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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.

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.

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.

MEDIA RELEASE – Abbott needs to get on with the job of reviewing competition laws – Friday, 14 March 2014

This morning I issued a media release pointing out the Abbott Government’s inaction since announcing its long anticipated ‘root and branch’ competition review in December.






101 days since Competition Review announced and still no action

The Prime Minister and the Minister for Small Business announced 101 days ago that a review panel would be announced “shortly” to conduct its root and branch competition review.

But since December 4, 2013, there’s been no action.

The Government stated last year that:

“The Federal Government has provided the states and territories with draft terms of reference for a competition review. The review panel will be established shortly so that we can have a final report within 12 months.” [Tony Abbott and Bruce Billson, Joint Media Release, 4 December, 2013]

More than three months later, there are no final terms of reference and no one has even been appointed to conduct the review.

“The delay calls into question the Government’s commitment to a thorough and independent review of competition policy,” Dr Andrew Leigh said.

“This is a critical policy area, which impacts on consumers and small and large businesses from supermarkets to service stations, but seems impacted by the Abbott Government’s ‘go-slow’ approach.

“The Prime Minister said his Government would contain no surprises or excuses. I suppose you can’t be surprised by something that moves at a glacial pace.

“Why the hold up? It appears this Government is too busy breaking its promises on the economy, healthcare and education to pursue long term, sensible economic reform through competition policy.”

“Competition is about good regulation. It underpins productivity and participation. I call on Minister Billson to stop procrastinating and get on with the job,” said Dr Leigh.

“If ‘shortly’ doesn’t mean ‘within 100 days’, perhaps Australians will soon be asking whether Mr Billson is engaged in ‘misleading and deceptive conduct’!”.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Australia After the Boom

On 21 February 2014, I took part in a panel discussion at the Perth Writers’ Festival on Australia’s economic future. The other panellists were Ross Garnaut, Mike Nahan, Andrew Burrell & Scott Ludlam. The chair was Carmen Lawrence. The conversation was subsequently broadcast on ABC Big Ideas.

Investment, Education and Fairness

I spoke in parliament on the government’s failure to turn a G20 growth aspiration into a clear plan for prosperity.

MPI – G20, 26 February 2014

I congratulate the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development on his decade-old diggings, but I am happy to assure the House that I, like all members on this side, do not support a GP tax. The aspiration set by the Treasurer for an additional 0.4 per cent growth per year over the next five years is a perfectly reasonable aspiration, and nobody in this parliament would disagree with it, but an aspiration is not a plan.

There are two very clear plans for growth on offer in this parliament. This side of the parliament believes that growth is driven by investment, by education and by fairness. That side of the parliament believes it is driven by cuts, cuts and cuts—cutting infrastructure, cutting services and cutting wages.

Continue reading ‘Investment, Education and Fairness’ »

Jobs, Growth and Productivity

I spoke in parliament about the economic challenges facing the government, around jobs, growth and productivity.


26 FEBRUARY, 2014

In these bills the government is requesting that parliament approve additional expenditure of around $14.8 billion, which largely reflects the government’s decisions outlined in the 2013-14 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

Let me say from the outset that the Opposition do not oppose the passage of the three appropriations bills we are debating in the parliament today. Without denying this bill being read a second time, I move:

That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading the House notes that:

(1) the Government repeatedly stated before the election ‘that if debt is the problem, more debt is not the answer’;

(2) the 2013-14 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook showed a $17 billion blow-out in the 2013-14 budget deficit, which at the time represented a $167 million budget blow-out per day since the Government took office;

(3) 60 per cent of the predicted budget blow-out in 2013-14 was due to the decisions of the Government alone;

(4) the Government has sought to pave the way for deep cuts to the federal budget by deliberately blowing out the budget and establishing its Commission of Audit; and

(5) these cuts would be another example of this Government saying one thing before the election, and doing the complete opposite after it.”

What we have continually seen from this government is that they do one thing after the election having said the complete opposite before the election. We have a litany of examples: the Renewable Energy Target, jobs, taxation, cuts to health and education, and this particular case—the budget.


