On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg about the Coalition’s broken promise on school funding, protectionist decision on foreign investment, and problematic calls in foreign policy.
Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category.
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.
TRANSCRIPT - ONLINE INTERVIEW
BREAKING POLITICS – FAIRFAX VIDEO
MONDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2013
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.
ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks Tim.
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.
I spoke in the House of Representatives today about Australia’s ties with Indonesia – discussing the three years I lived there, and some of the great Australians who helped shape the relationship.
THURSDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 2013
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
The Importance of Indonesia to Australia, House of Representatives, 21 November 2013
Last night in the House the Leader of the Opposition spoke about the importance of ‘team Australia’ in our engagement with Indonesia. It is a phrase which the late great Senator Peter Cook used to use often. I wish to speak today about the personal value I place on that relationship.
I have spoken previously in parliament about some of the great Australians who helped to forge the bond with Indonesia in the 1950s. Jamie Mackie, who worked in the state planning bureau in Jakarta, lectured in economic history at Gadjah Mada University and eventually formed a group at the Monash University Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, which earned the title of ‘a second Cornell’ in recognition of its engagement with Indonesian issues. I have spoken too about Herb Feith, who was instrumental in setting up the Australian volunteering program, having written to the Australian Prime Minister and the Indonesian President—Menzies and Sukarno—when he was aged 22. Herb’s work in building the relationship with Indonesia was absolutely vital. As Herb wrote in 1954 of Australian volunteers in Indonesia:
‘… these young people assert by the way they live, that racial equality is real. By having natural and friendly relations with Indonesians on the basis of mutual respect.’
On Sky AM Agenda, I joined Liberal MP Steve Ciobo and host Kieran Gilbert to discuss Mr Hockey’s request for a no-doc $500B loan, Mr Abbott’s curious statements on human rights in Sri Lanka, and the emerging split in the Coalition over foreign investment.
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:
MONDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2013
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.
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:
MONDAY, 11 NOVEMBER 2013
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.
ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks Tim.
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.
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:
BREAKING POLITICS WITH TIM LESTER
MONDAY 28 OCTOBER 2013
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’.
This morning I spoke with Fairfax Media’s Tim Lester for Breaking Politics, exploring news of the day. I was asked about on-going revelations Coalition MPs, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have repaid tax payer funded outings, the impact of the US Congress budget impasse and about the rights of West Papuans to express their concerns. Here’s the full transcript:
BREAKING POLITICS – FAIRFAX MEDIA
TIM LESTER: When is it legitimate for an MP to claim his or her travel expenses on the taxpayer? Going to weddings for example. There are some numerous and now some notorious cases out there. To help us fathom this issues and others, our regular for Monday, joining us this week on a Tuesday because of holidays is Andrew Leigh, the MP for Fraser, Labor MP. Thank you for coming in Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks.
LESTER: Tony Abbott attended weddings several years ago. Now, one of them was Peter Slipper’s several years ago now. He claimed the costs. The taxpayers paid for him. He’s now paid it back seven years later when the issue surfaces as contentious. Has he done the right thing or the wrong thing?
LEIGH: Mr Abbott’s seems to have a fairly expansive view of entitlements and you’re beginning to see a bit of a pattern here. Like the Howard Government which had seven ministers resign early on as a result of various scandals including travel expenses scandals. There are now four Coalition cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister who are under investigation here. I guess what worries me is that if they’re taking that sort of approach to these cases that we know about, what approach do they take to public expenses more broadly? That plays into a broader question over schemes such as paid parental leave which I think demonstrate an even more cavalier approach to the public finances.
LESTER: So, the various cases of weddings that we’ve seen here where these MPs have gone along and claimed on the taxpayer, they should not have done that?
LEIGH: I certainly don’t believe so. I mean it’s great to see Coalition MPs going to weddings. They’re so excited by them, you wonder how they can be against same-sex marriage. But this strikes me as an entirely personal matter and I’m surprised they’ve claimed for it.
On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Laura Jayes and Liberal minister Mitch Fifield about the Coalition’s odd policy of liberalising trade and restricting foreign investment, and about the four cabinet members who have claimed travel allowance to attend weddings.
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.
The Abbott Government’s decision to integrate AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is extremely short-sighted.
“AusAID is not an ATM for diplomats,” said Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fraser in the Australian Capital Territory.
“The purpose of development assistance is fighting poverty. Absorbing AusAID into DFAT signals that fight – to save and improve the lives of the world’s absolute poor – is not valued.”
