You are here: Home > Blogging

Promises, promises…



SUBJECT / S: Tony Abbott breaks yet another promise on pension cuts; Kevin Rudd; Climate Change.

ANDREW LEIGH, ACTING SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks to everybody for coming to sunny Hackett on a Saturday afternoon. I wanted to make a couple of comments about the very clear statement now that the Prime Minister intends breaking his pledge to pensioners. Suggestions now that the government is going to cut into the pension will be a deep blow to Australian pensioners who had a clear promise the day before the election that there would be no cuts to pensions. Ultimately the government has found itself caught between its economic and political strategy. Joe Hockey has manufactured a budget crisis by things such as going soft on multinationals, giving $9 billion to the Reserve Bank. He’s doubled the deficit and now the government has found that it can’t both deal with the situation Joe Hockey has created and also manage to keep its pledge to pensioners.  This will be a cruel blow to 2.3 million Australians who rely so heavily on the pension and who expect that they had a Prime Minster who could keep his world. Happy to take questions.

Continue reading ‘Promises, promises…’ »

Lifeline Canberra urges Commonwealth to keep ACNC – WIN TV story – 16 April

Territory Govt leads the way, working with the ACNC to benefit charities – Press conference transcript



SUBJECT/S: ACT Government working with the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission to help charities.

FEDERAL ASSISTANT SHADOW TREASURER, ANDREW LEIGH: Thank you everyone for coming along. I’m Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and I’m here with ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr, Mike Zissler from Lifeline, and Lyn Harwood from Communities@Work. We are here at [Lifeline shopfront] Hipsley Lane to talk about the importance of Canberra charities and the importance of reducing the paper work burden. When Labor was in government we put in place in 2012 the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission. One of the aims of that Commission was to reduce reporting duplication that charities face; to allow those charities to spend less time doing paperwork and more time helping the vulnerable. We’ve now found that as a result of the ACT ceding its reporting requirements to the ACNC, Canberra charities could save $2 million dollars. So, I’m calling on the Abbott Government to back the ACNC, to support Canberra charities and to get out of the way and reduce the paper work on our great Canberra charities. I’ll hand over to Andrew [Barr].

Continue reading ‘Territory Govt leads the way, working with the ACNC to benefit charities – Press conference transcript’ »

ACNC reduces costs for charities across the ACT – Wednesday 16 April, 2014

This morning I held a press event with ACT Treasurer, Andrew Barr, and leaders in the community sector – Lifeline Canberra CEO, Mike Zissler, and Lynne Harwood who heads Communities@Work –  to advocate to keep the charities commission and grow the benefits to charities. It’s great news and proof of the potential of the ACNC that the Territory Government is ceding many of its charity reporting requirements to the ACNC in the interests of streamlining reporting and reducing costs for charities. Other states are urged to follow the ACT’s lead.




ACNC reduces costs for charities across for the Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Government is cutting red tape to save up to $2 million a year for local charities by working with the first national independent charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC).

But ACT Treasurer and Community Services Minister Andrew Barr said that can only continue if the Commonwealth Government listens to the pleas of the charitable sector and keeps the ACNC.

“If the Commonwealth commits to keeping the ACNC, the ACT Government will legislate so that charities and other incorporated associations do not need to duplicate reporting made to the ACNC,” Minister Barr said.

“This ‘report once, use many’ principle will reduce the regulatory burden on charities.”

“Only a national regulator can provide a one-stop shop and reduce reporting duplication for charities that work and fundraise across states and territories.”

“It is impossible for one level of government by itself to reap the full savings benefit that co-operation with the ACNC promised. By working together, both regulatory red-tape and funding agency red-tape can be reduced for the sector.’

Federal Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh, who has portfolio responsibility for the ACNC, again called on the Abbott government to reverse its decision to abolish the regulator.

“The ACT Government’s cooperation with the ACNC demonstrates how the reporting burden can be reduced for Canberra charities – allowing them to spend more time building community and helping the vulnerable.”

