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Chatting Population with Tim Webster

On 2UE Sunday afternoons, I joined Tim Webster to discuss my Lowy Institute speech on population. Here’s a podcast.

Putting Refugee Policy on a Bedrock of Decency

My op-ed in the Drum today is about the ethics of asylum-seeker policy, and the need for more bipartisan decency.

Let’s put refugee policy on a bedrock of decency, The Drum, 24 March 2014

If there’s one point that unites people across the political spectrum, it is that the issue of refugees has not been well managed over recent years.

Refugees comprise just one-tenth of permanent migrants to Australia in the past decade. So refugees are not clogging our roads. But the asylum seeker conversation is clogging our migration policy debate, because it’s both controversial and complicated.

Australia takes 13,750 refugees a year, down from 20,000 under Labor. Globally, there are 11 million refugees. Add those who are internally displaced or stateless, and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees counts 39 million people on their list of ‘persons of concern’.

Among developed nations, there are two ways of taking refugees: the ‘knock on our door’ approach, and the ‘go to the UNHCR’ approach. Most developed countries follow the former principle. A few – notably Canada, the United States and Australia – work with the UNHCR. These three nations take nine in ten of those from UNHCR camps.

And then there are the drownings at sea. We will never be quite sure how many people died in the past decade coming to Australia by boat – but the figure probably exceeds 1000. About one in twenty asylum seekers who set out on the sea journey to Australia die on the way. Under Labor, the Refugee Resettlement Agreement with Papua New Guinea – and the previously unsuccessful agreement with Malaysia – were an attempt to close off the channel of refugees coming by sea.

Continue reading ‘Putting Refugee Policy on a Bedrock of Decency’ »

TRANSCRIPT – Breaking Politics – Monday, 24 March 2014







SUBJECT/S: Manus Island detention centre riot inquiries and Regional Resettlement Program; Labor minority government in South Australia; Paul Howes’ career; Australia becoming a Republic.

CHRIS HAMMER: The Papua New Guinean Government is looking to stymie a human rights into conditions at the Manus Island detention centre. This follows a tour of the centre last Friday by journalists led by the head of the inquiry. The Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, has defended the decision, saying it is a matter for the PNG Government. Well joining me to discuss this and other issues is Andrew Laming, Liberal Member for Bowman in Queensland and Andrew Leigh, the Labor Member for Fraser in the ACT, also Shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Andrew Leigh, to you first, Scott Morrison is right isn’t he, this is purely a matter for the PNG Government?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It’s important that the Australian Government works constructively with the PNG Government and part of the refugee resettlement agreement was always that resettlement would occur as speedily as possible. What I’m concerned about is Minister Morrison’s slowness to engage with Papua New Guinea; the fact that we know that he only spoke face to face with his PNG counterpart less than a month ago and the Government hasn’t put resettlement at the top of its agenda. The events in the detention centre with the tragic death of an asylum seeker have led Labor to call for an independent inquiry and for a senate inquiry, both of which are now underway and it’s really incumbent on the Government to begin that resettlement process as quickly as possible.

Continue reading ‘TRANSCRIPT – Breaking Politics – Monday, 24 March 2014’ »

Population in the Tele

The Daily Telegraph today publishes an extract from my population speech at the Lowy Institute.

Don’t be scared, let’s populate and prosper, Daily Telegraph, 20 March 2014

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. One side tells us that a big Australia is a ‘catastrophe’, while the other says that slow population growth will hurt share prices and drive up debt.

Australians comprise just one in 300 of the world’s population. We have the third-lowest population density of any country. Only Mongolia and Namibia have fewer people per hectare than Australia. Yet we also have one of the highest urbanisation rates. Nearly nine in ten Australians live in urban areas.

An unusual feature of the Australia’s population debate is how much it is sparked by population projections. This is especially odd given the record of past projections. In 1888, the Daily Telegraph predicted that the population in 1988 would be 60 million. The Australian Treasury recently updated its population forecast for the 2040s from 26 million to 35 million.

Continue reading ‘Population in the Tele’ »

Talking Population on The Drum & 2CC

On 14 March 2014, I spoke on ABC’s The Drum about my Lowy Institute speech on population. The video is below.

On 21 March 2014, I also spoke about it with Luke Bona on 2CC. Here’s a podcast.

Discussing Population on ABC The World Today – Thursday 13 March, 2014

I spoke with The World Today host Eleanor Hall about population and migration. A podcast of the interview is available here, and the transcript is below.




SUBJECT/S: Population; immigration; asylum seekers; taxation; budget sustainability

ELEANOR HALL: The Labor Party’s Assistant Treasurer is calling for a new debate on what has long been a contentious issue in Australia: the size of our population, which is now around 23.5 million. In a speech at the Lowy Institute today, Dr Andrew Leigh is calling for a more respectful and fact-based debate about the population and about immigration. He joined me earlier in the studio. Andrew Leigh, in your Lowy Institute talk today you argue that Australia should have a bigger population. How much bigger?