“This takes us back to 1973. Like Tony Abbott’s decision to scrap the science ministry and his choice to have only one women in a cabinet of twenty people, this shows that this is a back-to-the-future government,” said Dr Leigh. Continue reading ‘AusAID should not become an ATM for diplomats – 19 September’ »
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?
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.
On 29 August, Andrew Leigh MP appeared on Sky PM Agenda with host David Speers and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg. Topics included the Coalition’s secrecy over releasing costings, and the situation in Syria.
On last night’s ABC702 Political Forum, I joined Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull and David Smith from the US Studies Centre in a congenial conversation with host Richard Glover about the philosophical differences between the parties (I argued Labor is the party of egalitarianism and liberalism), the Coalition’s uncosted paid parental leave scheme, negative advertising, and the situation in Egypt. Here’s a podcast.
My op-ed in today’s AFR looks at the prospects for jumpstarting Japan’s ailing economy.
Three Arrows on Their Way, Australian Financial Review, 4 June 2013
In the mid-1930s, John Maynard Keynes coined the phrase ‘animal spirits’ to sum up the impact of a country’s mood on its economic environment. When nations get stuck in a funk, it’s hard to escape. Conversely, when growth gets going, exuberance builds on exuberance (sometimes to the point of creating a bubble). Either way, the sentiments of consumers and businesses can build on one another.
For Japan, the post-war decades are a story of astonishing transformation, as the country transformed itself from a developing to a developed country. By the 1980s, airport bookshelves were filled with tomes about the virtues of the Japanese economic model, with titles like Trading Places: How we are Giving Our Future to Japan and How to Reclaim It and Blindside: Why Japan Is Still on Track to Overtake the U.S. by the Year 2000.
But the past twenty years have been a story of malaise. Hard as it is to believe, the Japanese economy – in nominal terms – is almost exactly the same size as it was twenty years ago. The deflation trap has proved devilishly hard to escape, and net government debt is now more than 140 percent of GDP, the highest in the OECD (Australia’s debt share is one of the lowest).
The folks behind the proposed Boer War Memorial are looking for support from descendents of people who served in the war. If you think a family member might have fought for Australia in that conflict, you can look them up using this handy search engine (which thoughtfully also lets you download the entire database).
On the ABC website, I have an opinion piece on the upcoming Israeli election.
We owe it as friends to warn Israel, The Drum, 15 January 2013
Israelis will go to the polls next Tuesday to elect a new government.
If early signs are to be believed, Israel’s most conservative government ever may be replaced by one even further to the right.
Already, there are signs that settler activity will intensify after the election.
The question for Australia is: what can we do to bring about peace in the Middle East?
First, some background.
David Lipson hosted Paul Fletcher and me this morning. We talked about asylum seekers, green tape and whether Labor is the new party of liberalism.
Australia-China Forum, 29 November 2012
Earlier this month it was my pleasure to attend the second annual Australia-China Forum. Established during a difficult period in the bilateral relationship, the forum provides an opportunity for businesspeople, government officials, academics and journalists to discuss issues that matter to our two countries. The Australian delegation was led by the indefatigable Gareth Evans, and the Chinese delegation was led by another former foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing. We were generously hosted by the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, CPIFA. By chance, the forum took place on the precise day that the new Chinese leadership was announced to the world.
I recently attended the Australia-China forum in Beijing and was a part of a breakfast panel discussing various political issues. We covered off the Asian Century White Paper and optimism in Australian politics during the session. The audio from the panel is available below.
On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke about lessons from President Obama’s victory for Australian politics, the need to better manage peak power demand, and why good governments routinely cost policy ideas that are in the public domain. The presenter was David Lipson and my co-panellist was Kelly O’Dwyer.
For a 20th anniversary segment, I appeared on Meet the Press with Liberal MP Joshua Frydenberg, and interviewers Hugh Riminton and Misha Schubert. Topics included why I’m in the ALP, what the Asian Century White Paper means for Australia, and the importance of education and entrepreneurship to our nation’s future.
I spoke in parliament today about the late international relations scholar Coral Bell.
Coral Bell, 11 October 2012
I rise to speak about a great constituent of mine, Coral Bell, AO, who passed away on 26 September 2012. Coral Bell was a former academic at the Australian National University and one of the great international relations scholars in Australia. Her former ANU colleague Andrew Carr said, ‘She was a landmark figure in Australia’s international relations who was often the only woman in the room yet was always well heard and respected for her intelligence and character’. My friend Michael Fullilove, who has recently taken over as executive director of the Lowy Institute—and I congratulate him on that—called Dr Bell ‘a giant of the Australian foreign policy scene’.
