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.
I’d encourage anyone who has the time to read Emily’s full report. But for the busy types who frequent Capital Hill, she has also written a guest blog post, listing ten tips for pitching your ideas up to us pollies. Take it away Emily…
Ten Top Tips for Engaging with Politicians
By Emily Murray
Almost all of us have had a bit of a whinge at one point or another about our politicians. I can’t open a newspaper or visit my Granddad without hearing how the country’s going off track and how it could be fixed. It’s easier to throw stones than build bridges.
Have you ever tried taking your ideas and concerns to your politicians, and engaging them in a respectful discussion about an issue? The politicians I’ve met welcome meeting with their constituents and genuinely want to learn more about the issues that they face.
I’ve spent the last semester researching why politicians say yes or no to policy proposals from their constituents. Here are ten top tips to help you get your ideas on board!
Belconnen Arts Centre displayed a 3m x 2m map on their wall, where people could come in and locate their favourite places in Canberra’s north – the federal electorate of Fraser that I have the privilege to represent. Belconnen Arts Centre also facilitated information sessions at Gorman House Arts Centre, Gungahlin Library, and at their own location in Emu Bank, Belconnen. Local professional artist Maryann Mussared was on hand to help with the creative process.
Popular locations included local universities, mountains, popular walking spots and community facilities such as John Knight Park in Belconnen and Gungahlin Skate Park. We turned this into a Google Map of people’s favourite places.
I’ve now joined forces with design students from the University of Canberra to put some of those key places into an infographics map. The range of options and different ways of showing key northside places was incredible and I was impressed by the students’ creativity.
You can have a look at the different ideas the students came up with at the links below. My favourite was Michelle’s, and this will appear in my next community newsletter.
I spoke in parliament yesterday about social entrepreneurship in Canberra, discussing a breakfast meeting with social entrepreneurs and the Ben Donohue Walk and Run for Fun.
Social Entrepreneurs, 27 November 2012
On 16 October this year I held a breakfast meeting with a small but passionate group of local social entrepreneurs: Bradley Carron-Arthur, Courtney Slone, Katrina Marson, Melanie Poole, Tony Shields and Ben Moody. The aim of the breakfast was to bring together these social entrepreneurs to share their stories, experiences and their ideas for solving some of the challenges they face. I hope in the future they can act as a brains trust for one another and for other budding social entrepreneurs. Their projects range from coordinating volunteers and boosting mental health awareness to improving Australia’s international development efforts. I would like to thank them for their ideas and their efforts to assist those in need and for helping to build social capital. Social entrepreneurs are people who take an idea and with passion and persistence bring to fruition enterprises that assist those in need.
Wonderous Times With Newborns, The Chronicle, 6 November 2012
Ever wondered why a calf can walk after a few hours, while a baby takes a year to learn the same skill? It turns out that the problem arises from two features of humans – we stand on two legs (which requires a small and bony pelvis), but also have large brains (which are hard to fit through that pelvis). Evolution’s solution to this problem is that all humans are born – in a sense – prematurely. After emerging from the womb, we need more protection from the world than do most other animals.
I’m typing this article one-handed, with a one month old boy asleep in the crook of my left arm. There’s something extraordinary about new life – its beautiful vulnerability and that unique ‘new baby smell’ that disappears all too quickly. Zachary is our third child, and we’ve gotten a few things right this time that we wish we’d done before.
I was delighted to announce today that nominations for the 2012 National Volunteer Awards are now open. Head to www.notforprofit.gov.au/volunteering to nominate your favourite volunteer. More information is in the media release below.
Collecting for the Canberra Blind Society
THE HON MARK BUTLER MP
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing
Minister for Social Inclusion
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform
DR ANDREW LEIGH MP
Member for Fraser
JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
16 October 2012
NATIONAL VOLUNTEER AWARDS NOW OPEN
Andrew Leigh MP, Member for Fraser, today announced applications for the 2012 National Volunteer Awards were now open.
Dr Leigh said the Awards recognise the contribution of over 6 million Australians who volunteer their time in communities across the country.
“At times of great economic prosperity, it is easy to forget just how much our economy and society relies on the generosity of its people.
