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

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


Battlers and Billionaires: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat*

National Press Club Address



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

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

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

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

Carbon Pricing

I spoke in parliament on Australia’s backsliding on climate action, while other countries almost universally do more to address the challenge.

Climate Change, 17 March 2014

I rise to speak tonight on the issue of climate change. As the House knows, the historic Australian climate change legislation, passed under the previous government, has seen significant improvements in our environment. Electricity sector emissions fell by 5.5 per cent over the year to September 2013; emissions from companies covered by the carbon pricing mechanism fell by seven per cent in 2012-13. Inflation was within the Reserve Bank’s target band. Growth has continued. Productivity has modestly picked up. And we have not seen any Australian cities wiped off the map. The introduction of the Australian carbon pricing scheme was done in a manner which accords with textbook economics. While putting a price on the negative externality, that of carbon pollution contributing to climate change, we reduced income taxes for low- and middle-income earners to ensure that they became no worse off.

Labor went to the last election pledging to link our carbon price with international schemes. If we compare scrapping emissions pricing with moving to a floating price, the impact on inflation in 2014-15 is less than one-quarter of a percentage point. The government in Australia is running in very much a different direction from most countries around the globe.

Continue reading ‘Carbon Pricing’ »

Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate

My speech at the Lowy Institute looks at population size, immigration flows and refugee policy.

Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate*

Lowy Institute
13 March 2014

Andrew Leigh
Shadow Assistant Treasurer
Federal Member for Fraser

I’ve wanted to say something about this rather controversial topic for a long time. Now that I take to the podium, I can’t help thinking of an epitaph Dorothy Parker penned for her gravestone: ‘Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.’

A great epitaph for a writer. Perhaps not so much for a politician. Nevertheless, I hope what follows shows that my belief in evidence is stronger than my desire to avoid tough questions.

If there’s one thing that’s really big in the population size debate, it’s the size of the scare campaigns made by both sides.

A big Australia, one side tells us, is a ‘catastrophe’[1] that ‘risks destroying our traditions and even our common language’.[2] Immigration has ‘undermined our higher education system, [and] put intolerable pressure on an overstretched health and transport system’.[3] Some go further, blaming ‘limp-wristed citizenship requirements’ for ‘ethnic crime waves sweeping across our nation, where samurai swords and machetes have become part of the media lexicon’.[4]

Not to be outdone, the other side of the debate argue that: ‘Putting caps on growth would turn Australia into a stagnant, ageing and inward-looking country – a basket case to rival the declining states of Europe.’[5] Some have warned that if population growth is too slow, the share market would stagnate, small businesses would be unable to fund their ventures, taxes would rise, and debt would balloon.[6]

Continue reading ‘Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate’ »

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’ »

Monday Breaking Politics – 25 November 2013

In my regular discussion on Breaking Politics with Tim Lester about issues shaping the news, I spoke about potential GST reform for online purchases and the Abbott Government’s adoption of a new position on Israel at the UN. I also caution against a Grattan Institute plan to delay access to aged pensions.





SUBJECT/S: Israeli settlements, Age/Nielsen Poll, GST and online purchases, carbon pricing, pension age.

TIM LESTER: The Abbott government appears to have made a contentious, but largely unreported change in a critical foreign policy stance in recent days. Has it reduced Australia’s opposition to some of the most contentious of Israeli activities in the West Bank, including the construction of settlements? Every Monday Breaking Politics is joined by Labor MP from Canberra, Andrew Leigh. Welcome in Andrew.


LESTER: Tell me, what worries you about Australia’s foreign policy approach to Israel and the Palestinians at the moment?

LEIGH: As a good friend of Israel’s, I believe Australia should be committed to a two-state solution. That means that we need to ensure that Israel maintains the adherence to international norms which are so vital in bringing about a two state solution. There’s a thing called the Geneva Convention, we’ve had it for more than 60 years, that says that if you’re an occupying power, you shouldn’t deport people out of the territories you occupy or transfer new people into it. But we’ve seen occupied settlements going up 70 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the first half of last year. That was deplored under Labor, sitting with the vast consensus in the international community as being illegal against international law. But now the Coalition has back-flipped on that and voted with just eleven countries against 160 countries that believe that Israel should adhere to international law.

