This afternoon I spoke to ABC Canberra 666 host Alex Sloan about today’s High Court ruling against the ACT’s marriage equality legislation. Listen here.
ACT Federal Labor members also issued a joint statement expressing disappointment and urging the Prime Minister to bring the debate to the floor of the Parliament. While the High Court found the landmark ACT law unconstitutional, the Court also stated that ‘marriage’ in the Australian Constitution includes a marriage between persons of the same sex. This means that the Parliament can legislate for marriage equality.
JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT
Federal Labor Members in the ACT
Andrew Leigh MP, Member for Fraser
Gai Brodtmann MP, Member for Canberra
Kate Lundy, Senator for the ACT
CALL FOR TONY ABBOTT TO ALLOW SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CONSCIENCE VOTE
We are very disappointed with the decision today by the High Court to strike out the territory’s same-sex marriage law.
This is a sad day for those same-sex couples that took advantage of the ACT’s ground-breaking legislation and tied the knot since Saturday.
We commend ACT Labor on its efforts to advance the cause of equality.
We also respect the decision of the High Court.
The Prime Minister must now deliver on his pledge that the Liberal Party room will revisit the question of whether to have a conscience vote on same-sex marriage.
The Abbott Government chose to mount this legal challenge at a cost to taxpayers when this is an inherently political decision that should be decided in the Federal Parliament.
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:
SKY AM AGENDA WITH DAVID LIPSON
SATURDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2013
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.
History was made today with the passage in the ACT Assembly of the momentous Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill. My congratulations to my ACT Labor colleagues and all those who helped make this win happen.
Member for Fraser
TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 2013
Andrew Leigh welcomes milestone ACT same-sex marriage law
Federal Labor Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, has congratulated his Australian Capital Territory colleagues for the successful passage today of the trailblazing Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill.
“The irony is that this bill is only possible because the Howard Government amended the federal Marriage Act in 2004, restricting it to cover only heterosexual marriage.
“As a result, today’s ACT bill simply fills in the gap – allowing same-sex marriages by ACT couples.”
Dr Leigh said the federal Attorney General’s plan to challenge the ACT law in the High Court is “mean-spirited”.
“There’s nothing in the Constitution that says states and territories can’t pass laws on marriage. In fact, until the 1960s, marriage was principally a state and territory matter.
“A High Court challenge like this is extremely unusual, and would normally come from a private citizen, not the federal government.
“This legal challenge is a diversion from what is fundamentally a political issue. If the Abbott Government wants to try and quash this law, then same-sex marriage should be debated in the federal parliament with the Liberal Party allowing its members a conscience vote, not binding them as it did last time around.”
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh today announced new funding for the Women’s Legal Centre ACT and the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre ACT.
The Rudd Labor Government will provide an extra $200,000 to the Women’s Legal Centre ACT for the next four years and an extra $240,000 for the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre ACT over the same period.
“Access to legal advice and support is essential to strengthening our local communities and our democracy,” said Mr Dreyfus.
“The Rudd Labor Government is deeply committed to a fair go under the law and this funding for the Women’s Legal Centre ACT and the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre ACT will make a real difference to people in Canberra.
I spoke on the adjournment debate about how to have less crime and less punishment.
Crime and Punishment, 19 March 2013
The issue of reducing crime and incarceration is one that is close to my heart. Shayne Neumann, the member for Blair, and I moved a motion in 2011 in this House aimed at reducing crime and incarceration. The motion pointed out that over recent decades Australia has invested in prison building at an astonishing rate. The national imprisonment rate in 1991 was 117 prisoners per 100,000 adults. By 2007 it had risen to 167 prisoners per 100,000 adults. Over the same period, a period which began with the royal commission into black deaths in custody in 1991, the level of Indigenous incarceration went up from 1,739 prisoners per 100,000 adults to 2,248 prisoners out of every 100,000 Indigenous adults. In Western Australia, four per cent of all Indigenous adults are currently in jail. Even adjusting for the age structure of the Indigenous population, Indigenous Australians are still 14 times more likely to be jailed than non-Indigenous people. By their mid-20s, 40 per cent of Indigenous men have been charged by police with a crime.