We had a lot of slogans from the Coalition prior to the election and we still hear them today. There is one that I would like to bring up—the slogan: ‘If debt is the problem, more debt is not the answer’. If more debt was not the answer, why did the government do a deal with the Greens to legislate for unlimited debt? And what about the issue of this budget emergency? We heard, saw and read an awful lot about that from the coalition prior to the election, but when we actually saw the Abbott government’s MYEFO last year, the first budget document to be published under the new government, we saw a nearly $17-billion budget blow-out for 2013-14, more than a 50 per cent increase in the budget deficit, 60 per cent of which was due to decisions of this government. And that blow-out, with a deficit of $30 billion to $47 billion, represented a huge amount every day—$160 million per day.

The component of the budget deficit that did not represent increased expenditure was as a result, largely, of changes in assumptions. We learned yesterday morning from the Secretary of the Department of Finance, David Tune, when he spoke to Senate estimates, that the estimates in MYEFO had dropped the former Labor government’s fiscal rules which limited real spending growth. Mr Tune confirmed to Senate estimates that this change in assumptions increased MYEFO’s projections for the size of the budget debt over the decade to 2023-24.

Continue reading ‘Jobs, Growth and Productivity’ »

Sky with PVO – 25 February 2014

On 25 February, I joined host Peter Van Onselen and Liberal MP Steve Ciobo to discuss how the Abbott Government has managed to blow out the 2013-14 budget deficit by more than 50 percent.

BREAKING POLITICS – Monday, 24 February 2014

Breaking Politics host, Chris Hammer, invited me and regular sparring partner Liberal MP Andrew Laming into the Fairfax Media studio to discuss this morning’s news.  Today’s agenda includes worrying reports that the Abbott Government may weaken legislation requiring companies to report on the gender of employees and progress of workplace gender equality measures.




SUBJECT/S: Manus Island; Cambodia and the Refugee Resettlement Agreement; G20 growth target and multinational profit shifting; Qantas future and jobs; Company gender reporting.

CHRIS HAMMER: One week after an Iranian asylum seeker died on Manus Island the story is still front page news. That’s largely because of Saturday, Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison that he had been misinformed and in turn had misinformed the public about what had happened last Monday night on Manus Island. Well, to discuss that and other issues, I’m joined by Andrew Leigh, the Labor Member for Fraser in the ACT and also Assistant Shadow Treasurer and Andrew Laming, the Liberal Member for Bowman in Brisbane.

Andrew Laming, to you first, it now seems highly likely that the Iranian asylum seeker died within the detention centre on Manus Island. Doesn’t that make his death wholly the responsibility of the Australian Government?

ANDREW LAMING: If that information’s correct it’s extremely alarming. Everyone would regret this occurrence from last week. Look, Scott Morrison’s a star minister. He’s provided information as soon as he reliably could. They’ll try and work out why he was potentially given incorrect information. Everyone will want absolute safety for those that are detained on Manus. I’m confident that that centre can achieve that and continue to be an important part of our border protection.

HAMMER: So, you’d concede that it is the Australian Government’s responsibility, the death in a sense -

LAMING: We’ll be a key player in getting to the bottom of that matter. And we are obviously responsible because we hire the contractors who run that camp.

Continue reading ‘BREAKING POLITICS – Monday, 24 February 2014’ »

DOORSTOP TRANSCRIPT – Monday 24 February, 2014

Joining a cycle of doorstops at Parliament House this morning, I spoke to reporters about the Group 20 Financial Ministers Communique that commits leaders to boosting GDP. Ultimately the success of the G20 in Australia will be judged around tangible results including job creation.




SUBJECT/S: G20 growth target; multinational profit shifting and tax; Manus Island; Craig Thomson; Sydney’s second airport

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION: We’ve seen the headline recommendation coming out of the weekend G20 meetings as being a two per cent growth boost. Now, no one can object to that. Two per cent more growth is of course a good thing. But, an aspiration is not a plan. And from Joe Hockey, what we’re getting is hints of a set of policies that are going to cut into growth at the same time that he aspires to more growth. If I came out here and told you that I’d like my running times to be two per cent faster, but I was going to sell my jogging shoes and sack my jogging partner, you’d have reason to doubt me. So, when Joe Hockey tells you that he’s going to boost Australia’s growth rate but he’s not going to build the NBN, not build urban rail, hacking into school funding and Trades Training Centres – and potentially demand driven universities – Australians have a right to ask ‘well, how serious are you are you about this growth target?’