Continue reading ‘Monday Breaking Politics – 25 November 2013’ »

2CC Breakfast Interview – 22 November 2013

This morning I spoke with Mark Parton about the impact of DFAT’s takeover of AusAID and the prospect of the Abbott Government having to compensate ditched and devastated public service graduates. We also discussed carbon policy with the Coalition’s repeal package due for defeat in the Senate. Here’s the 2CC audio.

Carbon Pricing and Future Generations

I spoke in parliament in the final few minutes of the House debate over repealing the carbon price.

It is my pleasure to follow the member for Dawson in this debate—somebody who I think exposes the real truth at the heart of the coalition’s opposition to an emissions trading scheme. That opposition is not because they accept the science and dispute the economics. It is fundamentally because those opposite do not accept the science of climate change. The member for Dawson has been very clear about that. He thinks that 97 per cent of the world’s scientists are wrong and he, instead, has the truth. I argued with the member for Canning on Twitter but eventually, about 20 tweets in, I just had to let him go because—

Mr Christiansen intervening -

I stopped the Twitter battle with the member for Canning at a certain point when I finally got bored, but he was taking on the Bureau of Meteorology. They are now, of course, responsible for the Bureau of Meteorology, but the member for Canning disputes the bureau’s finding that Australia has just experienced the hottest summer on record, the hottest winter on record and is on track to experience the hottest year on record.

Continue reading ‘Carbon Pricing and Future Generations’ »

Carbon Price Repeal Bills

I spoke in parliament today about the importance of maintaining a cap on carbon pollution.

‘You cannot have a climate change policy without supporting this ETS at this time.’ It is a marker of how far we have gone in this debate that when I quote Tony Abbott’s words from 27 November 2009 the other side interjects. Many Australians believe in the science of climate change and believe in the benefits of a market based mechanism. Yesterday in Canberra, I spoke at one of the major climate change rallies that saw 60,000 people turn out across Australia. From Wagga Wagga to Launceston to Broome to Alice Springs to Cairns and to Frankston, Australians turned out to show their commitment to strong action on climate change.

Continue reading ‘Carbon Price Repeal Bills’ »

Monday Breaking Politics – 18 November 2013

This morning, in my usual slot with host Tim Lester in the Fairfax Breaking Politics studio, I discussed some of the stories making news today including the stark difference in approach between Tony Abbott and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron over alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. Here’s the full transcript:





Subjects: Sri Lanka and human rights, child care review, shopper dockets, debt ceiling, role of the Speaker of the House of Representatives

TIM LESTER: The approach of two conservative leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka could not have been more marked. Britain’s David Cameron visited some disaffected families in one part of the country, also upset the government by calling for a war-crimes enquiry. Australia’s Tony Abbott, well he gave the Government a couple of patrol boats to help with asylum seekers and seemed only to praise them. Which leader was right? Well, to discuss that issue and others, we’re joined on Mondays in [the] Breaking Politics studio by Andrew Leigh, Labor MP here in Canberra. Andrew, thank you for coming in.

ANDREW LEIGH: A pleasure Tim.

LESTER: Who was right in their approach to Sri Lanka, Britain’s David Cameron or our Tony Abbott?

LEIGH: I think when we go overseas Tim, we do a little part of the exercise of telling the rest of the world what Australia is – what we stand for. Through each of our statement and our actions we convey Australian values and to have Mr Abbott in Sri Lanka saying of torture, ‘I accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen’ was to me pretty troubling.  That attitude seemed to contradict what I would have seen as a long standing principle going right back through Labor and conservative prime ministers of Australia that we would never accept that there are any difficult circumstances in which torture was acceptable. David Cameron conveyed his country’s values to the world. Mr Abbott, I think, took a domestic political agenda that was smaller than the big-hearted country he represents.

Continue reading ‘Monday Breaking Politics – 18 November 2013’ »

Labor’s legacy & broken Coalition promises

I delivered a speech in the House of Representatives today – what’s called an ‘Address in Reply’ in response to the Government’s opening speech – exploring Labor’s strong economic and policy legacy. I  urged the ALP to remain the party of big  ideas and one underpinned by key principles of fairness, inclusion and equality and I lamented the Abbott Government’s early and disappointing broken promises. Here’s the full text thanks to Hansard.