ANDREW LEIGH: Eleanor, I think picking absolute numbers is a mug’s game but I certainly think that we ought to be comfortable with current levels of population growth.

ELEANOR HALL: You say current levels of growth, so not a bigger population?

ANDREW LEIGH: The current levels of growth are a bit above the trend levels that we’ve had in the previous few decades, but principally I think we have the potential to be much more productive if we expand the number of innovative people coming to Australia.

Continue reading ‘Discussing Population on ABC The World Today – Thursday 13 March, 2014’ »

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’ »

Breaking Politics – Monday, 3 March 2014

This morning I joined Fairfax Media host Chris Hammer and Liberal MP Andrew Laming for a wide-ranging discussion including the importance of keeping Qantas in Australian hands, protecting the Great Barrier Reef and concerns about the potential harm of winding back racial vilification laws.




SUBJECT/S: Qantas Sales Act and jobs; ‘Green Army’ and jobs; Great Barrier Reef and tourism jobs; Offshore processing of asylum seekers; Repeal of hate speech laws.

CHRIS HAMMER: Well, the big political story of the day is undoubtedly Qantas with Cabinet meeting to decide on what assistance if any the Government can give it. Joining me to discuss this issue and others in Andrew Laming, the Liberal Member for Bowman in Queensland and Andrew Leigh, Assistant Shadow Treasurer and Labor Member for Fraser in the ACT. Gentlemen, there seems to be a standoff here. You’ve got the Government saying it doesn’t want to give a debt guarantee for Qantas. You’ve got Labor saying it doesn’t want to relax the Qantas Sales Act at least as far as foreign ownership’s concerned. Andrew Laming, can you see any way through this impasse?

ANDREW LAMING: Well, these are options that are being considered today by Cabinet. I must admit that I sense that Qantas must be feeling positively manhandled by political commentators at the moment. We’ve had every imaginable recipe for their survival. But in the end the affairs rest in the hands of the company itself. They’ve got to find that balance to look after shareholders, staff and customers and I’m just hoping that can be done as seamlessly and painlessly as possible and those options are in the hands of Cabinet effectively.

HAMMER: Is there any qualitative difference between Qantas and the carmakers? With the car markers most Australians weren’t buying Fords and Holdens, they were buying imported Hyundais. It’s the same with holidays and going overseas. They’re just buying tickets on price. Should the Government be intervening to help Qantas?

LAMING: Well, certainly airlines are a more internationalised sector, so that means if we wish to retain some of sense of Australian identity, then we’re going to have to look at every competitive advantage for Qantas in an open market, not unfair support. But in the end these are decisions for the company. They have to look after their own affairs and the more we interfere, even if we think it’s benign, may just prolong the inevitable. We need the company making long term decisions for their survival.

HAMMER: What’s the inevitable?

LAMING: Well, the inevitable is increasing competition. The inevitable is getting rid of the carbon tax here in Australia which costs Qantas $106 million last year. These are things that we can do to improve things immediately for the immediate survival of Qantas as John Borghetti at Virgin pointed out just recently.

HAMMER: Andrew Leigh, Labor has suggested giving Qantas a debt guarantee but that seems to be off the table. Tony Abbott’s ruled that out. On the Qantas Sales Act is there room to move there from Labor’s point of view?

ANDREW LEIGH: Chris, we’re in this strange situation at the moment where Qantas has asked for a debt guarantee and the Government has now said no after having given very clear indications that it would provide such a guarantee with the four-part test laid out with Joe Hockey in December. Qantas hasn’t asked for a change to the Qantas Sale Act and yet the Government is pushing that as its number one solution. So, it really does seem to me that when it comes to saving the Flying Kangaroo the Government is flying chicken. It’s not doing what the company is asking for and is instead pursuing a route which, if it were successful, would see us lose our national carrier. We would effectively see Qantas become a foreign owned airline.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Politics – Monday, 3 March 2014’ »

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’ »

Honouring Two Great Australian Economists

I spoke in parliament yesterday in honour of two great Australian economists – Steve Dowrick and Paul Miller – who I worked with, and who died much too young this year.

Steve Dowrick and Paul Miller, 2 December 2013

I rise this evening to speak about the passing of two great Australian economists, Steve Dowrick and Paul Miller. Steve Dowrick was born on 7 May 1953 in Dublin, Ireland, and passed away in August of this year. His life and his contributions to the economic profession have been beautifully laid out in an obituary for the Canberra Times by Bruce Chapman and Maria Racionero. I will draw on that obituary in some of my comments today.

