In the AFR bumper edition, I have a column on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the publication of Donald Horne’s classic, The Lucky Country.
Hard to Find Equality in the Lucky Country, Australian Financial Review, 20-26 December 2013
If you could take a one-way trip in a time machine back to 1964, would you choose to do so? Before you answer, recall that your income (accounting for purchasing power) would be less than half what it is today, and your life expectancy at least a decade shorter.
If you’re female, you would face greater sexual harassment and more pay discrimination. If you’re non-Anglo, you would be more vulnerable to violence. If you’re a gay man, sexual activity would be illegal. If you’re Indigenous, there would be pools and pubs displaying signs that said ‘No Blacks’.
And yet there are two important metrics on which things have worsened over the past half-century.
Last night I delivered a speech in Parliament commending members of my electorate for the quality and quantity of their social and volunteer interactions as well as the great work of our young social entrepeneurs:
I rise tonight to speak on the strength of community in my electorate of Fraser. As is well known, the ACT has some of the highest rates of social capital in the nation. The most generous postcode, as measured by tax deductible gift donations, is 2602. The highest rates of volunteering of any state and territory are in the ACT. The ACT also has high rates of sporting participation, community club membership and even, according to the Clean Up Australia Day survey, low rates of litter.
Australians may have become disconnected over recent decades, but Canberra is a strongly connected city. Last Thursday, it was my pleasure to attend Volunteering ACT’s Volunteering EXPO held in Albert Hall. The Volunteering EXPO brought together a plethora of ACT community groups, each looking for new volunteers. Ninety per cent of ACT voluntary groups say that they want more volunteers. It was a real pleasure to stroll the through the halls set up, as it were, as an Easter show of giving back to the community. Many of the local groups I spoke to had already signed up volunteers and were hoping to do so the following day.
This week, I spoke in parliament about a barbecue for the homeless at the Canberra Early Morning Centre.
Homelessness BBQ, 5 December 2013
On 26 November 2013 it was my pleasure with Team Leigh volunteers to put on a barbecue at the Canberra Early Morning Centre, as part of Social Inclusion Week. Social Inclusion Week, created by Jonathon Welch, aims to ensure that all Australians feel included and valued. It is about connecting local communities, workmates, family and friends and addressing isolation, loneliness and homelessness.
My Chronicle column this week celebrates the community spirit of the Canberra northside.
Celebrate the Spirit of Community, The Chronicle, 3 December 2013
Former Labor Senator Bob Carr once said that to truly be grounded in your community, you need to know something about its history and its geography. You need to know the stories of the people who’ve lived in your neighbourhood, and how their lives have been shaped by the physical nature of the place you love.
One of the delightful features of this year’s Canberra Centenary program has been ‘Parties at the Shops’ – a chance for local communities to celebrate the things that are special about their suburb. You might need road signs to find the local shops in Canberra, but our suburban communities are something to be proud of.
RESIDENTS URGED TO THROW A STREET PARTY THIS SUMMER
With summer now officially here, Federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh called on Canberrans to get out and party this season by having their neighbours around for a street party.
“Street parties are a great way to reconnect with neighbours and get to know one another,” said Andrew Leigh.
“The festive season provides a perfect excuse to have the street around one weekend afternoon for drinks and a bit of fun.
“It’s easier than you think and a great way to build community spirit. Simply pick a date, print a short invite and walk them around to the neighbours. And thanks to the magic acronym BYO all you have to do is provide the venue.
Street parties can also be held at a local park or in the street itself provided its safe.
“To make it even easier I’ve put a template invitation on my website (see below) to use or adapt.”
“Knowing your neighbours makes life easier when you decide to replace the fence, host a noisy party, or hit a cricket ball into their yards. You’re also less likely to get burgled if your neighbours know you.”
Over the past two decades there’s been a noticeable drop in the number of neighbours Australians feel able to ask favours from or neighbours they can simply drop in on.
“Street parties are a bit of fun and good way to build social capital in our suburbs.”
Sunday, 1 December 2013
We’re holding a summer street party to celebrate the season and get to know the neighbourhood.
Our address is: _______________________________
RSVP by phoning: _______________________________
Please bring something to eat or something to drink.
I spoke in parliament about Canberra’s strong community spirit, and the 50th birthday parties for two of my local communities – Watson and Hackett.