Can I congratulate the members for Bass and Corangamite on the passion with which they have delivered their first speeches and hope that they will serve their constituencies with the same energy and passion as their predecessors did.

I want to begin my remarks today with the stories of two constituents of mine: Carol and Denise. Denise has a 21-year-old son, Tim, with Down syndrome. She regularly has to prove his eligibility for a modest Centrelink payment and work within a system that has not been working for her and has not been working for Tim. Tim’s chromosomes are not going to change, but the old system required her to prove that. DisabilityCare will change that.

Then there is 48-year-old Carol, who works as a cleaner. Despite working on Sundays to earn some overtime she still earns less than $37,000 a year. Carol is not alone. A lot of low-income workers in cleaning, aged care, retail and hospitality are not full time and they are predominantly women. The removal of the low-income superannuation contribution will affect 3.6 million Australians and two-thirds of them are women. All of them, like Carol, work hard to make ends meet. They are the mothers who work part time because they are looking after young children. For them, saving for later in life is not a tax strategy.

DisabilityCare and the low-income superannuation contribution demonstrate how Labor take the initiative to defend those who are doing it tough. Labor are the party of ideas and we are the party of reform, the party with the courage to make the big decisions when they are needed. As the opposition leader said at this year’s Fraser lecture:

‘We’re the dreamers, doers and fighters.

‘We have ideas, and … we’re prepared to fight to make them a reality.’

I agree. Only the Labor Party is prepared to fight for a fair go for all and shoulder the responsibility for reform. Only Labor knows that reform must balance economic imperatives with social need and hope. I am sorry to say that that is in stark contrast to the approach of the Abbott government. We have already seen how quick they are to protect sympathetic vested interests and how much quicker they are to slug those doing it tough.

The Treasurer would have you believe that drastic action has to be taken because of the economic legacy left by Labor. Over the next few weeks we are doubtless going to hear, time and time again, what a terrible state the economy is in. Before the Treasurer attempts to airbrush recent history, let’s take a sober and sensible look at the economy that the government have inherited and what they have done with it so far. That look has to recognise the simple, fundamental truth. The government have inherited economic statistics and public finances that are better than those of almost any country in the developed world.

Continue reading ‘Labor’s legacy & broken Coalition promises’ »

Monday Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media – 11 November 2013

This morning I spoke with Fairfax Media’s Tim Lester about what’s making news, notably developments that highlight the Abbott Government’s aggressively marketed asylum seeker policy is shambolic.  Here’s the full transcript:




Subjects: Asylum seeker stand-off with Indonesia, Warsaw Climate Change Conference, Grain Corp takeover.

TIM LESTER: There is debate about how many times it has happened in recent days but no debate over the fact that it is happening. Indonesia is turning back asylum boats that the Abbott Government would like our near neighbour to take. What does this say about the Abbott Government’s asylum policy going forward? Every Monday Breaking Politics is joined by the Labor MP in Fraser, Andrew Leigh. Welcome in Andrew.


LESTER: First, does Indonesia’s stance on tow-backs surprise you?

LEIGH: Not in the least Tim. This is what Labor has said for upwards of a year would happen. The Indonesian Government has been firm and consistent in their position on Mr Abbott’s tow-back policies. That’s why before the election he conspicuously failed to raise it with our Indonesian colleagues. I think calling the Government’s asylum seeker policy ‘shambolic’ is probably being too generous. We’re now learning more about what Australian navy vessels are doing through the Jakarta Post than we are through the official briefing from Mr Morrison. It appears now that the reason he wants a General to stand next to him is so that he can shield behind that General and refuse to answer questions. And, as to the ‘buy-back the boats’ policy, we’ve heard precious little of that in recent times. It’s really disappointing Tim. This is a vital relationship for Australia. We must treat our Indonesia colleagues with respect. They are the fourth-largest country in the world; a very important relationship for Australia being dealt tremendous blows by the toing and froing, the back and forth that is this Government’s asylum seeker policy.