I spoke in parliament today on a bill enabling the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Royal Commissions Amendment Bill, 13 March 2013
As previous speakers on the Royal Commissions Amendment Bill 2013 have noted, child sexual abuse is one of the hardest topics to speak about, particularly for those of us in this place who are parents. An account by Patricia Feenan titled Holy Hell gives some sense of the scale of the trauma. Ms Feenan writes about the abuse which occurred to her son Daniel which was perpetrated by their local parish priest, Father Fletcher. She writes:
‘Father Fletcher visited our family a lot and we were very active in his church. John’ — her husband— ‘did his accounts and I did everything from sewing the buttons onto his black shirts to taking communion to the elderly. He took a particular interest in Daniel, recruiting him as an altar server. People were always drawn to Daniel. He had a sweet nature, an angelic face and shining eyes.’
On Sky AM Agenda today, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield about why a profits-based mining tax has volatile revenues, why Labor is committed to seeing low-income earners pay no tax on their superannuation contributions, and the importance of politicians not meddling in criminal investigations.
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.
On 26 February, FARE will be hosting a lunchtime forum at Parliament House with UCLA’s Mark Kleiman, author of When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment. Mark is one of my favourite criminologists, and I’d recommend the event for anyone interested in crime and punishment.
Since the 1997 gun buyback, your chance of being a victim of gun violence has more than halved. Yet as yesterday’s Herald/Agepointed 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.
I did a doorstop interview this morning covering a range of current events leading into another Parliamentary sitting week. Among other things, I pointed out that the weekend violence does not represent the mainstream of peaceful Muslims in Australia, and argued that horserace polls are the fairy floss of modern politics – they’re rotting the teeth of the body politic.
Last Wednesday, I spoke with La Trobe University economist Jan Libich about some of my academic findings – from teacher pay & aptitude to child gender & divorce – and possible policy implications. If you want to read more, the research is available at my academic website: www.andrewleigh.org.
And if you’d like to watch Jan’s other interviews (including with Eric Leeper and Don Brash), they’re available on his YouTube channel.
I spoke in parliament about privacy reforms, and their tie-in with Labor’s tradition of consumer protection.
Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill, 23 August 2012
Personal information is becoming more sensitive and valuable in the expanding online world. Protecting the privacy of personal information is a real concern for consumers and business. On one estimate, identity theft and fraud affects half a million Australians every year. In 2007, my friend Joshua Gans wrote in his blog about his own experience of identity theft. He wrote that somebody had obtained his details using his birthdate, which was available on his CV. They then obtained a Medicare card and began to open bank accounts in his name. He discovered later that he was among the victims of a large scamming operation which has since been shut down by the authorities. He was pretty shocked by the experience. Joshua’s experience shows the importance of privacy protection and why we need strong legislative protection of personal information.
On behalf of Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, I addressed the Public Sector In-House Counsel Conference this morning.
Andrew Leigh MP on behalf of The Hon Nicola Roxon MP
8th Annual Public Sector In-House Counsel Conference 2012
30 July 2012
Ministerial Keynote Address:
In-house counsel: Delivering the benefits while avoiding the risks
First, may I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we meet on – and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
It is a pleasure to join you here today for the 8th Public Sector In‑House Counsel Conference.
I regard myself as a lapsed lawyer, having practiced for only a short period in the mid-1990s, for Sydney law firms Coleman & Grieg and Minter Ellison. My last job in the legal profession was as Associate to former High Court Justice Michael Kirby.
I spoke in parliament today on the 20th anniversary of the Mabo judgment.
20th Anniversary of the Mabo Judgment
25 June 2012
Imagine the moment in 1974 when, talking with his friends, Eddie Koiki Mabo realised his land was owned by the Crown, not by him and his people. Noel Loos and Henry Reynolds recall: ‘Koiki was surprised and shocked’. He had kept saying, ‘No way, it’s not theirs. It’s ours.’ It would turn out to be one of the most significant moments in Australian history. From then to the historic High Court decision of 3 June 1992 Eddie Mabo showed us that a deeper appreciation of Indigenous Australia is the responsibility of all Australians and that the recognition of Indigenous history and culture and the challenges it faces is not an optional part of being Australian but is essential to who we are.
‘When I was young, I asked my grandmother what her view would be on having a gay grandchild. Her response was steadfast: “I could not support it,” she said. “It would be against God, and against everything I believe in.” Years later, I came out to my family before leaving home to move to university (an economics degree!). My grandmother was unsteady in the knowledge that she now had a gay grandchild, something that was seen as uncommon in North Queensland at the time.
I spoke in parliament about my latest community conversation on disadvantage, which focused on intergenerational poverty.
