2CC with Mark Parton

Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
10 July 2013

TOPICS:                      Battlers and Billionaires, election date, polls

Mark Parton:           We had Andrew Leigh, the federal member for Fraser on the program recently and this is after the whole leadership change with federal Labor. It’s worked out really badly for Andrew that his new book’s been released at the time that all this stuff’s been going down. It’s the book called Battlers and Billionaires. He writes really well does Andrew and the book is basically about you know egalitarianism in Australia and whether or not things are as equal as they should be.  Now look, I disagree with a number of things that Andrew puts forward in the book, but gee it’s a good read. I haven’t read it all I’ve just read some extracts from it. I’ve got Andrew on the line right now.

Morning Andrew.

Andrew Leigh: Good morning Mark.

Mark Parton:           Among the things that I’ve read are the extract that appeared in the daily telegraph which quoted well what went on immediately following the Bali night club bombings and how the Australians just show this amazing spirit in times of drama like that.

Andrew Leigh: It’s a great story. So the story is that in the ‘Australian ward’ in Bali, doctors are going bed to bed asking the patients whether they need painkillers, and constantly the response comes back ‘I’m alright, it’s the person in the next bed who’s doing worse.’ And this reminds the historian John Hirst who’s writing about it of Clive Bean in WWI. He goes back to the old Clive Bean diaries and he finds exactly the same thing from Aussie soldiers in WWI. They’re all saying ‘No no, I’m alright, look after the bloke in the next bed. He’s worse off than me.’ So there’s a sense that there’s this kind of looking after your fellow Aussie spirit that’s been there for a hundred years.

Mark Parton:           And we get that, but I just reckon when you try and scope that out into every aspect of community it doesn’t work. That everyone can’t be equal because so many examples I mean Venezuela for arguments sake shows that it doesn’t work. You know that mad bloke who’s now passed on took over and decided he was going to share the wealth evenly with everybody. The place doesn’t even have toilet paper anymore.

Andrew Leigh: You’re completely right Mark. I mean perfect equality is as awful as perfect inequality. We don’t want to have the same amount of money, we don’t want one person to have all the money. So the right answer is somewhere in between. And what I do in Battlers and Billionaires is talk a little bit about the costs and benefits of inequality and whether maybe we’re starting to get to an Australia where inequality is getting out of touch with the sort of egalitarian spirit that we see in those hospitals after the Bali bombings, or that we see in see in a lot of our kind of much more egalitarian sporting codes.

Mark Parton:           See it’s interesting when you bring up sport because one of the examples that you’ve given is the Melbourne Cup v. the Kentucky derby in America that the Melbourne cup is a more egalitarian race because it’s a handicap. Now I’ve got to tell you, as a racing purist, obviously I get into the Melbourne cup because it’s a race that stops the nation.  But give me the cox plate any day. Give me the cox plate any day, this wait for age race where it’s basically the best horses in Australia taking on each other with nothing to mar the result, the best horse wins.

Andrew Leigh: So horses for courses Mark, but certainly I think there is some lesson that we can take from the fact that our favourite horse race is a handicap and American’s favourite horserace isn’t.  Or from the fact that the Brits’ favourite sporting code, English Premier League, is an amazingly unequal sport in which Manchester United has won twelve out of the last twenty seasons because the best teams get to keep all of the TV revenue. Whereas one of our favourite sports, AFL, no team has won more than three out of the last twenty seasons because you have revenue sharing, salary caps, player drafts. That makes AFL more equal, and they do that in order to make AFL a more interesting game than EPL.

Mark Parton:           Alright, when you get together with other Labor MPs on July 22, what election date will you be voting for Andrew?

Andrew Leigh: That’s a beautiful question Mark. I think the election date is going to be one of those things as in previous years be known by about ten people before it is finally announced and I can confidently tell you I won’t be one of those ten people and that would have been true last time around. These things are kept fairly close to the chest as Prime Minister Howard did before or Prime Minister Keating did before him.

Mark Parton:           But if you had a say in it, what would you be going with? Would you be going early rather than late?

Andrew Leigh: I’m certainly relaxed, I think we’ve got a good story to tell and I certainly never tire of talking about the investments that Labor has made through Canberra and anyone who doubts that just needs to go to their local primary school and ask them about the quality of their buildings five years ago compared to now. But you know if the Prime Minister wants to go early or if he wants to go later I think that’s fine. The only advantage of going late would be we might actually get some policies out of the Opposition.  They’re being a little coy on the policy front you got to say.

Mark Parton:            Alright it’s interesting that we’ve got the polling out at the moment which shows that it’s basically neck and neck at this stage of the game. But if you go to the betting agencies around the place, they’ve still got the coalition as a very, very clear favour and I think the latest markets I’ve seen are about a dollar twenty-five for a Coalition victory.

Andrew Leigh: We’re definitely the underdog Mark and I think that reflects the simple reality that Mr Abbott has done a good political job of attacking the government over recent years.

Mark Parton:           There has been a shift actually; Coalition has blown out to a dollar thirty-five on Centre Bet so it’s moved out ten cents since that polling came out yesterday. There’s movement at the station Andrew.

Andrew Leigh: There is indeed Mark and you know if the Coalition wants to peg it back I think all they need to do is to reveal to the Australian people that actually the policy sitting in their top drawer is good policy rather than bad policy. Because I think Australians are asking now: ‘If it was so good for me, why would it be sitting in Tony Abbott’s top drawer rather than being out on the evening news?’

Mark Parton:           And Kevin’s got to work out what the greatest moral challenge of our time is this particular year.

Andrew Leigh:        I think Mr Rudd will be campaigning strongly on carbon pricing as he should be, Mark.

Mark Parton:           Andrew thanks for your time this morning.

Andrew Leigh:        Thankyou Mark.

Mark Parton: Battlers and billionaires if you want to check out Andrews’s book.

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