Continue reading ‘Monday Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media – 11 November 2013’ »

Sky AM Agenda – Monday 4 November 2013

On 4 Nov, I joined host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield to discuss the Western Australian election, Mr Abbott’s selective appeal to mandate theory, Labor’s democratic process for choosing a leader, and the split between the Liberal Party and the National Party over foreign investment.

Monday Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media – 4 November 2013

In my weekly video discussion for Breaking Politics I talked about the respected work of the Australian Electoral Commission and an expectation that within a generation it will adopt electronic ballots. Host Tim Lester also asked about same-sex marriage, climate policy and mandate theory. Here’s the full transcript:



TIM LESTER: Western Australia is on course for an historic re-run of the 2013 senate election. To help us understand what’s happening there and some of the other politics of the day, our Monday regular Andrew Leigh, the Labor Member for Fraser is in, and of course also Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Thank you for coming in Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH: Pleasure Tim.

LESTER: Is there a need for a new senate election in Western Australia?

LEIGH: It’ll be a matter ultimately for the Court of Disputed Returns to determine it. But certainly I’m concerned about the over a thousand West Australian voters who appear to have disenfranchised through this process. The Australian Electoral Commission is a great national institution. It’s one that I’m immensely proud of. When I lived in the U.S. for four years I thought many times, what the U.S. really needs is an institution of the calibre of the AEC. But even great institutions sometimes make mistakes and I think it’s telling that the last time something like this occurred was a hundred years ago and perhaps that’s the place we’ll end up, ultimately having another election in W.A.

LESTER: So, how serious is this mistake, losing 1375 votes?

LEIGH: I think it’s deeply concerning and certainly Ed Killesteyn, the Electoral Commissioner, has spoken of his embarrassment at the error that’s taken place. I don’t believe that there has been any intentional foul play that’s taken place. It’s simply an error by the AEC’s hard working staff. The question is, what’s now practically the best way of dealing with the situation we find ourselves in.

LESTER: There’s also questions going forward as to the best way for us to deal, handle, so many votes. Isn’t this screaming for electronic voting in some form?

LEIGH: Electronic voting has certainly got its appeal Tim, not just for making sure that we keep track of votes, the speed of recount, but also making sure that we bring down the informal rate. One of the things that troubles me is that the informal voting rate as steadily crept up in recent elections. It’s harder to make a mistake, even with a large number of candidates on the ballot paper with electronic voting. In fact, you can structure the systems so it’s impossible to vote informally.

Continue reading ‘Monday Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media – 4 November 2013’ »

Three Labor Futures – Chapter in “Not Dead Yet”

I have a chapter in a new Black Inc book on the future of the ALP. Here’s an extract, plus the endnotes (for anyone who’s interested in that sort of thing).

Labor must continue to follow road of openness, The Australian, 30 October 2013

Labor must never forget that our brand is not interchangeable with that of the Coalition. The two parties play fundamentally different roles in the Australian political system. Labor’s role is to take the initiative, to defend those whom life has treated unfairly, to carve out an activist role on the global stage. By contrast, the Coalition parties are defenders of the status quo, more likely to be heard supporting vested interests than those on the margins of society, and largely untroubled if people turn off politics entirely. Australian politics isn’t Coke versus Pepsi. To become a Labor version of Mr Abbott’s Opposition would be to repudiate the essence of what our party stands for. Labor must continue to be the party of ideas and reform.

Continue reading ‘Three Labor Futures – Chapter in “Not Dead Yet”’ »

Labor & Carbon Pricing – 29 Oct 2013

On ABC666, I spoke with host Adam Shirley about Labor’s continued commitment to putting a price on carbon pollution through an emissions trading scheme. Here’s a podcast. The transcript is below.

Continue reading ‘Labor & Carbon Pricing – 29 Oct 2013’ »

Monday Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media

This morning, I spoke with Tim Lester about some of the stories making news today: surveyed economists rejecting the government’s Direct Action policy to limit climate change, the unwelcome prospect of Australia Post delivering Centrelink services and Tony Abbott’s uncouth comments in a Washington Post interview. Here’s the transcript:




Subjects: Centrelink and Australia Post, Direct Action, Foreign Affairs.