I spoke in parliament tonight about the proposed Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill, 17 September 2012
It is my pleasure to speak on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012. Strengthening Australian community life is a great passion of mine but it is an area which, in recent decades, we have sadly seen go backwards. I am going to do a little auto-citation, for which I apologise. In a book called Disconnected that I wrote a couple of years ago, I said that pretty much whichever way you cut it Australians are less involved in formal organisations than they were a generation ago. If you ask individuals whether they are active members of an organisation, you find that in 1967 33 per cent said yes but by 2004 just 18 per cent said yes.
I did a doorstop interview this morning covering a range of current events leading into another Parliamentary sitting week. Among other things, I pointed out that the weekend violence does not represent the mainstream of peaceful Muslims in Australia, and argued that horserace polls are the fairy floss of modern politics – they’re rotting the teeth of the body politic.
With last week’s launch of the 2013 Centenary of Canberra program, I’m particularly keen on the local angle. Portrait of a Nation, of which I’m a patron, will encourage Canberrans to use 2012-13 to learn more about the people after whom their streets and suburbs are named.
Of course, no history is complete without a counterfactual history, and that’s where celebtrity suburb names come in. This is the game where you see who can come up with the silliest suggestions of celebrities after whom your suburb could have been named.
Earlier this year, I posted a list of suggestions from Maryann Mussared, and then called Twitter for more. Here are some of those that came back:
@ArabellaSL – Pearce must be named after Guy Pearce & Russell after Russell Crowe
Nicholas Ellis – Weetangera after hip-hop band The Wu-Tang Clan
Karen Hardy – real housewives of the OC – o’connor.
Policy Australia – Had Bruce Hawker double dipped?*
Karin – Lyneham after Paul Lyneham (the late ABC journalist)
@TinyTheCabbie – Theodore after the chipmunk
David Mathews – Hughes after Merv Hughes
* This suggests another game. Who are the celebrities named after two suburbs? The only other I can think of is ANU economist Bruce Chapman.
Update: They keep coming.
@MarciaKKeegan – Harrison Forde
Ian Warden alerts me to this 2011 Canberra Times article, featuring adult film actress Paige Turner, Test cricketer Phillip Hughes, ABC journalist Russell Barton and retired English soccer goalkeeper Gordon Banks.
I spoke in parliament this week about electoral reform.
Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill, 22 August 2012
When I last spoke in the parliament supporting electoral reform, I noted my genuine delight in welcoming new Fraser residents onto the electoral roll. I spoke of how each month it is my pleasure to send enrolment forms and letters to potential and newly enrolled electors. But if we are to ensure we increase democratic participation we must also make it easier to vote. For the Labor Party, franchise and participation have always been important. Having as many votes as possible count in the next federal election matters to me and that is why this bill is important.
My Chronicle column this month is on volunteering, telling the tale of a Canberran who got active in her local community.
Volunteering can have a snowball effect, The Chronicle, August 2012
One of my passions in public life is revitalising Australia’s civic culture. Over the past generation, Australians have become more disconnected from one another. We’re less likely to be active members of a community group, and less likely to play an organised sport. Churches, unions and political parties are losing members. Surveys show that we have fewer close friends, and are less likely to know our neighbours.
That’s why it’s great to see individuals and organisations that are bucking the trend, and becoming more engaged. Recently, 27 year-old Julianne Livingston told me the story of how she had become more connected. Growing up in a relatively introverted household, Julianne wasn’t particularly civic-minded as a teenager, but she told me that in her mid-twenties, she had ‘began to long for a stronger sense of genuine connectedness and trust within my community’.
I spoke in parliament this morning about the ACT Welcome to Australia Day.
Welcome to Australia Day
27 June 2012
Last Saturday, it was my pleasure to join a significant group of Canberrans on the Welcome to Australia walk. Welcome to Australia walks were organised throughout Australia on Saturday. They recognise that there are thousands of Australians who do not care much for politics and do not know a great deal about immigration policy but do know that they care about people. Welcome to Australia began as a conversation between a number of individuals and not-for-profit organisations who believed that there needed to be a positive voice in the conversation around multiculturalism. Last Saturday was certainly a positive experience. The speakers included Henry Sherrell, the tireless organiser; MLA Joy Burch; Mark Kulasingham; Claire Doube; Dr Kim Huynh, from ANU, who told a wonderful story in which he used the analogy of tomato soup, salads and stir fries to describe the three alternative visions of multiculturalism; and Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan. Chris Bourke and Katy Gallagher from the ACT Legislative Assembly were also there.