Continue reading ‘ACNC reduces costs for charities across the ACT – Wednesday 16 April, 2014’ »

Breaking Politics – Monday, 14 April

In my usual media spot on Mondays with the Liberal’s Andrew Laming and Breaking Politics host, Chris Hammer, topics up for debate were the spectre of raising the pension age to 70 and flagged federal budget cuts to the CSIRO. Here’s the full transcript:



SUBJECT/S: Joe Hockey’s budget and cuts; Age Pension, CSIRO, the ABC and SBS; Superannuation and inequality; Unfair PPL Scheme, Trade and Foreign investment

CHRIS HAMMER: Well the budget is now less than a month away and Treasurer, Joe Hockey, is talking tough. His given the clearest signal yet that he intends to raise the pension age to 70, but perhaps not in this term of government. Joining me to discuss that and other matters, budgetary and otherwise, I’m joined by Andrew Leigh, the Federal Labor member for Fraser here in the ACT, and Andrew Laming, the Liberal member for Bowman in Queensland. Good morning. Andrew Laming, let me start with you. Should the pension age be raised to 70?

ANDREW LAMING: Well, obviously the pension age is already changing from 65 to 67 over the next decade and Andrew Leigh has long made that very important point that with longevity in Australia that period between retirement and expected length of life only continues to increase. So this is a debate that brave politicians will continue to have. I think that the pace at which it’s increasing, a couple of years per decade, is thoroughly reasonable and of course we’ve also got the life expectancy figures to back those calculations.

HAMMER: Whatever the merits of the policy though, this isn’t going to be a quick fix for the budget, is it, because we’re looking at so many years into the future?

LAMING: That’s correct. So, already these increases through to 2023 are continuing at a trajectory on from that date, obviously only helps the budget in the 2020s. It doesn’t help the budget right now.

HAMMER: Andrew Leigh, raising the pension to 70, is it a good idea, an inevitable idea?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well it was an idea ruled out Chris the day before the election by the Prime Minister who said ‘no changes to pensions’.

HAMMER: But I think he was referring to this term of government. If he goes to the next election saying ‘this is what we intend to do’, well that would be fine, wouldn’t it?

LEIGH: He certainly didn’t make that clear in his unequivocal statement the day before the election Chris. But the impact of this is that a scheme which was set up to avoid poverty among the elderly is now looking at being changed in a way that would increase poverty among the elderly. Andrew is right when he says that average life expectancy is rising but the other fact to bear in mind is that workers in manual jobs like check-out operators and cleaners find it tough to work till 70 and workers in those occupations will die on average six years younger than the most affluent Australians. So on life expectancy, there’s a big gap between most and least affluent and I’m really scared about what this broken promise will do to the most vulnerable Australians.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Politics – Monday, 14 April’ »

Talking budgets and pensions with Steve Price on 2GB

I joined Steve Price on 2GB to discuss how Joe Hockey has doubled the deficit, by scrapping sensible tax measures – and why it would be unjust for Prime Minister Abbott to break his promise to pensioners. Here’s a podcast.

Sky News with Helen Dalley

I joined presenter Helen Dalley on Sky News to discuss the fact that the Abbott Government has doubled the deficit since coming to office, and now looks set to breach its pension promise.

Age pension under attack – Network Ten interview – Monday, 14 April 2014

I appeared on Network Ten’s breakfast show, Wake Up, this morning to discuss Joe Hockey’s anticipated budget attack on pensions. Here’s the transcript:








SUBJECT/S: Age pension and the budget; Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme; and CSIRO cuts.

NATARSHA BELLING: To talk more, we are joined this morning by Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Good morning Andrew, thanks for joining us this morning.

ANDREW LEIGH: Morning, Tarsh.

BELLING: Now, in regards to Mr Hockey’s statement he claims that his generation will have to work longer because there will be serious future budgetary stresses from an ageing population. So is this something the Government needs to do?

LEIGH: Well Tarsh, the Government has said very clearly before the election there would be no cuts to pensions, so this would be a breach of that promise, and I think a very unfair one. We established the pension over a hundred years ago to deal with poverty among seniors, and to address it now in a way that increases poverty among seniors doesn’t seem smart or fair.

JAMES MATHISON: You talk about smart and fair but the reality is that the population is ageing. What are you guys proposing that would be an appropriate age or an appropriate way to combat the fact that our population is getting older?