The other thing we saw out of the G20 was a proposal to move on multinational profit-shifting. It’s essentially the same proposal that Wayne Swan and David Bradbury took to last year’s G20. But three-quarters of a billion dollars has been dropped from it because the Government wasn’t willing to go hard on multinational profit-shifting. So that’s $700 million, around the cost of a new hospital, which has got to be made up for in service cuts or tax increases. The Government is walking away from good moves on multinational profit shifting and they’re walking back on transparency of multinational tax paid, which has really got to leave you asking the question, ‘how serious are they about making sure that all companies pay their fair share of tax?’

Continue reading ‘DOORSTOP TRANSCRIPT – Monday 24 February, 2014’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 24 February 2014

On 24 February, I joined host David Lipson and Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham to discuss the G20 growth target, and why Joe Hockey’s growth aspiration lacks a plan to back it up.

Ideas and Engagement: The Western Australian Economic Story

I’m speaking today to a business breakfast in Perth, on the theme of innovation in the Western Australian economic story.

Ideas and Engagement: The Western Australian Economic Story*

Andrew Leigh MP
Shadow Assistant Treasurer

Business Breakfast, Perth
21 February 2014

I acknowledge the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet, my federal colleague Alannah MacTiernan, Western Australian Shadow Treasurer Ben Wyatt and Shadow Minister for Planning and Finance Rita Saffioti. My thanks to the Perth Writers’ Festival for flying me over to the left coast.

It’s a pleasure to have the chance to speak with you today.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I had the chance to work for the late Western Australian Senator Peter Cook. He was then the Shadow Minister for Trade – a perfect portfolio for a Western Australian.

Peter taught me a great deal about politics, and about Western Australia. I enjoyed travelling with him through places like Kalgoorlie, Karratha and Carnarvon, talking with mine workers and farmers, local business leaders and politicians.

Peter was an instinctive internationalist. He took the view that you couldn’t be a social democrat without believing in an open Australia – and you couldn’t believe in openness without a proper social safety net. He was a yachtsman, with a yen for open waters.

Continue reading ‘Ideas and Engagement: The Western Australian Economic Story’ »

OPINION – Government jobs target looks off target – Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The business of being in Opposition is to hold the Government to account. The Guardian today published my piece on the Prime Minister’s jobs target.


Unemployment: Abbott needs 1,007,000 more jobs to keep his promise

One of the great inkblot tests of modern politics is how you think about unemployment. While progressives tend to think in terms of social forces, those on the right are more likely to see unemployment as a personal failing.

You can hear echoes of this view from conservative politicians. Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has announced he will be ‘reining in welfare’, while Abbott Government backbencher Ken O’Dowd has argued that welfare recipients ‘don’t care about the community, they care about themselves and how they can screw the system’.

To see the oddity of blaming the victim, you only have to take the argument to its logical conclusion. Since the Abbott Government was elected, more than 7000 jobs have been lost. Is this because we’ve seen a surge in laziness among Australians? Did the millions who lost their jobs worldwide in the global financial crisis just decide to put their feet up? Was the Great Depression the result of a historic collapse in the work ethic?

Realising that unemployment is driven more by the macro-economy than morality is important because it brings the focus back to where it should be. As Clinton strategist James Carville put it, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’.

Continue reading ‘OPINION – Government jobs target looks off target – Wednesday, 19 February 2014’ »

Breaking Politics – Transcript – Monday, 17 February 2014

Today I joined Chris Hammer, host of Fairfax Media’s Breaking Politics, for a wide-ranging discussion about this morning’s news including the upcoming meeting of G20 finance ministers in Sydney. Labor hopes Joe Hockey will use the meeting to tackle multinational profit shifting in order to maintain Australia’s tax base.



SUBJECT/S: Fairfax-Nielsen poll; unemployment; farmers’ assistance; G20 Finance Ministers; IMF report and the economy.

CHRIS HAMMER: By any measure last week was not a good one for the Government. On Monday Toyota announced it was going to no longer going to make cars in Australia and by Thursday unemployment figures were out showing that the jobless rate at increased to six per cent, the highest rate in a decade. And yet when Nielson polled voters between Thursday and Saturday last week the results were very good for the Government. On the two-party preferred vote, the Government is leading 52 to 48 per cent, that’s the Government up four point, the Opposition down four points from last November. And perhaps most worrying of all for the Labor Party, Bill Shorten’s approval rating is down a full 11 per cent to 40 per cent. To discuss the poll and other matters, I’m joined by Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Member for Fraser in the ACT.

