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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’ »

SPEECH – Bruce GP Super Clinic opens – Wednesday, 26 March

I spoke in Parliament today to celebrate the arrival of the Bruce GP Super Clinic, and to ask what it is about efficient, affordable and accessible healthcare that the Government thinks is ‘nasty’?:

This week saw the opening of the GP Super Clinic in Bruce. Residents in Canberra’s north now have better access to general practitioners, nurses, pathologists, dieticians, counsellors and a range of other allied health practitioners. The facility is located on the grounds of the University of Canberra, which means it can integrate teaching, training and research. There are already eight GPs treating patients in the new clinic in Bruce, and there is capacity to expand to 18 doctors and related supporting services.

The super clinic will help to meet the expected demand coming from the growth in Canberra’s northern suburbs. It will provide improved access for northsiders to vital health services. I celebrated the opening of the clinic; I helped turn the first sod last year with former health minister, Tanya Plibersek, who is a passionate supporter of GP super clinics, unlike the current health minister.

Continue reading ‘SPEECH – Bruce GP Super Clinic opens – Wednesday, 26 March’ »

Joint media release – More frontline health delivered by Labor – Tuesday, 25 March 2014








Residents in Canberra’s north now have better access to general practitioners, nurses, pathologists, dieticians, counsellors and a range of other allied health practitioners after the opening of the GP Super Clinic in Bruce.

This facility partners with the University of Canberra and integrates teaching, training and research.

More than 3 million MBS items have been delivered through the GP Super Clinics program across Australia, and GP Super Clinics are providing better access to primary care and delivering healthcare, despite the lack of support for better primary care infrastructure by the Abbott government.

There are already nine GPs treating patients from the new clinic in Bruce with the capacity to expand to 18 doctors along with supporting services.  This will help meet the expected demand coming from the growth in Canberra’s northern suburbs into the future.

‘GP Super Clinics are providing better access to bulk-billing services as well as after-hours access to doctors across the country,’ said Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King.

‘This Super Clinic will also enhance the area’s medical training capacity through a partnership with the University of Canberra and provides access to pathology labs, radiology and pharmacy,’ Ms King said.

‘I have been a strong advocate for a Super Clinic on Canberra’s Northside, and was pleased to attend the sod-turning ceremony in February 2013 with former Health Minister Tanya Plibersek,’ said Member for Fraser, Dr Andrew Leigh.

‘The Liberals have never seen a GP Super Clinic they didn’t want to block. Without Labor’s commitment to better health care and better medical training, Canberrans would not be benefiting from this first-rate facility.’

The funding agreement for this GP Super Clinic was signed in May 2012, construction commenced in March last year and it is officially opening today, having commenced operations in February.


BREAKING POLITICS – Transcript – 17 March, 2014

This morning, I spoke with Chris Hammer about what’s making news this week, notably the Government’s repeal plan which confuses regulation that enhances public safety and accountability with burdensome red tape.



SUBJECT/S: Public polling on Medicare and Qantas; Home Insulation Program Royal Commission and cabinet confidentiality; Red tape and community safety.

CHRIS HAMMER: There’s a new opinion poll out today in Fairfax showing the Government and Opposition running neck and neck. Perhaps of more interest is some of the questions further down the poll about peoples’ attitudes towards Medicare and the Government helping Qantas. On Medicare, the poll reveals that some 52 per cent of respondents support means-testing bulk billing for Medicare. 49 per cent support a six-dollar surcharge every time someone visits the doctor. And 50 per cent agree that the Government needs to do something to reduce the costs of Medicare. Well, to discuss this issue and others, I’m joined by Andrew Leigh, the Labor member for Fraser in the ACT and also Assistant Shadow Treasurer.


HAMMER: And, Andrew Laming, the Member for Bowman in Queensland. Andrew Laming, first to you as a former medical practitioner. What does this poll tell you about peoples’ attitude towards Medicare and the amount it costs government.

ANDREW LAMING: At the margins, it suggests that the Government’s getting its message across about just how important is it to get the budget under control. But I think the bigger picture in health is that you get 50 per cent of people every day of the week supporting means-testing so long as it doesn’t it doesn’t means-test them. These numbers don’t mean much to me and I don’t think there’s a great deal of savings to be made by introducing a few dollars here and there, given that already a quarter of Australia pay up to $50 to see a GP and overwhelming majority of the rest of them are already bulk-billed and will keep their bulk-billing status. The changes are very, very small.