LEIGH: We did two big things in government James. We raised the pension by the largest amount since its introduction, then we phased in a rise from 65 to 67 and that will be phased in between 2017 and 2023. To go as far as 70, as your vox pop illustrated, there’s a bunch of people whose bodies really struggle to get them to 70 in jobs like cleaning and check out operators. But on top of that, we know that low income Australians die about six years earlier than high income Australians, so they’ll enjoy the pension for fewer years.

Continue reading ‘Age pension under attack – Network Ten interview – Monday, 14 April 2014’ »

Newsradio interview transcript – 11 April, 2014

This morning I spoke to Marius Benson about what Treasurer Joe Hockey has signalled; a further increase in the pension age and more means testing of welfare.




SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the Age Pension; Free trade agreements; Unemployment; WA Senate; Australian Labor Party.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Andrew Leigh, good morning.


BENSON: The economic outlook, certainly the employment outlook, did brighten noticeably yesterday.

LEIGH: Marius, there’s two ways of bringing down the unemployment rate. You can either have a whole lot of people find jobs or you can have a whole lot of people cease looking for jobs. Economists call the latter the ‘discouraged worker effect’ and given that the participation rate went down yesterday I think what we’re seeing is mostly people giving up unfortunately, rather than people moving from unemployment into employment.

BENSON: The unemployment figures are more complex than they look on the surface, but it did seem to cheer, at least, the Australian dollar. But everything connects, the dollar rose yesterday that makes life harder for our exporters who were thinking life might get easier as the result of a couple of free trade agreements over the past week or so. How important do you think those free trade agreements are when you look at the dollar going up a couple of cents?

LEIGH: A multilateral free trade agreement always beats a bilateral free trade agreement, so we’re in the world of the second-best once we’re striking country-to-country deals. This one seems to have attracted an unusual amount of criticism from agricultural groups: the National Farmer’s Federation saying that it falls short of the mark, cane growers saying that it’s a kick in the guts, Cattle Council disappointed, the Australia Pork Limited describing it as ‘a missed opportunity’. So that’s a surprising amount of critique from the agricultural sector about a deal which is principally on agriculture for Australian exporters.

Continue reading ‘Newsradio interview transcript – 11 April, 2014’ »

International experts praise Australia’s charities commission – Thursday, 10 April 2014

This afternoon I issued a media release that further strengthens the case to keep the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission. Experts in Australia for the 6th International Charity Regulators Conference and Forum have praised the work of the new regulator and challenged claims that it is heavy handed and tying organisations in red-tape.






International praise for threatened national charities commission

International charity experts gathering in Melbourne and Sydney this week have praised Australia’s first but threatened national charity regulator for its strong and positive reputation in the sector and high compliance rates.

Experts visiting Australia for the 6th International Charity Regulators Forum have also challenged Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ view that the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) is heavy handed and tying organisations in red-tape.

Chief Legal Officer with the Charities Commission based in London, Kenneth Dibble, said the ACNC has had “extraordinary” success just 18 month since its inception:

“Introducing new regulations from scratch requires persuasion, good will and real interaction with charities and not for profits.  The ACNC has a mature relationship with the sector as a standalone regulator outside of the revenue office. It is flexible and sensitive to its constituency’s needs in a way that allows the sector to thrive. In such a short time the ACNC has commanded such respect from the sector. It’s very impressive.” – Kenneth Dibble, Chief Legal Officer, Charities Commission (for England and Wales)

Continue reading ‘International experts praise Australia’s charities commission – Thursday, 10 April 2014’ »

Opening up the Labor Party – 666 Canberra interview – Tuesday, 8 April 2014

In the wake of the WA senate election re-run, this morning I joined ABC 666 Breakfast presenter, Philip Clark, for a discussion about the democratisation of the Australian Labor Party and the important contribution of an increasingly diverse and modern union movement. I argue that the ALP should be more attractive to small-l liberals and that it should be easier for people across the community to join. Here’s the podcast.