Suburbia is an oft maligned word in Australia, but our suburban communities here in the ACT are something to be proud of. As part of the Canberra centenary, Canberra has been celebrating the unique character, the history of our local communities. As the Parties at the Shops grouping as part of the Canberra centenary has noted, Canberra is probably the only city in the world where you have to have road signs to find the shops, secluded as they are from our leafy avenues.
My Chronicle column this month continues the community-building theme, with a discussion of community-business partnerships.
Community Help from Business and Government, The Chronicle, 3 September 2013
A few weeks ago, I attended the opening of MLC Advice Canberra, a new financial planning business run by 30 year-old Michael Miller. In my role as your federal MP, I go to a lot of office openings, but this one was different. Alongside the finance boffins were a veritable who’s who of Canberra community organisations.
Care Inc director Carmel Franklin came along because Michael serves on her board. Others came to recognise his donations. With each new client, Michael makes a donation to Diabetes ACT, Menslink, or the UC Foundation for regional and Indigenous youth. When I asked him about this, Michael smiled and replied ‘Well, I’m young and I don’t have kids. The business is doing well, so why shouldn’t I help others too?’
Government has an important role in reducing disadvantage, whether it’s through DisabilityCare, Indigenous employment programs, or uncapping university places so more children can be the first in their family to get a tertiary education. But we also need to unleash the potential of Australia’s charities. Partly, that’s about the new Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, which will reduce the burden of regulation and reporting. But it’s also about encouraging collaborations between innovative businesses and great charities.
An article in today’s Canberra Times discusses the preference-ordering on the ALP How-to-Vote card for Fraser. The journalist made no attempt to contact me before going to press, leaving readers with the unfortunate impression that I support an extremist party.
As someone who is passionate about multiculturalism, eliminating discrimination, and building community, I was disappointed not to be offered a chance to respond. So here’s a summary of what’s going on.
In federal elections, it’s compulsory to number all boxes. So major parties’ How-to-Vote cards typically number all the boxes.
In choosing a recommended numbering for the ALP How-to-Vote card, we could do one of two things.
We could number all the boxes in our order of preference. For me, this would put the Greens above the Liberals, above any party with a racist agenda.
We could number the boxes in the simplest way possible, to reduce informal voting caused by people making mistakes.
Whether you do strategy #1 or strategy #2 depends crucially on whether you think there’s a chance of your preferences being distributed. Any candidate who comes third or lower has their preferences distributed. The top two candidates’ preference ordering is irrelevant.*
And here’s the thing. Since the seat of Fraser was created in 1974, preferences of the Labor and Liberal candidates have never been distributed. In other words, it has never mattered in Fraser how Labor voters numbered the other boxes.
This morning, Liberal candidate Zed Seselja and I spoke with hosts Rod and Biggzy on Mix 106.3. Topics included risk management, Coalition costings, the sacking of Raiders coach David Furner, and catching Biggzy’s cousin on one of my phonecalls to electors. Here’s a podcast.
Today I joined my parliamentary colleagues to launch our 2013 election campaign. We also announced $10 million for the second stage of the University of Canberra’s Sports Hub, a new sport and health research, training and administration facility to inspire and engage young people in sport and fitness across the capital region. My thanks to our volunteers and the ACT Labor team including Chris Sant who is running for the second Senate seat and candidate for Hume Michael Pilbrow. Continue reading ‘ACT Labor election launch and major investment in regional sports hub’ »
My Chronicle column this month looks at fostering young leaders in the ACT.
Fostering the ACT’s Young Future Leaders, The Chronicle, 6 August 2013
In public life, it’s all too easy to confuse leadership with power – to think that the only ones who exercise leadership are generals, judges, ministers and CEOs.
In fact, leadership is much richer and more diffuse. All of us have the ability to lead in our own communities. We’ve seen leadership from the community organisers who ran a successful campaign to provide Safe Shelter to the homeless; the coordinators in Volunteering ACT who join up volunteers to community organisations; the entrepreneurs who created innovation hub Entry 29; and activist Liz Dawson who has persuaded dentists to do pro bono work to give people back their smiles.
Leaders aren’t found on pedestals, they’re all around us.
My op-ed in the Daily Telegraph today is on the importance of enrolling before rolls close on 12 August.
Don’t miss your chance to decide country’s future, Daily Telegraph, 9 August 2013
One vote can make the difference.
In the 1919 federal election, the seat of Ballarat was won by National Party candidate Edwin Kerby with 13,569 votes, defeating – by just one vote – Labor’s Charles McGrath with 13,568 votes. Had any one of Kerby’s supporters changed their mind, the result would have been different.