Continue reading ‘Honouring Two Great Australian Economists’ »

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 – Saturday 9 November 2013

This morning I appeared on Sky TV with host David Lipson. Topics canvassed were cuts to the public service, the asylum seeker stand-off with Indonesia, MP entitlements and the Coalition’s plan to repeal racial vilification laws. Here’s the full transcript:



David Lipson: Joining me in the Canberra studio by the shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh. Thanks for your time today.

Andrew Leigh: Pleasure David.

Lipson: Let’s start off where we finished with Josh Frydenberg, the public service cuts. You’re a Canberra MP, how significant is the impact be on the Canberra economy. We knew this was going to happen but now it’s being put into practice.

Leigh: Well we knew it was going to happen David but it’s going to be pretty significant. Contrary to what Mr Frydenberg said, growth in public service numbers during Labor’s term in office matched population growth, the number of public servants per head didn’t change since the end of the Howard years. But what we have seen now is savage cuts; we’ve seen the incorporation of AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade being done in a terribly ham-fisted way. AusAID workers being brought into the DFAT atrium like cattle, made to stand on the ground floor while the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials look down and one of those DFAT officials mimed machine gunning those AusAID workers. Now were learning the new graduates for AusAID who had signed contracts with AusAID, and in many cases turned down other offers, in fact won’t have their jobs in February. So it’s being done in a terribly messy way -

Lipson: – that corralling is not the government’s fault, that seems to be a departmental issue doesn’t it?

Leigh: I think it ultimately does go back to the Minister, I think you need to recognise if you’re going to shut down an agency like AusAID and brutally incorporate them in to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with no proper change management process, no looking after the employees, that’s really going to hit people hard. We are seeing in CSIRO up to a quarter of the workers whose jobs are in jeopardy. This is the organisation that invented the polymer bank note and wi-fi, and perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that a Government without a science minister wants to slash the CSIRO but it’s deeply disturbing none the less.

Continue reading ‘Sky AM Agenda – Saturday 9 November 2013’ »

Breaking Bad

My op-ed in today’s Daily Telegraph discusses Mr Abbott’s three broken promises in his first three weeks in office.

Broken promises after just three weeks in job, The Daily Telegraph, 11 October 2013

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a great deal of the importance of keeping his promises. A few days before the election, he said that if he became Prime Minister: ‘you should move heaven and earth to keep commitments and only if keeping commitments becomes almost impossible could you ever be justified in not keeping them. And I suspect the electorate would take a very dim view even in those circumstances.’

And yet after just three weeks in the job, Mr Abbott has broken at least three promises.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Bad’ »

Sky Lunchtime Agenda – 1 October 2013

On 1 October, I joined host Laura Jayes and Liberal MP Alan Tudge to discuss Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s attempts to persuade Indonesia to accept boat buybacks and towbacks, and the importance of maintaining ethical standards if Australia is to continue to have a viable live animal export trade.

Sky AM Agenda – 23 September 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Minister Mitch Fifield about the Coalition’s secrecy on asylum-seeker boat arrivals, the risk of a digital divide if fibre to the home is stopped, and the Labor leadership contest.

Sky – The Nation – 19 September 2013

On Thursday night, I joined host David Speers, Centre for Policy Development’s Miriam Lyons, Liberal MP Alan Tudge and former Liberal MP Ross Cameron on Sky’s The Nation program. We discussed gender and politics, asylum seekers and the Labor leadership.

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’ »

ABC RN Drive – 2 September 2013

On ABC RN Drive last night, I spoke with host Waleed Aly and Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos about vocational training, costings gaps, boat buy-backs and more. Here’s a podcast.

Find the full transcript below.

Continue reading ‘ABC RN Drive – 2 September 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’ »

ABC24 Capital Hill – 29 July 2013

On 29 July, I spoke with host Lyndal Curtis and Liberal MP Craig Kelly about the fact that only Federal Labor has cut real spending (something that never happened under John Howard), why preventing asylum seekers coming by boat (and increasing the intake to 20,000) is the most compassionate response, and same-sex marriage.

RN Drive with Waleed Aly & Arthur Sinodinos

On ABC RN Drive yesterday, I discussed asylum seeker policy and removing tax loopholes with the very erudite Waleed Aly and Arthur Sinodinos. Here’s a podcast.

Discussing Asylum Seeker Policy on ABC666

I spoke this morning on ABC 666 about asylum-seeker policy, and the new Regional Settlement Arrangement. Here’s a podcast.


Andrew Leigh
Member for Fraser

TUESDAY 23rd JULY 2013

Topics:                        Asylum Seekers, Foreign Aid

Note:                           Due to time constraints, Gary Humphries’ contributions have not been transcribed.

Ross Solly:                  Gary Humphries will be joining us very soon, but Andrew Leigh, the member for Fraser is here with me in the 666 Breakfast studio. Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.