Sky AM Agenda – Monday, 7 April 2014

This morning I joined host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield to discuss the WA Senate re-run, free trade and security deals with Japan, and Labor’s ongoing commitment to democratic reform. Here’s the full transcript:




SUBJECT/S: WA Senate election; Free trade and security discussions with Japan; Clive Palmer and campaign financing; ALP reform.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me on the program this morning, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh and also the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield. Gentleman, good morning to you both. Mitch Fifield, first to you on this Japanese arrangement, obviously the free trade agreement looking good and the Prime Minister hopeful but he’s also looking to secure closer defence ties. This comes just a couple of days out from his visit to Beijing, there could be a few sensitivities to smooth out when he arrives in China, just a couple of days from now?

MITCH FIFIELD: Well Kieran, in 2007 John Howard entered into a security agreement with Japan, a statement that we were looking to have closer defence relationship. What the Prime Minister is working on is building upon that. We’re looking to enter a closer relationship in defence, science and material. Australia is very supportive of Japan adopting a more normal security posture. They have been an exemplary international citizen for the past 50 years so I think what we’re seeing is just a natural evolution.

GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, is it fair enough for the PM to be pursuing this? He is going to be the first foreign leader to address a security council meeting of the Japanese security council. Is that going too far in your view or is what Mitch Fifield and the Prime Minster saying correct, can you nurture one friendship while not alienating someone else?

ANDREW LEIGH: Mitch I think reflects the fact that much of this is bipartisan policy Kieran, and certainly the security ties were something worked on during the Labor time as indeed was the trade deal. I remember visiting Tokyo last year and in senior government meetings pushing the case for a trade deal. We need to be careful on both fronts. Labor won’t be backing a trade deal at all costs and in the area of security, we need to make sure that we’re sensitive to the impacts on our Chinese friends. I think Rory Medcalf’s piece this morning was good on this in terms of recognising that Australia needs to be playing a sophisticated game in Asia.

Continue reading ‘Sky AM Agenda – Monday, 7 April 2014’ »

Chatting Population with Tim Webster

On 2UE Sunday afternoons, I joined Tim Webster to discuss my Lowy Institute speech on population. Here’s a podcast.

THE BOLT REPORT – Transcript – Sunday, 6 April 2014



Subjects: WA Senate election, the Federal Budget and speeches by Glenn Stevens and Martin Parkinson; the Age Pension; Taxing multinationals; DisabilityCare; Gonksi; and Tony Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.
HOST ANDREW BOLT: Tony Abbott may have dodged a bullet in yesterday’s re-run Senate election in Western Australia. Both the Liberals and Labor did have swings against them, with support going instead to the big winners – the Greens and Clive Palmer’s party. The Nationals are just about finished. Result? Well, it’s early days in the counting but the signs are no change from the original result last year. The Liberals get three seats, Labor and the Greens one each, and the last going to Palmer. But that third Liberal seat may yet go to Labor. Joining me is Andrew Leigh, the Opposition’s assistant treasury spokesman. Andrew, thank you for your time.
BOLT: There have been three elections since you’ve lost last year’s federal election – the by-election for Kevin Rudd’s seat, the Tasmanian state election and now this Senate vote. Labor went backwards each time. Why is that? And what must change?
LEIGH: Well, Andrew, as I read the results in Western Australia at the moment, we’re seeing swings away from both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. A slightly bigger swing away from the Liberal Party than from Labor. I’m still confident we’ll get both Joe Bullock and Louise Pratt up, because I think they would both make excellent senators. And, you know, we have a challenge in rebuilding the party, but I’m really optimistic under Bill Shorten we’ll be able to do that.
BOLT: But the fact that the vote’s gone down each time, you don’t read a warning sign in that?
LEIGH: This is a very unusual by-election, Andrew. This – we’ve never really had a re-run of a Senate election and turn-out was always going to be a challenge. I think we’ve seen, possibly, the Liberal Party not getting a third Senator. If that happened, that would be the first time that happened in a quarter of a century. But we’ll see as counting proceeds.

2CC interview with Mark Parton – Thursday, 3 April

This morning I joined Mark Parton and Liberal Party Senator Zed Seselja for a feisty discussion about the budget and the public service in the context of a wide ranging speech delivered last night by Treasury head, Martin Parkinson. Here’s the audio to listen to.

Capital still an ideas leader

My Chronicle column this week is on innovation.