TIM LESTER: Has the Abbott Government found a viable way of saving money by shifting the front office operations of Centrelink to the control of Australia Post. It’s likely to cause plenty of discussion in politics this week. Labor MP Andrew Leigh, the member for Fraser here in the ACT, joins us in the Breaking Politics studio to discuss this and a few other issues on a Monday. Andrew, welcome in, appreciate your time.

ANDREW LEIGH: Thank you Tim.

LESTER: Is it a good idea to the front office operations of Centrelink and put them in Australia Post outlets?

LEIGH: Tim, the work that Centrelink does is pretty high level work. It’s not simply dispensing payments. It’s working through the appropriate payments for someone at a time of crisis in their life. People come into a Centrelink office after having lost a job, after having experienced a family breakdown and some of the clients have mental health issues. It’s a time of great vulnerability and that’s why Centrelink officers are trained professionals. The notion that they could simply be lining up in an Australia Post office, dodging through the stands of calendars and express post envelopes misses what Australia Post does. It’s the kind of thing you would expect from a Government that’s just gotten rid of the income support payment, effectively a cut to payment for unemployment benefits to now say now to some of the most vulnerable Australians including those with mental illness, just go the Australia Post Office instead.

LESTER: So you see a real danger in mixing these two?

LEIGH: I think some of the most vulnerable Australians will be hurt by this Tim and I think that, unfortunately, it seems to be so much of a pattern with this Government. Taking away the Schoolkids Bonus, taking away income support payments, giving more money to millionaires to have families, giving big tax cuts to mining billionaires. It’s the wrong philosophy for an Australia founded on the ‘fair go’.

Continue reading ‘Monday Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media’ »

Sky News – AM Agenda

This morning I was a guest of AM Agenda on Sky News. I joined Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield and television host Laura Jayes to discuss the morning’s headlines with subjects including disaster relief, climate change, a commonwealth commission of audit and asylum seekers.


Sky News AM Agenda with Laura Jayes


LAURA JAYES: Let’s go to our panel now and the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, and the new Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, congratulations to you. First Mitch Fifield, looking at this situation, can you tell us what kind of payments are available for bushfire victims; what kind of assistance they can expect from the government here?

MITCH FIFIELD: Sure. Well, the Australian Government Disaster Relief payments are in operation and that’s a thousand dollars to eligible adults and $400 for eligible kids. That’s being made available to people whose homes have been destroyed, whose homes have been damaged or who have sustained an injury. In parallel with that are joint commonwealth/state disaster arrangements which make provision for food, clothing, [and] accommodation. People who have queries, who want to know what’s available should get in contact with the Commonwealth Department of Human Services who are acting as the lead Commonwealth agency on the ground in those areas.

JAYES: I understand that the eligibility payments have been changed when it comes to federal assistance [for] from those who’ve had their home destroyed or severely damaged. To those who have been cut off or their electricity has been cut off from their homes, they’re no longer available, eligible for these payments. Is that correct?

FIFIELD: There’s a range of categories which can be activated for any emergency. The decision that the government has taken is to initially provide assistance to those who have been directly and immediately affected by way of [their] home being damaged or destroyed. As the situation develops the Government will continue to assess the situation.

JAYES: Andrew Leigh, this is a change from Labor policy. These payments still going to the most effected.

ANDREW LEIGH: They are going to the most affected Laura. But I would urge the Government on this case, be a little more generous to open up that payment category to people who’ve been unable to access their home in the previous 24 hours. The trauma that comes from being cut off from your home, I know that for many of these Blue Mountains residents, whether they’re living in evacuation centres at the moment and the challenges you face with kids. I think that’s an appropriate use of taxpayer funds. So, I hope that the government does change that decision there because I’m a little concerned by the reports I read in the paper today about challenges for families accessing payments.

Continue reading ‘Sky News – AM Agenda’ »

Carbon pricing beats Indirect Inaction

My op-ed today discusses the flaws of Direct Action – as outlined by a prominent member of Cabinet.

Put the heat on Abbott, The Australian, 21 October 2013

Australians just experienced a winter of discontent; the hottest on record.

We are bracing ourselves for a shocking summer. It has been too hot in NSW to even continue property-saving hazard reduction. Climate change is a clear and present danger to the nation.