Andrew, why is Labor not doing better in the polls?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Chris, I would expect the polls to jump around like a healthy ECG for the best part of the next three years. I’d say that political discourse wouldn’t be damaged if we are to leave the polls on page 17 where they belong. That’s an argument I’ll make when Labor’s up and when Labor’s down in the polls. Fundamentally we need to be concerned about economic figures, such as the jobs figures. These new job figures that have come out not only show that unemployment is at an 11 year low, but also show that the participation rate is at an eight year-low. So, many people are giving up looking for work and the loss in the full-time jobs has just been staggering: one every three minutes since the Government came to office and I think, leaving many Australians saying ‘this is a Government without a plan for jobs creation’ in the wake of some significant manufacturing job losses.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Politics – Transcript – Monday, 17 February 2014’ »

SPEECH – Labor’s stimulus – Thursday, 13 February

Today I delivered a speech in the House defending Labor’s stimulus measures which saved Australian jobs over the course of the Global Financial Crisis and allowed the Australian economy to emerge relatively unscathed.



DR ANDREW LEIGH (Fraser):  I thought I might begin my contribution with a couple of important numbers. One is the figure on the total amount that will be saved as a result of the passage of this bill, the Tax Bonus for Working Australians Repeal Bill 2013.

Mr Chris Bowen:  How many million?

Dr LEIGH:  ‘How many million?’ says the former and I hope future Treasurer of Australia, the member for a McMahon. The answer is not even one million; $250,000 will be saved by this bill which is taking up so much of the House’s time—a figure around the salary of a member of the House of Representatives, or a little more than that. Other numbers are relevant to the debate. One of those numbers would be the total deficits over four years before the member for North Sydney became the Treasurer and the total four year deficits afterwards. Before the member for North Sydney became the Treasurer, the total for deficits over four years in the pre-election fiscal and economic outlook was $54.6 billion; afterwards, under the Treasurer’s first budget update, $122.7 billion.

Continue reading ‘SPEECH – Labor’s stimulus – Thursday, 13 February’ »

Radio National Drive interview – Tuesday, 11 February 2014

This evening, I joined host Waleed Aly and NSW Senator Arthur Sinodinos for a discussion about the implications of the death of car manufacturing in Australia and the Assistant Treasurer’s attempt to windback Labor’s consumer-centred Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms. Here’s a podcast.

ABC NEWS 24 Interview – Thursday 6 February 2014

This afternoon I joined ABC News 24 host, Greg Jennett, to discuss a speech at the Lowy Institute delivered by Treasurer Joe Hockey today. Mr Hockey used the occassion to again trot out platitudes about the end of  ‘age of entitlement’ but showed he had no economic plan except cuts that will disproportionately hurt low and middle income Australians. Here’s the transcript:




SUBJECT/S: Ford jobs; Entitlements; G20.

GREG JENNETT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, has been listening to that [Joe Hockey’s] speech. He joins me now.


JENNETT: Thanks for coming in. Let’s start first of all with the issue of Ford. Closures were announced or an intention of them last year. This will come as an extra blow to workers there?

LEIGH: As I understand it, we haven’t had a formal announcement yet but certainly we’ve had some pretty dark days for jobs under this government, whether they’re Holden jobs that the Government goaded to leave or some of the other manufacturing jobs we’ve seen put in jeopardy by the Government’s decisions around SPC. So, it would be a concern and I think adds to uncertainty about Australia’s employment position at a time where clearly the Government is going to struggle to meet its own jobs target.

JENNETT: Was there enough flexibility within the package that the negotiated around that time last year to roll with these sort of developments and make sure that the workers are retrained and protected in some way?

Continue reading ‘ABC NEWS 24 Interview – Thursday 6 February 2014’ »

As a Coalition Report Noted, “Australia is a Low-Tax Country”

My op-ed today debunks claims that Australia is a high-taxing, high-spending nation.

Statistics on Spending Cut Tax Claims Down to Size, Canberra Times and Fairfax Online, 6 February 2014

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott alleged that the ABC was unpatriotic. This week, the ABC’s Fact Check unit found that claims by Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews were wrong. Put the two together, and you can’t help wondering if Mr Abbott’s next step will be to declare that facts are unAustralian.