Capital still an ideas leader, The Chronicle, 1 April 2014

Ask a non-Canberran what words they associate with ‘Canberra’, and it’s likely they’ll come back with ‘politics’ or ‘government’. Yet as those of us who live here know, ours is a city that’s considerably more than the seat of government. If I had to devise a single notion that sums up smart bureaucrats, connected academics and innovative start-ups, it would be that Canberra is an ‘ideas city’.

Recently, I had the pleasure of launching a new book by Peter Dawson, titled Creative Capital. It tells the tale of a city that is informed, modest and connected. Peter Dawson discusses the Australian National University’s role in dating rocks from Apollo 11, Vikram Sharma’s work on quantum cryptography and Alex Zelinsky’s machines that prevent drivers from falling asleep. He reminds us of about Chris Parish’s cancer research, Peter Gage’s HIV research, Charmaine Simeonovic’s work on diabetes and Tim Hirst’s breakthroughs on influenza. And he describes Canberra scientists who’ve delivered environmental breakthroughs: Andrew Blakers on solar photovoltaic cells; Stephen Kaneff, Peter Carden and others on concentrating solar.

Continue reading ‘Capital still an ideas leader’ »

Pre-budget discussion on ABC NewsRadio – Monday, 31 March

As the Treasurer receives the final report of the Commission of Audit – a document set to guide the drafting of the Abbott Government’s first budget – I spoke this morning to the ABC’s Marius Benson about secrecy surrounding cuts expected in the upcoming May budget. Listen to the NewsRadio podcast here.

National Press Club address – Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat – Thursday, 27 March 2014

Addressing the National Press Club, I talked about a generation of rising inequality, how the Abbott Government’s policies will affect inequality and the importance of maintaining Australia’s egalitarian ethos (download audio; iTunes podcast):


Battlers and Billionaires: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat*

National Press Club Address



In 2002, two bombs exploded in Bali nightclubs, killing and injuring hundreds of people. At the local hospital, there was a shortage of painkillers. Graeme Southwick, an Australian doctor on duty, asked patients to assess their own pain levels. He kept being told by patients in the ‘Australian’ ward that they were okay – the person next to them was suffering more.

Coming across this account, historian John Hirst was reminded of the description of injured Australians in Gallipoli nearly a century earlier. He quotes the official war historian Charles Bean, who describes the suffering and then says, ‘Yet the men never showed better than in these difficulties. The lightly hurt were full of thought for the severely wounded.’

Even in the midst of their own pain, the first instinct of many Australians was to think of those worse off than themselves.

Continue reading ‘National Press Club address – Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat – Thursday, 27 March 2014’ »

SPEECH – Bruce GP Super Clinic opens – Wednesday, 26 March

I spoke in Parliament today to celebrate the arrival of the Bruce GP Super Clinic, and to ask what it is about efficient, affordable and accessible healthcare that the Government thinks is ‘nasty’?:

This week saw the opening of the GP Super Clinic in Bruce. Residents in Canberra’s north now have better access to general practitioners, nurses, pathologists, dieticians, counsellors and a range of other allied health practitioners. The facility is located on the grounds of the University of Canberra, which means it can integrate teaching, training and research. There are already eight GPs treating patients in the new clinic in Bruce, and there is capacity to expand to 18 doctors and related supporting services.

The super clinic will help to meet the expected demand coming from the growth in Canberra’s northern suburbs. It will provide improved access for northsiders to vital health services. I celebrated the opening of the clinic; I helped turn the first sod last year with former health minister, Tanya Plibersek, who is a passionate supporter of GP super clinics, unlike the current health minister.

Continue reading ‘SPEECH – Bruce GP Super Clinic opens – Wednesday, 26 March’ »

Labor supports better military superannuation pension

Federal Labor will support the triple indexation of military superannuation pensions. Here’s the media release issued today by the Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Don Farrell:





The Opposition will support the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Legislation Amendment (Fair Indexation) Bill 2014 which allows the “triple indexing” of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (DFRB) and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits (DFRDB) military superannuation pensions for those aged over 55.

Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Senator Don Farrell said an estimated 57,000 retired military personnel will receive a $160 million boost to their pensions from July 1 this year if this legislation passes with the support of Labor.