HAMMER: So, the six dollar surcharge is not something you’d support?

LAMING: Look, it’s not a matter of supporting it. It will have an impact in those large city clinics where there’s an oversupply of doctors, people pop in and pop out for convenience GP visits. Collecting six dollars from them will raise somewhere in the vicinity of $175 million dollars over four years. It’s a drop in the ocean compared to the $120 billion annual health budget. We really need to focus on the big picture in health and this is not it.

HAMMER: Okay. Well, Andrew Leigh, support for Medicare has been very strong over the years. The conventional wisdom is you don’t tamper with it. Yet these polling figures people are willing to consider changes to Medicare including means-testing and the six dollar surcharge.

LEIGH: I think it’s really important that we maintain a strong Medicare system Chris and it’s true that Medicare is something that Australians are passionate about. But we had a huge period of Australian history where we fought about Medicare. Essentially all the elections from 1969 to 1993 are fights about Medicare, before finally the Coalition decides that they’ll support the system. If they want to now go ahead and argue for a six dollar GP surcharge then they ought to come forward, put that proposal on the table for the Australian people. If that proposal is contained in the Commission of Audit, then that’s one more reason why that 900 page report which is worrying many of my constituents ought to be in the public domain, as the last Commission of Audit report was, rather than sitting secret in the Treasury archives.

Continue reading ‘BREAKING POLITICS – Transcript – 17 March, 2014’ »

Breaking Politics – Transcript – Monday, 10 March 2014

At the start of the week I spoke with Fairfax Media’s Breaking Politics host Chris Hammer and Andrew Laming about what’s making news, including speculation the still secret Audit Commission report has recommended making it harder for Australians to be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Here’s the full transcript:



SUBJECT/S: Pension age; Commonwealth Seniors Health Card; Relaxing media laws.

HOST CHRIS HAMMER: At just what age should Australians be able to retire and what age would they be able to access the old age pension? At the moment that age is 65 but in a few time, by 2023 it will rise to 67. Now there’s speculation the Government may raise it again to 70. Joining me to discuss that and other issues, in the studio is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Labor member for Fraser in the ACT, Andrew Leigh and from Brisbane, the member for Bowman, Andrew Laming.

Andrew Laming, good to see you. Where are you this morning?

ANDREW LAMING: Well I’m down at my local quarry where I was hoping to show off a vigorous economy but at the moment there are no customers, so you’d just have to trust me.

HAMMER: Okay, very well. To the topic at hand, Andrew Laming can the Government defend or should the Government even be looking at raising the pension age to 70?

LAMING: Well Chris, we’re certainly looking over a decade ahead now, so it’s pretty hard to predict what living standards and expectations will look like then. But I think it’s important that the Government, given the history of the pension age, continues to debate about where an appropriate age setting should be. I’m glad that’s not a topic too hard to the Coalition to discuss and look ultimately we are, as a health expert I know, slightly fitter and slightly better able to contribute to the economy and Andrew Leigh would admit, that the longer keep people in the workforce the better it is for Australia’s long term future.

HAMMER: Andrew Leigh, we are living longer. It does make sense?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION: I certainly agree on the importance of participation Chris. But you’ve got to remember there are two key ages. There’s the age that people can access their super which is 60 and the age people get the pension which will eventually be 67. The Government is only focusing on the latter of those ages and that’s of course the time at which manual workers get their pension. And so, to say to manual workers, ‘look you’re going to now have to wait ten years longer than more affluent people who’ve got money in superannuation’ and doing that in an environment where you know that manual workers, sometimes their bodies just give out, say if you’re a bricklayer. We also know that low-income Australians die younger. So, it doesn’t seem particularly fair to be pushing out the pension age for people who do hard physical labour and who in many cases die at younger ages.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Politics – Transcript – Monday, 10 March 2014’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 10 March 2014

On 10 March, I spoke on Sky AM Agenda about mooted eligibility changes for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, and media regulation thought bubbles.

Labor’s Legacy on Taxation, Superannuation & Healthcare

I spoke in parliament on a bill relating to tax, superannuation and health, and took the opportunity to talk about Labor’s legacy in these areas.

Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 1) Bill 2014, 4 March 2014

That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading the House is of the opinion:

(1) that the government has made clear its intentions of creating a two tiered system of health care by hitting vulnerable Australians with extra out-of-pocket costs while considering further cuts to payments and support;

(2) that savings generated under this Bill must be reinvested to enhance health care affordability and universally accessible health care for all Australians; and

(3) that it was an Australian Labor Government that revolutionised health care in 1983 with the establishment of Medicare and will always defend the right of every Australian to universal, affordable and high quality health care.”

The Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 1) Bill 2014 before the House goes to matters of taxation, superannuation and health care. They are matters with which Labor are strongly familiar, as the party that laid down many of the key foundations for our tax, superannuation and health-care system. We think typically of John Curtin as being the Prime Minister who brought the troops home to save Australia against the opposition of conservatives of the day. But as John Edwards’s splendid book Curtin’s gift also points out, one of the great enduring legacies of John Curtin was uniform income tax, a centre of Commonwealth power that is the substance of its fiscal policy effectiveness and which gives the Australian Commonwealth a unity of purpose through the taxation system. Labor is also the party that created universal superannuation and expanded universal superannuation – again, over the objections of conservatives of the day. Labor therefore support schedules 1 and 2 in the bill, which go to penalties for promoters of schemes that result in the illegal early release of superannuation funds and penalties for contraventions relating to self-managed superannuation funds.

Continue reading ‘Labor’s Legacy on Taxation, Superannuation & Healthcare’ »

Reducing Smoking

I spoke in parliament today about a bill increasing tobacco excise.

Excise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 & Customs Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014, 4 March 2014

A few years ago I received an email from a constituent about why we should support efforts to reduce smoking rates. The constituent wrote:

‘My great grandfather, grandfather, father and one of my uncles all died from smoking related conditions. Each of the latter three died 20 to 30 years before the life expectancy for their generation. My father’s addiction contributed to two decades of poor health prior to his premature death, resulting in frequent periods where he was unable to work. My siblings and I grew up in poverty, the effects of which are still evident, and the taxpayer bore the cost of his many hospitalisations as well as the cumulative years of income support our family depended on in lieu of employment. I say this so you will understand my absence of sympathy for the ‘principled’ argument that tobacco companies have a right to make a profit from pushing legal drugs.’

This bill is a progressive health measure. While the national smoking rate is around 17 per cent, it remains considerably higher for disadvantaged groups: 26 per cent among people living in low socioeconomic areas; 34 per cent among Indigenous Australians; 38 per cent among the unemployed. Smokers in these groups also consume more cigarettes, around 15 to 20 per cent more cigarettes than the average smoker.

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Launch of ACT Partners in Recovery Program

We all want the live a contributing life. Today, I was pleased to attend the launch of a program for people living with a severe mental illness; a program overseen by ACT Medicare Local aimed at ensuring more than 400 Canberrans can be assisted with their complex needs to live a meaningful and less-isolated life.

Media Release

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Jacinta Collins

Senator for ACT Kate Lundy,  Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh


The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Senator Jacinta Collins joined Senator for  the ACT, Kate Lundy and Federal Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh to launch the  Partners in Recovery program in Dickson today.

Partners in Recovery, a key plank of the Rudd Labor Government’s $2.2 billion mental  health reform package, provides coordinated support and flexible funding for people  with severe and ongoing mental illness with complex support needs.

“People living with psychosis are 10 times more likely to be homeless, 50 per cent less  likely to have completed school and have a life expectancy that lags the national  average by up to 30 years,” Senator Collins said.

“The last thing people with severe mental illness, their families and carers need is to battle with multiple service systems,” Senator Collins said.

The Partners in Recovery Program in Canberra is led by the ACT Medicare Local, and will bring together support services like income support, housing, employment and medical care to facilitate ‘wrap around care’ for people with severe and long term mental illness, and complex needs.

Continue reading ‘Launch of ACT Partners in Recovery Program’ »

Addressing the National Rural Health Alliance – 14 August 2013

On 14 August, I spoke to the National Rural Health Alliance about their top three priorities for improving rural and regional health: health workforce, disability, and telehealth/NBN.

Excising the Habit

My op-ed in today’s Canberra Times looks at the impact of tobacco excise on reducing lung cancer deaths.

Coughers to cough up for coffers or excise the habit, Canberra Times, 2 August 2013

One of the most poignant emails I’ve received from a constituent read as follows:

‘My great-grandfather, grandfather, father and one of my uncles all died from smoking-related conditions. Each of the latter three died 20-30 years before the life expectancy for their generation. My father’s addiction contributed to two decades of poor health prior to his premature death, resulting in frequent periods where he was unable to work.