This is no time to be playing political games on climate change. But, alas, Environment Minister Greg Hunt seems to be doing just that: putting up repeal legislation without a detailed alternative plan to tackle climate change.

Continue reading ‘Carbon pricing beats Indirect Inaction’ »

Friday Forum – ABC Canberra Breakfast with Ross Solly – 18 October

This morning I joined 666 ABC host Ross Solly and Liberal MP Peter Hendy for a discussion about parliamentary entitlements, carbon policy and mandates. I argued that as the member for Fraser, I would be breaking faith with north Canberrans if I backed away from a carbon tax and the transition to an emissions trading scheme. Listen to the audio by clicking here.

Chatting Politics with Waleed Aly

On 14 October, I spoke with Waleed Aly on ABC RN Drive about the new shadow ministry, Labor’s support for a price on carbon, and the need for Labor in Opposition to remain positive and ideas-driven. Here’s a podcast.

Coalition’s Carbon Con Misses Long Term Targets

My op-ed in today’s Canberra Times says a carbon price has made a real and positive difference and Tony Abbott’s carbon targets fall short.

Clouds over Climate Scheme, The Canberra Times, 1 October 2013

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch recently tweeted ‘Al Gore. Pls explain record increase in Arctic ice.’ Murdoch was responding to the finding from the National Snow and Ice Data Center that the minimum extent of Arctic ice rose this year from 3.4 to 5.1 million square kilometres. Alas, the average in the 1980s and 1990s was 6.7 million square kilometres. As Greenpeace’s Ben Stewart responded to Mr Murdoch: ‘It’s like your papers’ circulation. Long term downward trend with occasional spikes’.

Cherry-pick the stats all you like, but the earth is warming. Australia has just had our hottest summer and one of our warmest winters, making the past twelve months the hottest on record. Early spring brought frightening bushfires. The fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms what is well understood and focuses our attention on the challenges ahead.

It is clearer than ever that humans are responsible for emerging changes in climate in the atmosphere, ocean, ice and land. The revised projections of sea level rises are a major concern as all of Australia’s major cities except Canberra are coastal.

In announcing the draft report, the IPCC chairman Rajenda Pachauri backed financial markets as humanity’s best hope in the battle against global warming. “An extremely effective instrument would be to put a price on carbon. It is only through the market that you can get a large enough and rapid enough response.”

So, as bizarre as Mr Murdoch’s rejection of the scientific evidence is Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s rejection of the economic evidence. On 16 September, Mr Hunt told the ABC’s PM program on 16 September that the carbon price “fundamentally doesn’t do its work”. And yet the introduction of the carbon price has been accompanied by a 7 percent fall in emissions in the National Electricity Market.

Continue reading ‘Coalition’s Carbon Con Misses Long Term Targets’ »

Ten Challenges for Tony Abbott

My op-ed in today’s SMH sets out some of the questions the incoming Prime Minister has to answer.

Ten Challenges for Tony Abbott, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times, 13 September 2013

As a poll sceptic, I’m fairly rare in Parliament House. Most of the building watches opinion polls with the eagerness of sailors looking for land. For those on the Coalition side, the fact that almost every opinion poll in the past three years has gone in their favour has given them a strong sense of confidence that they would form government at this election.

The Coalition won the election with a convincing margin, and I congratulate Mr Abbott on becoming our 28th Prime Minister. But given the length of time the Abbott Government has had to prepare for office, the real surprise is the number of major policy questions that lie unanswered. Here are ten for starters.

First, given that we know from independent experts such as the Grattan Institute that Direct Action will not meet the bipartisan target of cutting emissions by 5 percent by 2020, how does the government intend to reduce our carbon emissions? Given that Australia has just had the hottest summer on record, is it really acceptable for the developed nation with the highest emissions per person to back away from action on carbon emissions?

Continue reading ‘Ten Challenges for Tony Abbott’ »


The AFR today runs a short op-ed on the question of whether the ALP should now vote for soil magic.

Point of order on carbon tax, Australian Financial Review, 10 September 2013

A ferociously fought issue in the 2010 election was whether to move to a profits-based mining tax. Labor won the election, yet Coalition MPs and Senators voted in parliament against the mining tax.