Continue reading ‘Labor supports better military superannuation pension’ »

A Mate for Head of State

Crowning glory would be our own head of state, Canberra Times, 26 March 2014

Walter Scott once wrote: ‘Breathes there a man with soul so dead / Who never to himself hath said / This is my own, my native land.’

Alas, these fine words have never been uttered by any Australian head of state about Australia. Under our Constitution, they never could be uttered.

That is because – while no British citizen can ever be Australia’s head of government – only a British citizen can ever be Australia’s head of state.

Continue reading ‘A Mate for Head of State’ »

MEDIA RELEASE – Bradbury to lead international tax policy division – 25 March 2014

This morning I issued a release congratulating Federal Labor’s former Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury for his new strategic leadership role with the OECD.







Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, has warmly congratulated former Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury on his appointment to a strategic role with the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD undertook a competitive and global selection process to choose Mr Bradbury as the new head of the Tax Policy and Statistics Division based in Paris.

From next month Mr Bradbury will be in charge of raising the profile of tax policy analysis work at the OECD.

“David has an international reputation for his strong leadership and understanding of the taxation of multinational enterprises. He and Wayne Swan led the Australian debate on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and modernising Australia’s transfer pricing laws.”

Mr Bradbury, a former tax lawyer, was Assistant Treasurer under the previous Labor Government, with responsibilities in including taxation reforms. He was instrumental in establishing Australia’s first and vital national regulator of the not-for-profit sector.

“I congratulate David and wish him well in his new and important role,” added Dr Leigh.


Joint media release – More frontline health delivered by Labor – Tuesday, 25 March 2014








Residents in Canberra’s north now have better access to general practitioners, nurses, pathologists, dieticians, counsellors and a range of other allied health practitioners after the opening of the GP Super Clinic in Bruce.

This facility partners with the University of Canberra and integrates teaching, training and research.

More than 3 million MBS items have been delivered through the GP Super Clinics program across Australia, and GP Super Clinics are providing better access to primary care and delivering healthcare, despite the lack of support for better primary care infrastructure by the Abbott government.

There are already nine GPs treating patients from the new clinic in Bruce with the capacity to expand to 18 doctors along with supporting services.  This will help meet the expected demand coming from the growth in Canberra’s northern suburbs into the future.

‘GP Super Clinics are providing better access to bulk-billing services as well as after-hours access to doctors across the country,’ said Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King.

‘This Super Clinic will also enhance the area’s medical training capacity through a partnership with the University of Canberra and provides access to pathology labs, radiology and pharmacy,’ Ms King said.

‘I have been a strong advocate for a Super Clinic on Canberra’s Northside, and was pleased to attend the sod-turning ceremony in February 2013 with former Health Minister Tanya Plibersek,’ said Member for Fraser, Dr Andrew Leigh.

‘The Liberals have never seen a GP Super Clinic they didn’t want to block. Without Labor’s commitment to better health care and better medical training, Canberrans would not be benefiting from this first-rate facility.’

The funding agreement for this GP Super Clinic was signed in May 2012, construction commenced in March last year and it is officially opening today, having commenced operations in February.


What Will Come After the ACNC?

I spoke in parliament about the fact that the government has not yet told us what would replace the charities commission if it were abolished.

Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, 24 March 2014

Last week, the government announced that there would be a bonfire of legislation. What was in this great vanity of a bonfire? There were three things. There was the repeal of what Fred Hilmer, the father of competition policy, called ‘ghost acts’. These are acts such as the act to repeal another act which could themselves be safely repealed because they were not troubling anyone. Then there was the repeal of protections for consumers of financial advice, which, thankfully, has been placed on pause. As the members for McMahon and Oxley have pointed out today, the coalition’s FoFA changes achieved the unique configuration of being opposed not only by consumers groups but also by the Financial Planning Association themselves. The third piece of the bonfire was the repeal of the charities commission.