My Chronicle column this month tells the story of Soraj Habib.
Inspiring Tale Reflects Best of Canberra, The Chronicle, 2 July 2013
Soraj Habib was nine years old when the bomb he was holding exploded. He had been out with his family to a picnic at Thakhtah Safar park in Herat, a city in western Afghanistan. He had picked up the yellow can thinking it might contain food rations. It turned out to be an unexploded cluster bomb.
On 25 June 2013, I spoke with Sky host David Speers and Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos about the government’s proud record on jobs, pricing carbon and creating DisabilityCare; and the future reform agenda on education and innovation.
I spoke in parliament tonight about the need to reduce cyberbullying.
Reducing Cyberbullying, 24 June 2013
Bullying has long posed a challenge for schools, parents, workplaces and, most significantly, its victims. It also poses a challenge for us legislators, and it is a challenge the Gillard government has sought to address through initiatives such as the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, through directing more than $20 million to the Fair Work Commission to provide victims of workplace bullying with a quick and effective way to resolve bullying at work and prevent it ever happening again.
But, as online communications become increasingly prevalent in our offices, our schools and our social lives, it is clear that combating bullying needs to adjust to take this new dimension into account. It is especially important we recognise the safety and security needs of young people, who are growing up in a world with greater digital use than any previous generation.
I spoke in Parliament today about the weekend’s Welcome to Australia walk.
‘Welcome to Australia’ Walk Together, 24 June 2013
In my first speech in this place I spoke about my maternal grandparents—a boilermaker and a teacher—who lived by the credo that if there was a spare room in the house it should be used by someone who needed the space. As a child, I remember eating dinner at their house with migrants who lived with them and hearing the stories of their having come from Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. That experience informed my lifelong passion for Australian multiculturalism.
I spoke in parliament today about the launch of Entry 29, Canberra’s newest place for start-ups.
Innovation in Canberra, 27 March 2013
Last Wednesday, I attended the launch of Entry 29, a co-working innovation space located just on the edge of the ANU campus in Acton. The name Entry 29 has a terrific connection to Canberra’s history. In the federal capital design competition to design Canberra, 137 entries were submitted and the winner was the 29th entrant. In memory of Canberra’s history and with an eye to Canberra’s future, the Canberra community decided to call this innovation space Entry 29.
It’s occasionally been forgotten since he left the Labor leadership nearly a decade ago, but when he chooses to engage in policy, Mark Latham has a lot to say. He is optimistic about the intellectual and organisational future of the Labor Party, and appropriately proud of the role we have played in opening up the Australian economy in the 1980s and 1990s and dealing with climate change today.
One big question Labor thinkers are always willing to wrestle with is how the party’s guiding philosophy should evolve. Political parties invariably adapt as society changes, but Labor’s options have particularly opened up as the Coalition has shrunk into what Anthony Albanese has tagged ‘the noalition’. When Tony Abbott calls for a ‘people’s revolt’ against a market-based mechanism for dealing with climate change, it’s hard to know whether to criticise him for abandoning conservatism or trashing liberalism.
On 27 March 2013, I spoke at the Australia Institute’s “Politics in the Pub” about strengthening community life, drawing on some of the ideas in my 2010 book Disconnected. In case you missed it, here’s a video of the event.
I spoke in parliament today about some terrific Canberrans who’ve spent their time volunteering in developing countries.
International Volunteering, 21 March 2013
On 19 February I held a morning tea for volunteers in my electorate who have worked with various international development programs. They shared their experiences and stories of the rewards, frustrations and challenges of volunteering in a developing country.
Roger Butler worked with the National Narcotics Board in Indonesia and was involved with the health and drug therapeutic community division. An important aspect of the division was to support those undergoing drug rehabilitation programs, including many in and recently released from Indonesian gaols. He worked to reduce the prevalence of HIV and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis with this population.
I spoke in parliament today about some optimistic and inspiring stories of youth social entrepreneurship and volunteering.
Youth Activism, 14 March 2013
I rise to speak about three examples of inspiring youth activism. This morning it was my pleasure to meet some of the Oaktree Roadtrip youth ambassadors. These are a group of young Australians who are travelling the country aiming to gather 100,000 names of Australians who support the movement to end poverty, a movement that will show public support for increased foreign aid—as this government has been delivering. I particularly enjoyed spending time with the Canberra Roadtrippers, having farewelled them from Canberra only on Saturday at the Australian National University. Since then, they have travelled to Western Sydney, to Eden and to Cooma and they are back hitting the road again tomorrow. They will be part of a great movement to bring an end to extreme poverty.