Today, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is telling Labor members that we should vote to repeal carbon pricing. Having been a weathervane on both climate science and emissions trading, he seems to think we should do likewise.

Mandates authorise – and enjoin – individual parliamentarians to act on the issues that they campaigned upon. For example, having gone to the 2007 election promising an ETS, Coalition representatives should have voted for an ETS when it came to the parliament in 2009. Alas, only a handful did so.

Continue reading ‘Mandates’ »

Talking Politics on 666 & 2CC

I did two interviews on local radio this morning about the lessons for Labor from the election loss, attempts to repeal the emissions trading scheme, how Canberra will fare amidst job-shedding, questions Mr Abbott needs to be asked (such as the impact on Indigenous incarceration of cutting Aboriginal Legal Aid), and the achievements of the ALP over the past six years:

Breaking Politics – 9 September 2013

On 9 September, I spoke with host Tim Lester and Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer on the achievements and mistakes of the Labor Government, why we should stick with the most affordable way of dealing with climate change, and the questions for the incoming government to answer (such as how it will build links with the US administration, given that most of the personal ties are to the Republican side of politics). Here’s a video.

Sky AM Agenda – 9 September 2013

On 9 September, I spoke with host David Lipson and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield about whether the ALP should swing like a weathervane on carbon pricing, the questions for the Coalition to answer in the days ahead, and what “minority government” looks like in the Senate.

ABC24 Capital Hill – 3 September 2013

On 3 September, I spoke with host Lyndal Curtis and Opposition MP Steve Ciobo. Topics included why an ETS achieves least-cost abatement and the ethics of same-sex marriage.

13th Fraser Lecture – Delivered by Bill Shorten MP

On 26 August 2013, Bill Shorten delivered the 13th Fraser Lecture on the topic “The Battle of Ideas and the Good Society”. The video begins with an introduction from me, and concludes with Bill taking questions. A full transcript of the speech is over the fold.

Continue reading ‘13th Fraser Lecture – Delivered by Bill Shorten MP’ »

Interview on ABC24 Capital Hill – 14 August 2013

On 14 August 2013, I spoke with Lyndal Curtis about Trade Training Centres, Labor’s historic environmental reforms, and the risks to Canberra posed by Coalition cuts. Alas, Zed Seselja was to have joined the conversation, but withdrew at the last minute.

Campaign Transcript




14 AUGUST 2013



Subjects: Preferences, PEFO and budget honesty, Trade Training Centres.


LYNDAL CURTIS: But now joining me to discuss the day’s events Labor member for Fraser Andrew Leigh. We were expected to be joined by the Liberals Senate

candidate in the ACT Zed Seselja but he is not here. Andrew Leigh, welcome. We will start with Labor so far refusing to agree to the Liberals’

demands that it preference the Greens last at the Federal election. For the first time Tony Abbott will preference Labor over the Greens. The move

mostly harms the Greens chances in their first and only lower house seat of Melbourne.

Continue reading ‘Interview on ABC24 Capital Hill – 14 August 2013’ »

ABC RN Drive with Waleed Aly & Arthur Sinodinos – 5 Aug 2013

I spoke yesterday on ABC RN Drive with Waleed Aly & Arthur Sinodinos. Here’s a podcast.

Transcript – ABC RN Drive with Waleed Aly & Arthur Sinodinos – 5 Aug 2013

Waleed Aly: Time to talk our political panel, two of our favourite politicians, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, Parliamentary Secretary to the Opposition Leader, previously chief of staff to Prime Minister John Howard. And Dr Andrew Leigh, member for Fraser, previously the parliamentary secretary to Julia Gillard when she was Prime Minister. Gentlemen, welcome back to the show.

I’ve got to say that I was very intrigued, that when you’re not on our program, you guys are getting together, making all kinds of bets. This is scandalous behaviour. It’s an interesting bet. You’re looking at annualised real GDP growth which was 2.5 per cent, trend unemployment which was 5.7 per cent and average variable mortgage interest rates which were 6.2 per cent. And it seems to me that each of you is betting that if the other side get in, those indicators will get worse. Have I got that right Arthur?

Continue reading ‘ABC RN Drive with Waleed Aly & Arthur Sinodinos – 5 Aug 2013’ »