‘My siblings and I grew up in poverty, the effects of which are still evident, and the taxpayer bore the cost of his many hospitalisations as well as the cumulative years of income support our family depended on in lieu of employment. I say this so that you will understand my absence of sympathy for the “principle argument”, that tobacco companies have a right to make a profit from pushing legal drugs.’

Continue reading ‘Excising the Habit’ »

Launching the State of Preventive Health

On behalf of Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, I launched the inaugural State of Preventive Health report.

Launching the State of Preventive Health Report 2013
Parliament House
26 July 2013

Thank you very much Louise [Sylvan]. Can I, of course, acknowledge we’re meeting today on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I want to acknowledge Louise, Ita [Buttrose], David [Butt] who is here representing Jane Halton, as of course I am representing Tanya Plibersek. So, where this might in a parallel universe have been the Jane and Tanya show, it’s instead, I’m afraid, the David and Andrew stand-ins. But, what you get when you ask a former economics professor to launch a report is, I’m afraid, an irresistible opportunity to talk about the economics of preventive health. Because this is – from an economics perspective – truly a fascinating area.

Continue reading ‘Launching the State of Preventive Health’ »

Values and Tradeoffs

My op-ed in today’s Daily Telegraph talks about why it’s vital that the Coalition start to release policies, so we can have a real debate over ideas and values.

The real cost to voters of Abbott in the Lodge, Daily Telegraph, 24 June 2013

Former New York governor Mario Cuomo once said that politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. A corollary is that while politicians campaign in ‘and,’ we govern in ‘or.’ Each decision to invest in one area makes it harder to devote resources in another area.

In this sense, the federal budget is more than a set of numbers, it is a statement of a government’s values. A government can never invest as much, or cut taxes by as much, as it would like to. Governments must decide between worthy causes. In these choices they reveal their values.

Labor’s choices are fully outlined in the budget papers. We are making long-term, smart investments in schools and infrastructure. We are delivering once-in-a-generation reforms to improve care for people with a permanent and severe disability. And we’re paying for these critical policies with $43 billion of responsible savings. The budget papers show that these savings fund our priorities not just over the forward estimates, but well into the future.

Continue reading ‘Values and Tradeoffs’ »

An Unhealthy Policy

My op-ed in the Canberra Times points out that since Tony Abbott was Health Minister, the federal Health Department has grown more slowly than the Australian population. Yet he now claims not to know what it does, and is threatening savage cuts.

Liberals’ unhealthy dose of purging threatens, Canberra Times, 19 June 2013

Recently, I was chatting to a public servant who works at the federal Department of Health and Ageing – working on ways of reducing smoking, encouraging better nutrition, and decreasing obesity rates.

The conversation turned to this year’s election, and what it meant for our jobs. As a politician, I know that every three years I’m up for a job interview with a 130,000 person panel. But it turned out that this person felt much the same. They’re concerned that their job turns on the election result.

Continue reading ‘An Unhealthy Policy’ »

Talking Budget with Mark Parton

I spoke this morning with Mark Parton about the federal budget, and the clear choice it presents for this year’s election: between Labor’s nation-building reforms in health, schools and DisabilityCare, and the Coalition’s threatened cuts. Here’s a podcast.

Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
15 May 2013

TOPICS:                The Budget.

Continue reading ‘Talking Budget with Mark Parton’ »

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

I spoke in parliament today about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 14 March 2013

I rise to speak on a petition scheduled to be tabled by the chair of the Petitions Committee on Monday. The principal petitioner is Ms Ariette Singer, a constituent of mine, who is concerned about funding for Myalgic-Encephalitis and its accompanying illness Multi-Chemical Sensitivities. The petition notes that ME/CFS has been classified as a neurological disorder by the World Health Organisation since 1969, but there are not currently universally recognised treatment protocols. Many sufferers are still undiagnosed or, as the petition argues, misdiagnosed. I was fortunate to meet in my electorate office with Ms Singer, who spoke with me about the challenges that ME/CFS and MCS presents her. She spoke to me about her hyper sensitivities to the extremes of temperature, chemicals, light, noise and smells, frequent migraines and the fact that other sufferers have even attempted suicide. I draw the House’s attention to her concerns and those of other sufferers.

Continue reading ‘Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ »

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.

GP Super Clinic

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the ACT’s new GP Super Clinic.

