh, 30 January 2017

Every workday, the team here at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) has a news update at ten am. The team gathers for a short meeting where we lightly touch on any major news headlines and the staff will often offer interesting feedback and updates for any planned events.

With a change of leadership in the NSW state government just this Monday, Gladys Berejiklian, the new Premier has singled out housing affordability as her top priority. She was quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying that she would improve housing affordability by boosting housing supply. In my personal view, this would be the one of the pertinent choices available to her instead of restricting demand by say for example, increasing stamp duty on housing transactions.

With the hot issue of housing affordability being debated in the various news media outlets, I feel that it would be interesting to see what the free market response would be. I would often consult Michael Potter, the Research Fellow for the Economics Program, and we would look at the various drivers of housing affordability. We would also discuss various possible solutions. Most of my time is spent on compiling data in Excel and seeing what conclusions may be drawn.

I respect the researchers at the CIS for having open minds and their willingness to pursue a research lead. The additional information may lead to a different outcome then what was originally expected.

I wrote a response to a news article for IDEAS@THECENTRE, an online CIS publication. Karla Pincott, the Communications Director, has been kind enough to help me polish the article and to point out any inconsistencies.

During the previous weekend, I rode a bus down to Bondi beach and did the Bondi to Coogee walk. I enjoyed having a walk around the Icebergs Club for a couple of pictures. It was so cool to see a swimming pool set next to the pounding surf and to see so many people enjoying themselves. The weather was great and conducive for wandering around on foot.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get access to Bondi beach by public transport. The Bus services operate fairly regularly even on the weekends.

View of the Sydney Opera House

The Icebergs Swimming Pool

I was also able to visit the Sydney Opera House and take in the fantastic views from the Opera House as well as from the surrounding area. The highlight of the evening was to relax in the Opera bar and people watch.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge

I have been given time off this friday after Australia Day and will be looking forward to exploring more of the state has to offer. Till next time.

Herman Toh – Starting at the CIS Week 1

Herman Toh, 23 January 2017

I flew into Sydney two days before I was due to start at the Centre of Independent Studies (CIS) on 16 January 2017.

I was invited by Bianca Talbot, a former Mannkal scholar, to an event held by the Australia and New Zealand Students For Liberty. It was great catching up with old friends and to meet new ones. However, I was taken aback to be evicted along with the rest of the patrons at the venue twenty minutes before midnight. No doubt, as explained by Sydneysiders, a mixture of the lockout laws and weekend penalty rates.

During my time here at the CIS, I will be working closely with Michael Potter, the Research Fellow in the Economics Program. I hit the ground running, with research into housing affordability for both new housing buyers and renters in the Australian market. The focus is whether there is an issue with regard to housing affordability as well as any possible solutions.

I was also given the opportunity to write a response in the IDEAS@THECENTRE to a news commentary article on the possibility of a rise an Australian Trump-like politician.

First view of the CIS Office

Sydney strikes me as a vibrant city filled with industry and exciting possibilities. I am looking forward to exploring more of this city and am looking to visit the various attractions. The CIS is just opposite the Royal Botanical Gardens which I have explored and I have a view of from the office windows. The week has certainly flown by and I look forward to updating you all soon on my next week.

I am extremely grateful to Ron Manners and the rest of the staff at the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation for this tremendous opportunity. Toodle-oo!

Incredible view of the Royal Botanical Gardens

Miguel Forjaz – Week 4: Centre for Independent Studies

Miguel Forjaz, 10 August 2016

This week bore many fruits of knowledge and wisdom for me. I learned that the Parliamentary Budget Office spreadsheets are very difficult to interpret. I learned that you should always ask your resident taskmaster exactly how they would like their document to be formatted before spending three hours compiling said document. I learned that it takes quite a while to entirely reformat an extensive research document.

Sydney diet is going well!

The past week has yet again been a fantastic experience for me at the CIS. And again I was given a huge range of tasks that all required different approaches to complete. The main focus of the week, however, was getting stuck in to the OECD statistics database.

As Michael and I continued to investigate corporate tax rates across economies I was asked to compile a number of data sets to cross-analyse.

The public data available was extensive and often extended into the little known columns of an excel spreadsheet (AD and BC) that make you feel confused as to whether you are running economic modelling or studying the history of modern civilization.

I was lucky enough to finish off my week of grinding out excel spreadsheets and formatting PBO historical budget analysis with a refreshing dose of data entry before jetting off (there isn’t a fun verb for catching a train) to the Blue Mountains. As I gazed out of the window during my two hour train ride up to Katoomba I was confused and alarmed that the mountains were not, in fact, blue. Nevertheless I persevered with my, now marginally less colourful, adventure.

The Three Sisters from Echo Point Lookout

The cold mountain air was a refreshing change to the not-really-that-wintery Sydney weather and I was definitely glad that I had packed some warm jackets and scarves. The view from Echo Point was stunning and I could help but think, “how’s the serenity?!”.

I finished off the week with a surprisingly healthy brunch in Bronte before walking to Bondi for some fresh juice and then all the way back to Bronte. This was definitely a great week and I am sad that my time at the CIS is almost over. I am still loving every moment of my time here and for that I would like to thank Ron Manners and the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation for making this experience possible!

Till next week!