The Hansard from the parliament’s biannual quizzing of the National Capital Authority became available today. For the benefit of Campbell residents who are interested in Development Application 74, I’ve pasted below the answers to my questions. The full transcript is available here.
I spoke in Parliament today about the late ABC journalist Alan Saunders, a polymath of the airwaves. My radio listening will be poorer for his passing.
18 June 2012
ABC’s Radio National is one of Australia’s great public institutions, and I rise to speak about the late Alan Saunders, who died unexpectedly last Friday. Alan Saunders spent 25 years with Radio National. He moved to Australia in 1981 to pursue research at the Australian National University’s History of Ideas unit, where he received a PhD. He received the Pascall Prize for critical writing and broadcasting in 1992. He contributed to programs about food, design and philosophy. As Amanda Armstrong put it:
My Chronicle column this week is about the late Nicole Osuch-Helsham.
A Life That is a Lesson for All of Us, The Chronicle, 5 June 2012
During the 2010 election campaign, one of the suburbs I doorknocked was Harrison. Before going door-to-door, I sent out a letter letting residents know I’d be in the area, and inviting people to contact me if they had any issues.
Nicole Osuch-Helsham phoned me up to say that after I’d finished doorknocking, her daughter Paige would like to interview me about politics. Nicole promised to provide coffee and cake.
When I arrived after an afternoon of doorknocking, a delicious cake had just come out of the oven, and 8 year-old Paige had a battery of questions. They were deeper questions than most professional journalists had been asking on the campaign trail: things like ‘So why are you in the Labor Party rather than the Liberal Party?’. (The following week, Paige also interviewed Liberal candidate James Milligan.)
After the interview was over, I told Nicole how impressed I was with Paige, but was also curious as to why she had invited me to pop by. It was then that Nicole told me that she had been diagnosed with secondary cancer – ‘not the Kylie Minogue kind of breast cancer, but the Jane McGrath kind’. The cancer had come back, and Nicole knew that she wouldn’t be around to share the teenage years with Paige and her younger sister Sierra. So she had quit her job, and was ‘packing all the parenting she could’ into the time remaining.
Volunteering is a strong tradition in Australia, nowhere more so than in the ACT. More than 6 million Australians volunteer each year – about 36% of the population. This number has grown significantly in the last decade and I hope we can raise it again this year.
To boost youth volunteering in our communities, the Gillard Labor Government is calling on budding young film makers aged 15 to under 25 to enter the volunteering video competition for young people.
Entrants are asked to create a video that will promote ways for young people to be involved in their community and capture the enjoyment, fun, and social interaction that volunteering brings.
The theme for this competition is “Your Passion, Our Nation. Volunteer Now!”
I spoke in parliament today about Canberra hosting the Girl Guides’ regional jamboree – for the first time in 47 years.
Girl Guides Jamboree
24 May 2012
On 16 April I attended the Girl Guides NSW & ACT Jamboree held at Exhibition Park, with the member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, and Trudy McIntosh, an intern in my office. There were over 550 guides aged between 10 and 17 who pitched their tents for a week of fun-filled activities and leadership workshops. This was the first jamboree to be held in Canberra since 1966. Margaret Norris, a long-time girl guide, attended the opening night’s celebrations and shared with the girls her experiences. Margaret had attended the first camp in Canberra in 1966 and her reflections were insightful.
Andrew Leigh and Grace Gill with Local Sporting Champions
I spoke in parliament last night about some of the many extraordinary volunteers in Canberra.
Volunteering in the ACT
22 May 2012
Over recent decades, Australians have lost social capital. We are less likely to be civically engaged in our communities; we are more disconnected than we once were. But this does not change the fact that there are many great volunteers in Australia, and no part of the country is more likely to volunteer than here in the ACT. Tonight I want to share with the House three stories of volunteering in the ACT worth celebrating.
Last week I attended the 2012 ACT Volunteer of the Year Awards. Across a wide range of awards the contribution that volunteers make to our community and our economy was recognised. The 2012 ACT Volunteer of the Year was Dr Mary Webb. Nominated by Multiple Sclerosis Ltd, Mary has provided volunteer service to those people in the Canberra community with MS. Over the years, she has also made a valuable contribution through her service to various advisory bodies.