GP Super Clinic, 13 February 2013

On Monday I had the pleasure of turning the first sod for a GP Super Clinic in my electorate of Fraser. Located at the University of Canberra campus in Bruce, the Super Clinic is one of 48 such clinics that have either begun operations or are under construction as part of the government’s healthcare agenda. This GP Super Clinic will form part of a hub-and-spoke system in the ACT, with future facilities in my electorate in Casey and in Calwell in South Canberra.

These investments in high-quality, comprehensive, convenient health services have significant benefits for the people of Fraser. As well as being convenient — grouping services such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy under the same roof as the local GP — Super Clinics allow for team work among health professionals, promising better quality health care.

Continue reading ‘GP Super Clinic’ »

Making a Difference in Fraser

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.

Continue reading ‘Making a Difference in Fraser’ »

Work Begins on Canberra’s $15m GP Super Clinic “Hub”

People in the ACT will soon enjoy a variety of health services in convenient locations, with the first sod turned on the ACT GP Super Clinic ‘hub’ in Bruce today.

Joining Minister Tanya Plibersek, and Chief Minister Katy Gallagher for the first sod-turned on the Bruce GP Super Clinic construction site

Continue reading ‘Work Begins on Canberra’s $15m GP Super Clinic “Hub”’ »

Talking Politics with Mark Parton

I spoke today with Mark Parton about Labor’s investments in the ACT, including through the NBN, the Majura Parkway, and the new GP SuperClinic in Bruce. Here’s a podcast.


I spoke in parliament today about Canberra charity Menslink.

Menslink, 6 February 2013

Last week I was part of a local team that helped to raise funds and awareness for Menslink at the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match at Manuka Oval. Menslink is a Canberra charity that provides counselling and mentoring services to young men. It recognises that while both young men and women suffer from anxiety and depression, the rates of young men who reach out for help are far too low. Only about half of all young men who need assistance reach out for it. There was an overwhelming response from the public to Menslink and a recognition of the important work that Menslink does. The crowd was asked to wear blue in support of Menslink and many did. As a result of more than 100 volunteers who worked the crowd at Manuka oval, six new volunteer mentors have become involved. Four young men and their families have made contact with Menslink and the charity raised almost $5,000. The main purpose of Menslink’s involvement on the day was to raise awareness, but it was pleasing that a number of corporate sponsors and individuals pledged further support for Menslink in the future.

Continue reading ‘Menslink’ »

Reducing Firearms Deaths

I spoke in parliament today about a bill to crack down on the illegal firearms market, and discussed the Australian experience with gun control.

Crimes Legislation Amendment (Organised Crime and Other Measures) Bill, 5 February 2013

Last year the Australian Crime Commission did a national intelligence audit of the illegal firearms market in Australia. That audit estimated that, while there were more than 2¾ million registered firearms in Australia, the illicit firearms market consisted of around a quarter of a million weapons—around 250,000 long arms and, perhaps more concerning, about 10,000 handguns. Illegal firearms sourced through theft from licensed owners and firearms dealers consist in part of weapons that were made illegal in the 1997 gun laws, about which I will say more later, and deactivated firearms that have been reactivated.

Continue reading ‘Reducing Firearms Deaths’ »

Construction of the NBN begins in Civic

In about 12 months, people living in the shaded area will be able to connect to the NBN

Yesterday, I welcomed the release of detailed maps by NBN Co, showing where construction of the National Broadband Network (NBN) will start in Civic.

This is really exciting for local families and business in the Civic area. In around 12 months’ time, people in Civic will be able to start connecting to the National Broadband Network. The map shows that NBN fibre is being rolled out Civic, Acton and parts of Braddon which will allow more residents access to faster, affordable and more reliable broadband.

The map is another sign that construction of the National Broadband Network is continuing to accelerate, with work now having commenced or been completed to over 784,000 homes and businesses across Australia. The release of this map means that work is starting in this area and over the next few months, we’ll start to see NBN Co workers locally doing the detailed planning and inspection work, and then rolling out the fibre. Within around twelve months, construction of the NBN in Civic will be completed. This means that families and businesses will be able to connect to faster, more reliable broadband services. A standard NBN connection to the home or office is free – and NBN retail services are available for similar prices to what people are paying now, but for a much superior service.

The National Broadband Network is about preparing Australia for the future. It’s about ensuring that our local communities in places like Canberra are not left behind as the world and our local economy changes. From seeing your local doctor from home, to your kids being able to take a specialist class at another school – the NBN will change the way we live, work, and access services. It will lead to a new wave of innovation, and I’m delighted that people in Civic will be among the first to benefit.

