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.
My op-ed in the AFR looks at the Coalition’s climate change dilemma – do they meet their pledge to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020, or do they spend the paltry underestimate that they say their climate policy will cost?
Abbott’s no-go carbon plan, Australian Financial Review, 22 April 2013
Over the past few weeks we have seen the Coalition dip their toes in the water of policy debate. Amidst running around the nation shouting ‘no’, Tony Abbott has revealed that the Coalition’s plan for superannuation includes taxing 3.6 million of Australia’s lowest-paid workers to the tune of $4 billion. We have seen them outline their tin-can-and-string broadband strategy. We have learned that families and small businesses will be expected to cough up to $5000 to connect to a service Labor will provide for free.
This is the most information we have heard about the Coalition’s vision for the future of Australia, and while it may not be pretty, it is a marked improvement from their three-year tradition of providing no alternative at all.
It seems strange then, in light of their cautious new ventures into actual policy discussions, that Tony Abbott has remained almost silent on the one issue he has pegged the bulk of his negative rhetoric: climate change.
On ABC702 yesterday, I enjoyed a conversation with host Richard Glover and guests Dick Smith and Malcolm Turnbull, ranging from carbon pricing to urban congestion, parliamentary roles to economic growth, helicopter travel to books that make you cry. Here’s a podcast.
I spoke in parliament today, presenting to the House the report of the National Capital and External Territories’ visit to Antarctica.
Antarctica, 20 March 2013
On 12 and 13 December 2012, it was my pleasure to fulfil a lifelong dream and travel to Antarctica. With me as part of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories were Senators Crossin, Humphries and Parry and the member for Maranoa. We were accompanied by the environment committee and by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke. We were also accompanied by a range of expert scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division including Tony Fleming, Nick Gales, Rob Wooding and Tas van Ommen.
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.
In the United States, if you want to insult a right-winger, call them a ‘liberal’. In Australia, if you want to insult a left-winger, call them a ‘Liberal’. In both countries, liberalism has become detached from its original meaning.
It’s time to bring Australian liberalism back to its traditional roots. Small-L liberalism involves a willingness to protect minority rights (even when they’re unpopular) and a recognition that open markets are the best way to boost prosperity.
On 13 December, I visted Antarctica on a parliamentary delegation. It’s an astonishing spot, and we were fortunate to have two hours on the ground speaking with the scientists. We even got to get a short ride in “Priscilla” (the snowbus, so named for its ability to navigate this snow-covered desert), to see ice drilling, snow camping, and some of the accommodation. We’d had a full-day briefing the previous day at the Australian Antarctic Division base in Hobart, talking with researchers about their ice core program (drilling down hundreds of metres to look at changes in greenhouse gas concentrations over thousands of years), their marine biology program (better understanding how krill respond to environmental changes), and their non-lethal whale reserach program.
I left with a strong sense of the value that comes from our Antarctic research program, and a sense of the research potential of this extraordinary part of the world. The following two videos give you some sense of the local environment.
Over 90% of Australia’s yellow box grassy woodlands have been lost. But thanks to partnerships between the Labor Government and conservation groups such as Greening Australia, these are being restored. Today I joined federal Environment Minister Tony Burke at one such project, Mulligan’s Flat, to announce the restoration of the Greater Goorooyarroo Woodlands area.
You can read more about the Labor Government’s Biodiversity Fund here.
The Gillard Government continues to invest in clean energy communities. A new grant program for local government is now open to help local communities reduce their energy use.
Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
Gai Brodtmann MP
Member for Canberra
NEW ENERGY EFFICIENCY GRANT TO HELP LOCAL GOVERNMENT LOWER ENERGY COSTS
Andrew Leigh MP, Federal Member for Fraser, and Gai Brodtmann MP, Federal Member for Canberra, today welcomed the opening of the Gillard Labor Government’s Local Government Energy Efficiency Program, which will help local government to cut costs in community facilities.
I was pleased to announce today that a local company received funding under the Clean Technology Investment Program to reduce their energy use and power bills.
Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
14 November 2012
LOCAL MANUFACTURER REDUCES EMISSIONS, CUTS POWER BILLS
$90 945 from the Gillard’s Government’s $1 billion Clean Technology Investment will help Elvin Group, a local manufacturer based in Mitchell, to reduce energy costs, improve efficiency and lower carbon pollution.
Andrew Leigh, Member for Fraser, congratulated Elvin Group for preparing for a clean energy future by transforming its operations to reduce energy emissions and improve its competitiveness.
An edited version of one of my opinion pieces appears in The Australian today.
ONE of the myths in the carbon pricing debate has been the claim that “Australia has the world’s only economy-wide carbon price” (“carbon” being shorthand for four greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbons from aluminium smelting).
Over recent years, members of the opposition have made such a claim in parliament more than 50 times. The theme has also been picked up by many newspaper articles. Indeed, even in this newspaper it has been claimed that Australia’s carbon price – uniquely in the world – covers the entire economy.
In fact, Australia’s carbon price excludes agriculture, smaller emitters and household transport (although some businesses will face an effective carbon price via changes to the present fuel tax regime). Overall, it captures about 60 per cent of total carbon emissions.
More grants are available to improve energy efficiency for community groups. These grants are offered as a part of the Gillard Government’s Clean Energy Future package and are a great chance for community organisations to reduce energy use and save money. More information is below.
JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
Gai Brodtmann MP
Member for Canberra
31 October 2012
ENERGY EFFICIENCY GRANTS TO CUT COSTS STRENGTHEN OUR LOCAL ECONOMY
Dr Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser, and Gai Brodtmann, Federal Member for Canberra, today opened a new round of national funding for three energy efficiency programs designed to drive smarter energy use across the community.
“These grants will help the ACT Government, businesses and community organisations save money and cut pollution by improving energy efficiency in buildings, homes and streetscapes,” said Dr Leigh.
I wrote to all of my local schools in the Fraser electorate in May this year encouraging them to apply for grants under the National Solar Schools Program for solar energy systems, rainwater tanks and other energy efficiency measures. It must have paid off because 17 schools were successful under the final round. The media release from last week is below.
Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
30 August 2012
CLEAN ENERGY SCHOOLS GO SOLAR WITH FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS
Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, is pleased to announce that 17 schools from the Fraser electorate will receive grants as part of the final round of the Australian Government’s National Solar Schools Program.
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, together with Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus, recently announced 804 schools from around Australia had been awarded grants of up to $50,000.
These grants are being used to install renewable solar energy systems, rainwater tanks and other energy efficiency measures to cut pollution and save money on electricity bills. Continue reading ‘Local schools go solar’ »
Julie Doyle hosted me and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield on ABC 24’s Capital Hill program yesterday. Topics discussed include Tony Abbott’s ambiguous position on penalty rates and protection for workers, the efficiency of pricing carbon to improve environmental protection, and the transition to the carbon price.
On Sky Lunchtime Agenda, I spoke with David Lipson and Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos about the need to find a bipartisan solution on asylum-seekers, how emission trading schemes harness the ingenuity of the market, and the proper role of governments in providing industry assistance.
On Sky AM Agenda this morning, I spoke with host David Lipson and Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer. We discussed Gina Rinehart’s refusal to sign the Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence, the reforms needed to put the Eurozone back on track, why Australia shouldn’t be ashamed of our economic strength, and the fact that Australia will this year join 25 other OECD countries in putting a price on carbon. At one point, Kelly O’Dwyer incorrectly claimed that the Australian carbon price is economy-wide, when in fact it covers around 60% of domestic emissions (you can argue about whether that’s good or bad, but it’s the simple fact).
I spoke in parliament last night about the tax switch on 1 July, which will see taxes rise for polluters and fall for many workers. I also mentioned the Leader of the Opposition’s pythonesque scare campaign.