But much as we can all get a chuckle from the Abbott Government’s media strategy, it’s the substance of Mr Andrews’ assertion that bears scrutiny. He described Australia’s welfare system as ‘not sustainable’, and warned of a European-style fiscal crunch within a decade.

Mr Andrews’ isn’t the only one making dodgy claims about the size of government. Speaking at a Senate inquiry last month, Commission of Audit chairman Tony Shepherd said that Australia’s budget involved ‘unsustainable largesse’, and that his Commission is examining ‘the size and scope of government’. Their remit is simple: cut government spending.

Rather than pursue an ideological agenda, the Abbott Government would do well to start with the evidence on how Australia’s government compares. In 2006, Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello requested a rundown on how Australia’s tax system compares with those in other countries. The report (co-authored by Peter Hendy, now a Liberal MP), concluded simply: ‘Australia is a low-tax country’. It pointed out that we have no wealth, estate, inheritance or gift taxes. For individuals, the report found that we have one of the lowest income tax burdens in the developed world.

Continue reading ‘As a Coalition Report Noted, “Australia is a Low-Tax Country”’ »

Monday Political Forum – ABC 702 Drive – 3 February 2014

Yesterday evening, ABC Radio’s Richard Glover hosted a political forum with me, Kathryn Greiner, former City of Sydney Commissioner and member of the Gonski review panel, and writer and publisher Richard Walsh. Topics included school funding, industry assistance, and potential piracy of Game of Thrones’ fourth season. Listen to the podcast here.

Launching a book on the Gillard Governments

Last night, I launched Chris Aulich’s edited book on the Gillard Governments at the University of Canberra.

Launch of Chris Aulich (ed), The Gillard Governments

University of Canberra

30 January 2014

Andrew Leigh MP

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, on whose lands we meet today.

It is a pleasure to be launching Chris Aulich’s edited book The Gillard Governments, the eleventh in the ‘Commonwealth Administration Series’ that has chronicled federal governments back to 1983. The title is plural: referring to Prime Minister Gillard’s Government at the end of the 42nd parliament and for much of the 43rd parliament.

As well as being a pleasure to launch this book, it’s also an honour. The editor presumably chose me because of one of the two records that I set during the 43rd parliament. During that parliament, I served for 99 days as a parliamentary secretary in the Gillard Government, making me the shortest-serving executive member of that government.[1] According to the Guinness Book of Records, people have spent more time in space, as a hostage, travelling by taxi and living in a hotel, than I spent in the executive. The other record is that during the 43rd parliament, I published two books (one on social capital, the other on inequality).

Or perhaps the honour of today’s invitation is due to the fact that I’m the local MP representing the University of Canberra, which has produced these Commonwealth Administration Series books for over thirty years.

This being Canberra, I can count among the book’s 24 contributors people who have been my boss, my co-worker, and my research assistant.

They are an impressive group, who bring expertise in policy and politics to bear in analysing the Gillard Governments.

If there is a general message that comes out of the policy analysis in this book, it is that Labor can count a significant number of legislative achievements under Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership. Continue reading ‘Launching a book on the Gillard Governments’ »

Talking Economics with Peter Van Onselen – 28 Jan 2014

On 28 Jan 2014, I spoke with Sky News host Peter Van Onselen about macroeconomics, jobs and how policy might affect the gap between battlers and billionaires.

Talking Budgets on 2CC

On 17 Dec 2013, I spoke with 2CC’s Luke Bona about Joe Hockey’s budget update, and the series of broken promises by the Abbott Government. Here’s a podcast.

Sky News Showdown – 17 December 2013

On Sky News Showdown, I discussed the Abbott Government’s first budget update, showing a significant deterioration in public finances, a significant potion of which is due to decisions made by the government.

Transcript: MYEFO Interview – ABC Radio Queensland









NICOLE DYER: With me Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Member for Fraser. Mr Leigh, good morning.

ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning Nicole.

DYER: So Labor fudged the figures, what’s your response to that?

LEIGH: It’s a worthy try on, but unfortunately it’s an approach which was foreclosed by none other than Peter Costello, the former Liberal Treasurer. He put in place a thing called the Charter of Budget Honesty back in the mid-1990s. When he put that in place, he said that the reason he was doing it was so that there would be a Pre-election Fiscal and Economic Outlook and elections could be conducted on the basis of facts and not on the basis of deceit.