As so many members of this House have pointed out—Jenny Macklin, the member for Jagajaga, and Senator Ursula Stephens being chief among them—the charities commission was put in place in order to reduce the regulatory burden on charities and to protect charitable donors to make sure that they had an agency to which they could lodge complaints if they were victims of scams. The charities commission has been supported by four out of five charities. In an open letter, charities—including Save the Children, St John Ambulance Australia, Volunteering Australia, Lifeline, the RSPCA, ACOSS, the Sidney Myer Fund, the Hillsong Church, Social Ventures Australia, the YMCA and the Queensland Theatre Company—have called for the ACNC to be retained. Instead, we have a bill from Minister Andrews which repeals the charities commission without saying what will come in its place. This is a bill which reads more like a media alert than a serious piece of legislation. It contains clauses such as:

Continue reading ‘What Will Come After the ACNC?’ »

50th Anniversary of St Margaret’s Uniting Church, Hackett

I spoke in parliament today about the 50th anniversary of St Margaret’s Uniting Church in Hackett. It’s also a good time to mention that I’ll be holding my annual Welcoming the Babies event at the St Margaret’s Hall this coming Saturday, 29 March, 10.30-12.30.

St Margaret’s Uniting Church, 24 March 2014

On 7 December 1963 there appeared in the Canberra Times a notice of a new Presbyterian church and Sunday school to be meeting in Watson, Hackett and Woden. The first meeting of St Margaret’s church occurred on 2 February 1964, and it was my great pleasure on 2 February 2014 with my son, Sebastian, to attend the 50th anniversary service for St Margaret’s Uniting Church in Hackett. I acknowledge Reverends Kerry Bartlett and Brian Brown, John Goss and St Margaret’s community for making us so welcome.

I commend to the House the publication reflecting on 50 years of St Margaret’s Church, which tells the story of the church’s evolution including the episode in the 1970s where is it notes:

‘The appointment of a Methodist minister placed considerable stress on the understanding of cooperation between Presbyterians and Methodists.’

The church has done a great deal to build the local community through its Stepping Stones program, and through Ross Walker Lodge which received a grant through the nation building programs in the global financial crisis to provide housing for Canberrans with disabilities. I commend the St Margaret’s community for a great 50 years achievement and the many more decades of achievement to come.

Putting Refugee Policy on a Bedrock of Decency

My op-ed in the Drum today is about the ethics of asylum-seeker policy, and the need for more bipartisan decency.

Let’s put refugee policy on a bedrock of decency, The Drum, 24 March 2014

If there’s one point that unites people across the political spectrum, it is that the issue of refugees has not been well managed over recent years.

Refugees comprise just one-tenth of permanent migrants to Australia in the past decade. So refugees are not clogging our roads. But the asylum seeker conversation is clogging our migration policy debate, because it’s both controversial and complicated.

Australia takes 13,750 refugees a year, down from 20,000 under Labor. Globally, there are 11 million refugees. Add those who are internally displaced or stateless, and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees counts 39 million people on their list of ‘persons of concern’.

Among developed nations, there are two ways of taking refugees: the ‘knock on our door’ approach, and the ‘go to the UNHCR’ approach. Most developed countries follow the former principle. A few – notably Canada, the United States and Australia – work with the UNHCR. These three nations take nine in ten of those from UNHCR camps.

And then there are the drownings at sea. We will never be quite sure how many people died in the past decade coming to Australia by boat – but the figure probably exceeds 1000. About one in twenty asylum seekers who set out on the sea journey to Australia die on the way. Under Labor, the Refugee Resettlement Agreement with Papua New Guinea – and the previously unsuccessful agreement with Malaysia – were an attempt to close off the channel of refugees coming by sea.

Continue reading ‘Putting Refugee Policy on a Bedrock of Decency’ »

TRANSCRIPT – Breaking Politics – Monday, 24 March 2014







SUBJECT/S: Manus Island detention centre riot inquiries and Regional Resettlement Program; Labor minority government in South Australia; Paul Howes’ career; Australia becoming a Republic.