18 June 2012
A few years ago a Prime Minister of Australia said the following:
‘Implementing an emissions trading scheme and setting a long-term goal for reducing emissions will be the most momentous economic decisions Australia will take in the next decade. … This is a great economic challenge for Australia as well as a great environmental challenge. Significantly reducing emissions will mean higher costs for businesses and households, there is no escaping that and anyone who pretends otherwise is not a serious participant in this hugely important public policy debate. It will change the entire cost structure of the economy. We must get this right; if we get this wrong it will do enormous damage to our economy, to jobs and to the economic wellbeing of ordinary Australians, especially low-income households.’
Of course Prime Minister John Howard was just reflecting conventional economic wisdom when he said this in 2007. The first emissions trading scheme blueprints were produced in the 1990s.
I moved a private member’s motion in the House of Representatives today on the strength of the Australian economy, and the need to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear (avoiding phobophobia).
A Strong Australian Economy
18 June 2012
I move: That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) by historical standards, unemployment, inflation and interest rates are at very low levels;
(b) for the first time in Australian history, Australia has a AAA rating from all three major credit rating agencies;
(c) Australia’s debt levels, despite the hit to revenues from the global financial crisis, are around one tenth the level of major advanced economies;
(d) OECD Economic Outlook 91 confirms that the Australian economy will significantly outperform OECD economies as a whole over this year and next; and
(e) the IMF has said of Australia: ‘we welcome the authorities’ commitment to return to a budget surplus by 2012-13 to rebuild fiscal buffers, putting Commonwealth government finances in a stronger position’; and
(2) calls upon all Members to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear, and to put the national interest first when discussing the strong Australian economy.
Economic reform in Australia has never been easy. In the postwar decades, the conservatives built up a tariff wall that helped make Australian industry uncompetitive and kept consumer prices high. In 1973, Gough Whitlam began the long process of breaking down Australia’s tariff walls—the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cuts.
I spoke today about the issue of aircraft noise, responding to a private member’s motion moved by Judi Moylan.
Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011
18 June 2012
I rise to speak on the Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011 to highlight a range of government initiatives significantly improving aircraft noise management around Australia’s airports. I do so as a member with the Canberra airport in my electorate. In rising, I acknowledge the hard work being done by the Canberra airport to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on the surrounding suburbs. As a father of two little boys who enjoy looking up in the sky and seeing aeroplanes flying overhead, I am aware that my views on aircraft are probably different from those of many of my constituents who, while aircraft noise is not as severe in Canberra as in other cities, do note the impact of aircraft. I am in ongoing conversations with Canberra airport to make sure the impact of aircraft noise on Canberrans is minimised.
I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and the very reasonable Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham about the importance of parliament not playing judge and jury, about Australia’s strong economy, and about why Aluminium smelters are more affected by a $1000/tonne world price drop than a $1/tonne carbon price effect.
I spoke in parliament last night about the impact on the environment of delaying the introduction of a carbon price.
Climate Change – the Cost of Delaying Action
22 May 2012
Tipping points are crucial in the climate debate. They can be the difference between success and failure and, if misjudged, can prove costly. While, thankfully, the global environment has not yet reached any tipping points, we have had a few political tipping points in the Australian climate debate. A lone voice that switched the opposition leadership from the member for Wentworth to the member for Warringah condemned the party of Menzies to be antimarket, and turn its back on economists and scientists.
Another tipping point, less well known, was just as costly. On 7 December 2009 five Greens party senators had the opportunity to act on climate change and ensure Australia had a price on carbon. They had the choice to join two brave Liberal senators and act in the interests of the future. Instead, the five Greens party senators chose political self-interest over the national interest. They chose to side with the sceptics and the antimarket forces. What was the result of their action? The Clean Energy Future package enacted by this parliament has the same 2020 emissions reduction target as that of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme back in 2009. Both schemes aim to reduce our carbon emissions by five per cent compared with a year 2000 baseline. Both schemes are market mechanisms designed to find the least-cost method of reducing carbon pollution.
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.
Canberra’s paper of record has a terrific writeup of Gweneth’s BLOOM exhibition. You can read it online here. The exhibition is on at the Gallery of Australian Design at Reconciliation Place until 9 June.