I spoke in parliament today about the late war hero and public servant, Sir Richard Kingsland.
Sir Richard Kingsland, 13 September 2012
Sir Richard Kingsland passed away at Calvary John James Hospital after a short illness on Monday, the 27th. Like many of my constituents, his was a life of public service. His wartime service was marked by the bravery and ingenuity he displayed in the 1940 retrieval of Field Marshal Viscount Gort VC from a Moroccan hotel. It is a tale of derring-do that befits 007, perhaps with a hint of the Pink Panther.
I spoke in parliament yesterday about Private Robert Poate, a young Canberra man killed in Afghanistan.
Private Robert Poate, 10 September 2012
Among the fallen that we remember today is Canberra-born Private Robert Poate. This young, promising and highly qualified soldier’s life was cut short by a rogue Afghan solider in Oruzgan province last month. He was on his first tour of duty. Today we offer our deepest condolences to Private Poate’s colleagues, friends and, most of all, his family: Hugh, Janny and Nicola. As a soldier, a mate, a brother and a son, this tragic loss has been keenly felt by Canberra’s close-knit community.
The long tail of academic publishing means that two years after leaving my professorial post at ANU, I’m still having pieces appear in the journals. In case it’s of interest, here are the handful of publications that have come out in 2012.
- ‘Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence From a Field Experiment’ (with Alison Booth and Elena Varganova) (2012) Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics
- ‘Bargaining Over Labor: Do Patients Have Any Power?’ (with Joshua Gans) (2012) Economic Record
- ‘How Much Did the 2009 Australian Fiscal Stimulus Boost Demand? Evidence from Household-Reported Spending Effects‘, B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics
- ‘How Partisan is the Press? Multiple Measures of Media Slant’ (with Joshua Gans) (2012) Economic Record
- ‘Teacher Pay and Teacher Aptitude’ (2012) Economics of Education Review
- ‘The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay’ (2012), CESifo Economic Studies (forthcoming)
- ‘Intergenerational Income Mobility in Urban China’ (with Cathy Gong and Xin Meng) (2012) Review of Income and Wealth (forthcoming)
- ‘Effects of Temporary In-Work Benefits for Welfare Recipients: Examination of the Australian Working Credit Programme’ (with Roger Wilkins) (2012), Fiscal Studies (forthcoming)
All my academic work – including many replication datasets – is available at www.andrewleigh.org.
In the SMH News Review section today, I’ve done ‘The Essay’ – a shorter version of my McKell Institute speech.
Dumb Luck – Smart Future, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 2012
In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, sit the Galapagos Islands. Although they straddle the equator, the pattern of ocean currents has a cooling effect, making them an ideal breeding ground.
The islands are volcanic – so all animal life on the Galapagos Islands came originally by flying or floating nearly 1000 kilometres from Ecuador. And yet for the species that survived, life on the Galapagos Islands was perfect. Migrating birds lucky enough to be blown off course found an environment with few natural predators. Tortoises that floated here found beaches perfectly suited to their breeding environments. Life flourished.
Looking back across Australian economic history, I am often struck by the extent to which luck has similarly played a part in our success. Politicians are sometimes reluctant to talk about luck – preferring to focus on the things we can control than those we can’t. But I think it’s still worth talking about the role that fortune has played, if only to help understand what preparations we should be making. If we don’t do that, we’re like the Galapagos tortoise, which must have thought itself the luckiest species on earth, until British sailors discovered the islands in the late-eighteenth century, and ate them in their thousands.
On 31 May 2012, it will be 110 years since the signing of the peace treaty in the Boer War. The National Boer War Association has asked me to let descendants know about the memorial (the picture shows an artist’s rendering), and that special ‘descendants’ and ‘in memory’ medallions have been struck in honour of veterans.
Anyone who thinks they might be a descendant is encouraged to go to the Ancestor Search function on the Boer War Memorial website, or to contact the National Boer War Memorial Association.
This week, I met with a delegation of three Burmese members of parliament, newly elected to represent Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party. The photo shows me chatting with MP Phyo Zeya Thaw, who was also a hip-hop artist (in fact, that’s what got him into trouble with the regime). I asked Mr Thaw whether the regime had jailed him for his activism. His reply: “Only for 3 years and 3 months.” It was a humbling conversation.