I spoke today on a bill to give the ACT Assembly the power to set its own size.
Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill, 12 March 2013
It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2013 today, the 100th birthday of Canberra. This morning we had a re-enactment out the front of Parliament House of the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone. I have here the program for that ceremony, which was held on 12 March 1913. Today’s ceremony aimed to shadow that historic ceremony of 1913, when sheep greatly outnumbered the residents of Canberra. The ceremony this morning acknowledged the rich history of Canberra—not only the political heritage but also the social tapestry of the city. I was very pleased today to hear the member for Stirling speak so warmly of the city that I have the honour to represent in the federal parliament.
Walter Burley Griffin said that he was designing a city for a nation of ‘bold democrats’. To borrow a phrase from Seamus Heaney, I have always thought of Canberra as being the kind of place where hope and history rhyme. In the centenary celebrations, Canberra has been given an opportunity to celebrate but also to remember much of our history. Historian David Headon has produced a series of centenary booklets and centenary director Robyn Archer has made sure that history has been interwoven into the celebrations.
I spoke today about the federal government actions that have made a positive difference in my electorate of Fraser.
Appropriations Bills, 12 February 2013
There are several old chestnuts the Liberals can be relied on to trot out every election year, and one of those that we hear so often in the ACT is the line, ‘Labor ignores Canberra’—the suggestion that somehow Labor governments take Canberra for granted. But, unfortunately for the Liberals, the people of Fraser are a clever bunch. They are able to see through this line easily, because it is so demonstrably false. The investments that this Labor government has made in Fraser are visible everywhere, from the Majura Parkway to the National Broadband Network rolling out and the many schools enjoying new facilities thanks to the Building the Education Revolution program.
In fact, if you were to take the time to visit all of the sites where Labor has invested in my electorate of Fraser, you would be taking a pretty comprehensive tour of Canberra’s north. I can even provide you with a loose itinerary. You can set off from the flourishing suburb of Braddon, where my electorate office is located and where Minister for Human Services Kim Carr and I opened a one-stop shop for Medicare and Centrelink in October last year. The co-location of these facilities is a core part of Labor’s service delivery reforms. It is making access to housing, health, crisis support, education and training, and family and financial support easier for Canberrans.
I spoke in parliament today about the passing of James Savoulidis, who emigrated to Australia from Greece in the 1930s.
James Savoulidis, 7 February 2013
I rise to pay tribute to James Savoulidis, known as ‘Gentleman Jim’, who passed away on 20 December last year at the age of 93. Gentleman Jim was Canberra’s pizza pioneer. He was born in Greece, grew up during the Great Depression and was sent to Australia in 1938 by parents who wanted a better life for him. In 1959 he settled here in Canberra and opened a number of businesses, including the Mondial Night Club in East Row. He helped many Greek families who migrated to Australia get established in Canberra. In 1971 he established the Plaka restaurant in Mawson, where Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was a regular patron. As I noted in my first speech to this place, it was James Savoulidis who taught Gough Whitlam to dance the Zorba.
My Chronicle column this month is on love and related adventures.
Valentine’s Day is a time for new and old love, The Chronicle, 5 February 2013
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s probably no more inappropriate song to be listening to than Tim Minchin’s ‘If I didn’t have you… I’d probably have someone else’. In the song, Minchin tells us he thinks it’s mathematically pretty unlikely that he met the one girl on earth specifically designed for him while studying at a university in Perth. Life is chaos, he argues, not fate.
My column in the Chronicle this week is on local Canberra history, and a chance to get to know your neighbours a little better.
A good year to have a street party and make new friends, The Chronicle, 8 January 2013
January in Canberra. The cicadas in the Northbourne Avenue eucalypts are singing by 9am. Lakeshore paths are pounded with the determination of many new year’s resolutions. Most of us are heading back into the office (hopefully a bit more relaxed than when we left, and perhaps gently sunkissed).
I’m particularly excited for 2013 to get underway, because – as you would no doubt know – this year marks the Centenary of Canberra. It’s a great chance to learn more about the city’s past, to experience all the wonderful things it has to offer, and to have conversations about its future.