Exploring on the Bondi to Bronte cliff walk

Miguel Forjaz – Week 3: Centre for Independent Studies

Miguel Forjaz, 3 August 2016

I am now more than half way through my placement at the Centre for Independent Studies having just completed my third week in the office. I am loving the experience more and more each day as I am given new projects and work across areas of research.

The CIS hosted the annual conference Consilium this weekend in the Gold Coast and I had the opportunity to work on the primary research for a presentation given by Michael Potter, the research fellow that I have been attached to over my placement. The presentation focused on inequality, how we measure it, and how we approach the problem of inter-generational wealth stagnation.

View from the North Bondi cliffs

Across the papers that I was reading, that had previously investigated the problem of income and wealth inequality, there was often an omission of redistributive wealth policy in calculating income and wealth. The issue of ignoring government transfers to individuals and families is that data is distorted and often results in an over-estimation of wealth amongst more wealthy members of society, and an under-estimation of wealth in those members that are less wealthy.

I found this research extremely interesting and engaging and it was great to pivot to another new area of research after having looked at superannuation and company tax already.

This week I also had the privilege of having an article that I wrote published by the CIS in their weekly publication Ideas@TheCentre which you can find here. The article briefly reviews the fall-out of the Brexit referendum and outlines the steps that the new administration, led by Theresa May, have been taking and need to continue to take to achieve success in their move away from the European Union.

The iconic Bondi Icebergs Club

The office was effectively empty on Thursday (as most people were at Consilium) and I was told to take Friday off – so I used the day to go and explore Bondi. I had breakfast at a lovely café in North Bondi and then explored the Northern cliffs. I walked all the way around to the Bondi Icebergs Club for a few photos and eventually made my way home. I finished the day off with some sunset photos at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

As always I would like to thank Ron Manners and the Mannkal Economic Foundation for making this experience possible – till next week!

Sunset from Mrs Macquarie's Chair

Miguel Forjaz – Week 2: Centre for Independent Studies

Miguel Forjaz, 25 July 2016

The past week has been tumultuous, to say the least, in respect to the Australian geopolitical climate, as well as globally. Working at a think tank focused on public policy and public policy recommendations has meant that the past week has been hugely engaging.

But that more or less tends to speak for itself – what I would like to do is to take you through my daily routines and give you a small taste of what Sydney-life is like for me!

Every morning I wake up around 7:15am to have breakfast and get out the door so that I can be in the office before 9am. My method of getting to work is walking. It is about 2km which, on a beautiful (albeit sometimes frigid) winter morning, is a lovely way to begin the day.

Photo taken at Darling Harbour

The walk takes me through Hyde Park and down Macquarie Street past the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Before heading up to the office I grab a coffee from a little café and then I am ready to attack the set of fresh tasks that I know will be waiting for me each morning.

At 10am the research team gather for a short and informal meeting known as Newswhip. In these meetings we rapidly cover the major news publication headlines and if anyone is keen to write an op-ed in response to an article, this is their moment to pitch their take on it.

The day usually continues uninterrupted and I tend to stay in the office through till around 6pm. Unfortunately, given it is Winter, this means that it tends to be absolutely pitch black outside when I leave.

The Harbour Bridge by night

Some nights after work I join the hundreds of Poké-fiends down on The Rocks by the Sydney Opera House and spend some time catching Pokémon. After this, however, I walk back home through Hyde Park and my day is more or less done.

This week my work was dominated by a paper on the superannuation that the researcher I am attached to is completing. That being said, I have also had the opportunity to write an article for a weekly publication called Ideas@TheCentre. With any luck that article will be published this week and I will post a link to it in my blog next week!

As the weeks continue to fly by I can only be aware of how much I am learning from this fantastic opportunity and I would like to thank Ron Manners and the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation for making this experience possible!

Till next week!

The Manly Cliffs

Miguel Forjaz – Week 1: Centre for Indepedent Studies

Miguel Forjaz, 20 July 2016

As I boarded my flight to Sydney in the early afternoon of Saturday the 9th of July I was anxious to arrive, nervous to start, and excited for the new opportunity all at the same time. The week that followed was more full-on than I ever anticipated. I am spending five weeks at the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) which is celebrating its 40th year as a driving force for free market ideals in Australia.

In my time at CIS I will be working directly under Michael Potter, an economist specialising in tax, superannuation, and welfare. We hit the ground running, initially focusing on the economic effect of corporate tax reductions. Specifically, we investigated the different combinations of policy that can be used to fund a corporate tax rate cut and the efficiency of different policy mixes. Another aspect of our research was the changing perspectives of corporate tax cuts within the government.

Later in the week we pivoted to an ongoing project on Michael’s, a paper on superannuation. My research included the history of superannuation guarantees and how they came to be structurally integrated in the Australian labour market. This translated to investigating the effect of varying the superannuation guarantee.

A highlight of the week was definitely visiting the Sky News City Studio with Simon Cowan, CIS Research Manager and Director of the Target30 project. Watching him interview on the topics of the recent election outcome, as well as tensions in the South China Sea was a new and extremely interesting experience.

I spent my first weekend in Sydney visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens as well as hitting some of the major sights. I can’t wait to crack into my second week at the CIS and am hugely grateful to Ron Manners and the Mannkal Economic Foundation for making this experience possible! Till next week!