CHRIS HAMMER: The Papua New Guinean Government is looking to stymie a human rights into conditions at the Manus Island detention centre. This follows a tour of the centre last Friday by journalists led by the head of the inquiry. The Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, has defended the decision, saying it is a matter for the PNG Government. Well joining me to discuss this and other issues is Andrew Laming, Liberal Member for Bowman in Queensland and Andrew Leigh, the Labor Member for Fraser in the ACT, also Shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Andrew Leigh, to you first, Scott Morrison is right isn’t he, this is purely a matter for the PNG Government?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It’s important that the Australian Government works constructively with the PNG Government and part of the refugee resettlement agreement was always that resettlement would occur as speedily as possible. What I’m concerned about is Minister Morrison’s slowness to engage with Papua New Guinea; the fact that we know that he only spoke face to face with his PNG counterpart less than a month ago and the Government hasn’t put resettlement at the top of its agenda. The events in the detention centre with the tragic death of an asylum seeker have led Labor to call for an independent inquiry and for a senate inquiry, both of which are now underway and it’s really incumbent on the Government to begin that resettlement process as quickly as possible.

Continue reading ‘TRANSCRIPT – Breaking Politics – Monday, 24 March 2014’ »

An Australian Republic

I moved a motion in parliament today calling on the government to put the Republic back on the agenda.

Private Member’s Motion – An Australian Republic, 24 March 2014

Dr Leigh: To move—That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) prior to the 1999 referendum to alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic, many opponents (including monarchists and direct electionists) fomented the expectation that if the vote were defeated, another referendum would be put within a few years;

(b) 14 years on, public support for Australia becoming a republic remains solid; and

(c) Australian engagement with Asia has strengthened, with the former government’s White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century reminding us that our future lies in our region; and

(2) calls upon the Parliament to make it a priority to hold a referendum to alter the Constitution to establish the Co mmonwealth of Australia as a republic, so that every Australian child can aspire to be our Head of State.

* * * * *

“Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said;
This is my own, my native land.”

These fine words from Walter Scott have never been uttered by any Australian Head of State about Australia. Under our Constitution, they never could be uttered.

That is because – while no British citizen can ever be Australia’s Head of Government – only a British citizen can ever be Australia’s Head of State.

In 1999, Australia held a referendum. It was a three-cornered contest between bipartisan parliamentary appointment Republicans, direct election Republicans and Monarchists.

As the Member for Wentworth has pointed out, the monarchists ‘delightedly, if cynically, exploited the division by promising the direct electionists that if the parliamentary model was defeated at a referendum they could have another referendum on a direct election model within a few years’.

We have waited half a generation since then.

Continue reading ‘An Australian Republic’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 24 March 2014

On Sky AM Agenda, I joined Liberal MP Steve Ciobo and host Kieran Gilbert to discuss Labor’s win in the South Australian election, the Abbott Government’s attempt to fiddle the jobs forecasts and Paul Howes’ rumoured resignation as AWU head.

They know what they’re against, but what are they for?







The Social Services Minister – determined to reject the views of the charities sector and trash the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) – has no plan for the sector.

Minister Kevin Andrews’ Bill reads like a media alert more than a serious piece of legislation.

The ACNC Repeal Bill (Part 1) offers no transitional arrangements for a sector that employs a million people. There are no details of a successor agency.

This is a purely symbolic gesture, added to by the fact that debate on the Bill won’t take place this coming week as expected.

The Explanatory Memorandum states this Bill “will not take effect until the enactment of a later Bill, which will provide the details of the arrangements replacing the Commission”.

Alarmingly, the Minister gives himself the power to determine the successor agency without parliamentary approval. If the Minister won’t trust the public with his plans, why should parliament entrust him with the power to do as he wishes?

The Bill does nothing but create greater uncertainty for a pivotal sector at the heart of our communities.

The Minister appears without vision or heart for the charities that work for Australia’s vulnerable. There are nearly 60,000 charities registered with the ACNC.

Four of out five charities surveyed want to keep the ACNC. These include Save the Children, St John Ambulance Australia, the Ted Noffs Foundation, RSPCA, The Sidney Myer Fund & the Myer Foundation, Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, Volunteering Australia, Lifeline, ACOSS, SANE Australia, Musica Viva Australia, Hillsong Church, Social Ventures Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, the YMCA, the Wesley Mission and the Queensland Theatre Company.

The explanatory memorandum says the ACNC was established to be a single reporting point for charities and claims that this “has not eventuated”.  But in just over a year, the agency has won strong support in the sector, and its red tape reduction directorate is working on reducing unnecessary reporting by charities.

The Government claims to be reducing red tape. But abolishing the ACNC will increase the red tape burden on charities.