Andrew Leigh: Good morning Ross.

Ross Solly:                   Just on that photograph and the film footage, are you comfortable with it being used the way it is?

Andrew Leigh: Look, this is a desperately hard area of policy, Ross. The purpose that the Immigration Department has used the photograph for, is to make sure that people don’t make a risky boat journey and that we don’t see more drownings at sea. So it’s part of a policy that I believe is aimed at being as compassionate as we can.

Continue reading ‘Discussing Asylum Seeker Policy on ABC666’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 15 July 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Scott Ryan about why an emissions trading scheme is the most efficient way of dealing with dangerous climate change, and how the Rudd Government is working with neighbours such as Indonesia and PNG to find a regional solution to the challenge of asylum seeker flows.

Sky AM Agenda – 9 July 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg about thoughtful asylum-seeker policy (rather than sloganeering), and reforms to make the ALP more democratic.

Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser
9 July 2013

TOPICS:                                Polls, Labor leader election reforms, asylum seekers.

Kieran Gilbert:                   This is AM Agenda. With me now Labor MP Andrew Leigh and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg. Josh to you in Melbourne first of all, Kevin Rudd, as I put to Penny Wong and Barnaby Joyce just a moment ago, well ahead as preferred Prime Minister, 20 points, 22 points in front, that compared to, well, Mr Abbott was 12 points in front of Julia Gillard in that last Newspoll before she was deposed.

Continue reading ‘Sky AM Agenda – 9 July 2013’ »

Soraj’s Story

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.

Continue reading ‘Soraj’s Story’ »

ABC Radio National Drive – 24 June 2013

On ABC Radio National Drive program, I spoke with host Waleed Aly and Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos about party leadership, temporary migration, and asylum seekers. Here’s a podcast.

Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
24 June 2013

Topics:                         Leadership, 457 visas, immigration.

Waleed Aly:                        So Parliament has resumed for the final sitting week before the election and again, or should we say still, three years after Julia Gillard became Prime Minister and just three months out from an election, we’re talking about whether or not she’ll survive as leader. She was speaking to the media in Canberra today, she said she absolutely still has the support of Labor MPs to remain PM.

Continue reading ‘ABC Radio National Drive – 24 June 2013’ »

Welcome to Australia

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.

Continue reading ‘Welcome to Australia’ »

Let’s Walk Together


Andrew Leigh
Member for Fraser
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister



Dr Andrew Leigh, Member for Fraser has invited all Canberrans to “Walk Together” on Saturday 22 June 2013 to celebrate diversity and call for an end to the politics of fear, division and prejudice.

The Member for Fraser, Dr Andrew Leigh MP, said that it was important to ensure that the language around the refugee issue is always respectful and that we recognise the vast contribution refugees and migrants have made to this country

“There’s a local story that still brings a lump to my throat about an art competition run as part of Refugee Week, where the first prize went to a Karen Burmese woman who had woven a traditional crimson tunic,” said Dr Leigh,

“She was missing her homeland so much that she made a loom by taking the mattress of the wooden bed base and using the slats as a loom to weave a traditional Karen tunic.

“That story for me sums up the extraordinary courage and ability of Australia’s refugees,” he said.

From 1pm at Reconciliation Place on Saturday, 1000 people are expected to walk down to the lake, across Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and finish at a celebratory concert at Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park from 2pm.

Walk Together events are taking place in 16 cities and regional centres around Australia this weekend.

Walk Together, hosted by multicultural organisation Welcome to Australia and Amnesty International, closes out Refugee Week with tens of thousands of people expected to come together nation-wide.

The celebratory concert will be kicked of 104.7’s Maz Hakim as MC, and include Welcome to Australia Ambassadors Ms Mariam Veiszadeh and Dr Andrew Leigh, as well as Minister Kate Lundy, Mr Simon Sheikh and local multicultural affairs leader, Mr Sam Wong AM.

In addition to speakers, there will be performances by Blue Yvie, the ACT Chinese Australian Association, Wiradjuri Echoes and Dente Musica Viva.

Holi and Pizza, Refugees and Multiculturalism

My Chronicle column this week is about migration.

Celebrating the Australian Way of Diversity, The Chronicle, 2 April 2013

If you’ve ever seen a Bollywood movie, you probably know about the Indian festival of Holi, in which people shower one another with colourful powder. Indian society is typically quite respectful of social boundaries, but on Holi, it’s alright for anyone to throw powder at anyone else.

Continue reading ‘Holi and Pizza, Refugees and Multiculturalism’ »

ABC24 Capital Hill – 8 March 2013

On the ABC Capital Hill program, I spoke with host Lyndal Curtis and Liberal MP Russell Broadbent about the opportunity for the new Victorian Liberal Government to reverse its savage cuts, and about the importance of treating asylum-seekers with dignity in our public debates.