Did the Gun Buyback Work?

I have an opinion piece in today’s Fairfax papers, drawing on research that I did as an ANU professor with Christine Neill, in which we looked at whether the 1997 National Firearms Agreement caused national gun deaths to trend downwards, and whether states that had more guns bought back subsequently had fewer firearms deaths.

Tougher Laws, Buyback on Target, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 January 2012
Guns Policy Saving Lives, The Age, 15 January 2012
Guns Policy Saving Lives, Canberra Times, 15 January 2012

Since the 1997 gun buyback, your chance of being a victim of gun violence has more than halved. Yet as yesterday’s Herald/Age pointed out, the number of guns in Australia has increased by nearly one-fifth over the same period. What’s going on?

The simplest answer is that Australia’s population is a fifth larger than it was in 1997. In reality, Australia has about as many guns per person as we did after the gun buyback. The only way you can conclude that the gun buyback has been undone is if to ignore a decade and a half of population growth.

Moreover, the figure that really matters is the share of gun-owning households. In 1997, many households used the chance to clean out the closet, and take a weapon to the local police station that hadn’t been used in years (the most common weapon handed in was a .22 calibre rifle). So the share of gun-owning households nearly halved, from 15 percent to 8 percent.

Continue reading ‘Did the Gun Buyback Work?’ »

New Life

My latest Chronicle column is on parenthood.

Wonderous Times With Newborns, The Chronicle, 6 November 2012

Ever wondered why a calf can walk after a few hours, while a baby takes a year to learn the same skill? It turns out that the problem arises from two features of humans – we stand on two legs (which requires a small and bony pelvis), but also have large brains (which are hard to fit through that pelvis). Evolution’s solution to this problem is that all humans are born – in a sense – prematurely. After emerging from the womb, we need more protection from the world than do most other animals.

I’m typing this article one-handed, with a one month old boy asleep in the crook of my left arm. There’s something extraordinary about new life – its beautiful vulnerability and that unique ‘new baby smell’ that disappears all too quickly. Zachary is our third child, and we’ve gotten a few things right this time that we wish we’d done before.

Continue reading ‘New Life’ »

Chatting Economics and Politics with Matt Smith

I was recently interviewed by La Trobe University’s Matt Smith, about trust in politicians, inequality, good evaluation, climate change and other topics.

You can read a transcript, download an MP3, or podcast it through iTunes.

Calling Coalition Costings: Come to Canberra

I spoke in parliament today about good economic management and the importance of Oppositions – ACT and Federal – producing properly costed policies.

Matter of Public Importance, 10 October 2012

It is a pleasure to rise to speak in a debate on the strength of the Australian economy and the right policy settings. Any discussion about where the Australian economy is headed needs to recognise that we are in the midst of one of the biggest terms of trade shocks in Australia’s history. In the history of the Australian economy, when a terms of trade shock has come along—whether it was in the 1930s, 1950s or the 1970s—it has blown the place up. Yet, despite a massive increase in the terms of trade—a massive increase in the ratio of export prices to import prices—the Australian economy, this time, has remained strong. Unemployment has stayed at 5-point-something and inflation has stayed low.

Continue reading ‘Calling Coalition Costings: Come to Canberra’ »

Reforms with Teeth

I spoke in parliament today about dental health, and the government’s proposal to replace an inefficient and expensive scheme with a more targeted and effective one.

Dental Benefits Amendment Bill, 10 October 2012

I rise today to speak on the Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2012. In this context it is worth noting that human beings are the only species that smile to signal happiness. It is an evolutionary quirk that is unique. It is an integral part of being human. All of us in this place, whatever our political stripes, trade on those smiles. It would be a strange-looking political website and an odd-looking corflute that did not have a picture of us beaming happily at our constituents. That smile is such an integral part of human relations. But just imagine if the sight of your teeth made people recoil from you. Imagine the isolation, the sense of embarrassment and the erosion of self-esteem.

Continue reading ‘Reforms with Teeth’ »

Lateline – 5 October 2012

I appeared on Lateline on 5 October 2012, speaking about the increasingly scratchy tone of debate in Australian politics; the way that Labor policies such as paid parental leave, equal pay and superannuation have helped women; the strength of the Australian economy; and Labor’s decision to replace a badly-targeted dental policy with a better one. A transcript is here.