Last night I spoke in the Parliament about how Australia’s first independent charities regulator is providing an important service to consumers and donors. Scrapping the Australian Charities and Not For Profits Commission will make members of the public more vulnerable to charity scams.
DR ANDREW LEIGH: In November last year police in Mackay alerted local residents to a scam that was taking place. Residents around Andergrove in the southern suburbs reported people doorknocking, posing as collectors for Autism Queensland. They were attempting to get bank details from vulnerable residents. Autism Queensland had no collectors in the area.
This story of scammers posing as charitable collectors is sadly not an isolated incident.
Last month, ABC’s 7.30 uncovered a children’s education charity which had received nearly $1 million in donations but could not or would not say where some of those funds have gone. In other developments, scammers targeted Australian households last year with emails asking people to donate to phony bushfire appeals.
I am passionate about standing up for consumers and I know my friend and colleague the shadow parliamentary secretary to the shadow Treasurer is too. If we are to stand up for the interests of consumers then we need an organisation that will report dodgy dealings by charities, and that organisation is the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Summer’s Over But it’s Still a Great Time to Swim, The Chronicle, 4 March 2014
In almost every Tim Winton novel, there comes a point where the main character has to escape the problems of life, and dives into the water for a swim. The strokes come painfully at first, but after a while, the characters find a rhythm. By the time they leave the water, they’re physically tired and emotionally cleansed.
While my troubles are a good deal easier to solve than Winton’s characters, I can’t help identify with his love of the water. Few things mark summer for me like diving into the crisp calm of a pool on a scorchingly hot day. There’s a sense of leaving the heat behind, and allowing the water to envelop you. Whether you’re a mellow breaststroker, a furious butterflier, or a plodding freestyler, the discipline of a good swim is a rare delight.
I spoke in parliament today about the new report rating Canberra as Australia’s most liveable city.
Liveable Canberra, 3 March 2014
The member for Canberra and I have long known that this is Australia’s most livable city, but a new report from the Property Council has provided statistical evidence to back up that fundamental truth.
Opposition members interjecting—
Dr LEIGH: I appreciate the calls of support I received from my own side on this. Canberra is a city that enjoys greater levels of sporting participation and greater levels of community activity. Canberrans are more likely to volunteer their time, more likely to donate their money and more likely to be part of a community group that gives back to their society.
Today Michelle Rowland and I issued a joint media release urging ACT Senator Zed Selelja to come clean and acknowledge there was money allocated in the federal budget for assistance to the Gunghalin Jets and other groups awarded grants under the Building Multicultural Communities Program. The Abbott Government has abandoned organisations who were successful in applying for those grants.
SESELJA CAUGHT OUT ON FUNDING CUTS
Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Michelle Rowland, has called on ACT Senator Zed Seselja to front-up to organisations in the ACT, including the Gungahlin Jets, and explain to them why his Government has cut their funding rather than misleading his constituents.
Speaking on radio yesterday Senator Seselja falsely claimed that funding the Abbott Government ripped away from the Gungahlin Jets wasn’t budgeted for under the Building Multicultural Communities Program.
Senator Seselja: “They promised something they didn’t have the money for. They didn’t allocate the money for it.” – 2CC – MONDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2014
“Senator Seselja is either blatantly misleading the good people at the Gungahlin Jets or is too incompetent to read Labor’s 2013/14 Budget[i] and the MYEFO document his Government prepared[ii],” Ms Rowland said.
The Canberra Times today runs an op-ed from me on the Abbott Government’s shabby treatment of the Gungahlin Jets.
Struggling Gungahlin Jets have been robbed twice, Canberra Times, 17 February 2014
Among the guardians of Canberra’s community spirit are the people who keep our sporting clubs running. On scorching days and freezing nights, thousands of volunteers throughout Canberra make sure that there are sporting opportunities for everyone aged four to 94.
These people don’t ask much from the government, but occasionally a small grant can go a long way. One of these programs is Labor’s Building Multicultural Communities program, which gave $66,000 to the Gungahlin Jets to refurbish their clubhouse, and make it more secure.
ProBono Australia News this morning published my opinion piece on why the Abbott Government would be foolish to axe the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. The online news service also produced a story confirming that Commission staff have been offered voluntary redundancies as part of a major public service jobs cutting move by the Tax Office.
Government Should Keep the Australian Charities Commission
Over recent weeks, we’ve heard a lot from the Abbott Government about the need for transparency and accountability. These are worthy values; the public interest is rarely served by secrecy and the lack of a proper complaints process.
So it is surprising that those who believe in open government want to abolish the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC): a body that handles complaints and ensures charities are transparent and accountable.
For decades, independent reports have made the case for an independent ACNC. It was after all a 2001 Howard Government report that concluded a Commission would provide “a clear and consistent accountability framework…to maintain and enhance public confidence in the integrity of charities and related entities”.
Created by Federal Labor, the ACNC is functioning well and in the public interest, actively working to protect public trust and confidence in charities. It has registered 2000 new charities in the past year, in addition to 58,000 existing organisations. And just as lawyers and doctors’ professional associations maintain their standing by investigating complaints, so too the Commission plays a similar role by looking into allegations of bad behaviour by charities.
My Chronicle column this month is on the tension between the online and offline world.
Real world has warm people with offline lives, The Chronicle, 7 January 2014
In an article for the Weekly Standard last year, Matt Labash launched a broadside against social media, arguing that sites like Facebook, Pintrest and Twitter were turning our society into a “Twidiocracy”. Labash bemoaned the fact that so many of us incessantly check our mobile phones for updates, rather than engaging with those around us.
As a pretty regular user of social media, I read Labash’s column with a red face. If I’m catching a bus or plane, I’m much more likely to be plugged into a device than chatting with the person next to me. My wife Gweneth took a photo that makes me cringe, showing me at our kitchen counter, answering constituent email on the laptop while our boys (aged 1, 4 and 6) played under my feet.
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.