DYER: Well how much responsibility then does Labor take for the budget deficit?

LEIGH: We take responsibility for taking on debt to save jobs in the Global Financial Crisis. We also take responsibility for the fact that when we took office, ours was the 15th largest economy in the world, and when we left office it was the 12th largest economy in the world. So that debt that we took on saved jobs in the global downturn. If you think we shouldn’t have debt, basically you think that we should have lost more jobs. But everything since the election, that’s Joe Hockey’s – the $9 billion that he’s given to the Reserve Bank, the multi-billion dollar tax cut he wants to give to mining billionaires…

DYER: But you can understand, Mr Leigh, you can understand why people are so confused because at one stage while Labor was in power, we were going to be in surplus and then of course that didn’t happen and then it had to be re-forecast, so were you stalling? Was Labor stalling to get to the federal election? I mean for how long did you know that there were major problems within the budget that would mean that there would be no surplus?

LEIGH: Nicole we take responsibility for the state of the books at the time when Labor left office. That was clearly set out in the Charter of Budget Honesty, and that gave us a deficit for this year of $30 billion.

DYER: Yeah, but how did Labor get it so wrong? I mean how realistic was the pre-election budget proposing to bring the budget back into surplus in four years, and it now looks like it will take over a decade?

LEIGH: Well, this isn’t Labor getting things wrong, this is decisions made by the Treasurer. The Treasurer has chosen to give $9 billion to the Reserve Bank – not $9 billion they’ve asked for, $9 billion he’s giving to them because he wants a bigger dividend later. The Treasurer is choosing to walk away from $3 billion of tax savings such as closing tax loopholes. The Treasurer is choosing to give a big tax cut to Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer. The Treasurer is choosing to move from our current, fair Paid Parental Leave scheme to an unfair scheme that will give $75,000 to millionaire parents when they have a child. They’re the Treasurer’s decisions and they’re what’s going to take the budget backwards in the statement that Joe Hockey’s bringing out today.

DYER: Andrew Leigh, thank you very much. Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Member for Fraser. No doubt, there’ll be a lot of poring over figures when the mid-year budget is handed down in Parliament today.

It’s your economy now, Joe Hockey

My op-ed in the SMH Online today looks at Joe Hockey’s attempt to find someone else to blame for his decisions.

Joe Hockey, it’s your economy now, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 2013

As a very junior lawyer, I once worked on a case representing a restaurant owner, who had sold his business. The new owners complained that they could not make as much money as he had done. When we looked into it, the reasons quickly became apparent. They had taken on their relatives as staff, fired the chef, and allowed grime to accumulate in the kitchen. They claimed that our client had misrepresented the true state of the restaurant when it was sold. But as the judge found, it was the new buyer’s shabby management that led to the losses.

Today, Joe Hockey is trying a similar trick. It’s been 101 days since the election, but rather than acting as the Treasurer of Australia, he’s frozen in Opposition mode, looking for someone to blame.

Continue reading ‘It’s your economy now, Joe Hockey’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 16 December 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I joined host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield to discuss the Coalition’s excuses for blowing out the budget, and whether Liberal Party MPs will be given the freedom to vote their conscience on same-sex marriage.




SUBJECT/S: Budget Update, DisabilityCare, Same-Sex Marriage

Continue reading ‘Sky AM Agenda – 16 December 2013’ »

Review of Ross Garnaut’s Dog Days

My short review of Ross Garnaut’s new book appears in this month’s AFR Boss magazine.

Review of Ross Garnaut, Dog Days: Australia After the Boom, Australian Financial Review, Boss Magazine, 6 December 2013

When judging a batsman in cricket, we often forget to account for the ground. We all know the Adelaide Oval has even bounce and short square boundaries compared to the MCG. But we still mistakenly think a batsman is doing better when he’s wielding the willow in Adelaide.

The same goes for economic policymakers. In the ‘salad days’ of the early-2000s, argues Ross Garnaut, ordinary policy looked celestial. In the ‘dog days’ of the post-GFC era, celestial economic policy could look ordinary. Poor decision-making in Mining Boom Mark I went unnoticed. In Mining Boom Mark II, everyone was a critic.

Continue reading ‘Review of Ross Garnaut’s Dog Days’ »