Fraser Community Summit, 31 May 2012
Every six months or so I hold a conversation to talk about disadvantage in the Fraser electorate. On Tuesday, 29 May I was pleased to welcome 10 representatives from local community sector groups up to Parliament House for an early breakfast conversation. I call it a community summit, but really it is more of an informal conversation with people I regard as my brains trust on poverty.
The focus of this conversation was on intergenerational disadvantage and how to stop the cycle of poverty from replicating itself across generations. One of the attendees at the summit made the point that disadvantage itself is now more complex than it was in the past and is often interrelated with issues such as mental illness, poor health, substance abuse, domestic violence and addiction. Another attendee told the story of a child whose parents were addicted to hard drugs and who was never given anything by his parents; all he had were the things that he had found or stolen. Another spoke about families who eat McDonald’s every meal because it is simpler to get takeaway than to prepare a meal. Attendees were concerned about the impact of imprisonment on the children of those who are behind bars.
WITH his casual dress sense, ready laugh and broad vowels, Bruce Western immediately strikes you as the expatriate Queenslander he is. The Harvard-based sociologist is also one of the leading scholars of crime in the United States, and a few years ago he presented a seminar about his research at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney.
Now, I’ve attended hundreds of conferences and academic seminars, and I don’t recall ever gasping out loud. But I did when Western’s PowerPoint presentation began reeling through the following facts.
US jails currently hold over two million people, more than 1 per cent of the adult population. Among men aged twenty to thirty-four who didn’t complete high school, the imprisonment rate is a jaw-dropping 12 per cent for whites and 37 per cent for blacks. That’s right – 37 per cent of young, black high school dropouts are currently behind bars.
On Sky AM Agenda today, I spoke with presenter Kieran Gilbert and my regular counterpart Kelly O’Dwyer about public service jobs, the value of foreign aid, and the importance of the presumption of innocence in our legal system.
I have an article on the ABC Drum website today about the politics of fear.
Power-seeking politicians walking the low road on fear
ABC The Drum Opinion, 19 March 2012
For centuries, power-seeking politicians have recognised that scaring the public is an effective tactic to win support.
Today, with ready access to a media that’s hungry for shocking stories, any parliamentarian who wants to whip up fear will usually find a ready audience.
Nowhere is this truer than in the case of fear of crime. Most Australians – particularly those whose major source of information is talkback radio – believe that crime is high and rising. And yet as a report earlier this month from the Australian Institute of Criminology showed, most categories of crime in Australia have been falling over time.
I spoke in parliament yesterday about the new R18+ computer games classification.
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012
14 March 2012
It is important to say at the outset of the discussion of this Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012 that there are many terrific uses of computer games. Many Australians enjoy computer games and although I am not a big gamer myself, my two little boys, Sebastian and Theodore, love getting on the iPad any moment they can. Their favourite game is Angry Birds. It is a chance for them to work on their fine motor skills, a little breather for their parents and an opportunity for them to work together as brothers. However, there are many computer games in Australia to which I would not want children exposed and certainly not without their parents’ knowledge.
Kelly O’Dwyer and I had a pleasant chat this morning on AM Agenda with Kieran Gilbert. Topics included the Gillard Government’s company tax cuts (opposed by the Liberal Party) and Opposition scaremongering on guns and crime.
Don Weatherburn, director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, has a terrific op-ed in today’s SMH, castigating governments who are evidence-based in name only (shall we call them ENO administrations?).
You would never be able to market a pharmaceutical drug in Australia without rigorous evaluation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. But state and territory governments routinely spend large sums of taxpayers’ money trying to reduce crime and re-offending without subjecting the measures to any evaluation. Where evaluations are undertaken, the results are often ignored.
The promise to appoint additional police and impose tougher penalties on crime are staples at nearly every election; yet no Australian state or territory government has ever promised to evaluate and publicly report on the effects of additional police and tougher penalties.
And it isn’t just those old staples that escape critical scrutiny. The list of policies shown by my office to have no effect on re-offending in NSW includes high fines for drink drivers, supervision of offenders on good behaviour bonds, detention for juvenile offenders, the forum sentencing program (a restorative justice program for young adult offenders) and the circle sentencing program (under which Aboriginal offenders are brought before community elders for sanctioning).
Despite the negative results, all these policies remain in place. Meanwhile, programs that have been known for years to be effective, such as the NSW Drug Court Program, are only now being expanded.
I spoke to parliament on both Wednesday and Thursday about the Tax Forum, and also about the challenge of ongoing tax reform to support the kinds of social policies society is increasingly demanding.
Statements – Taxation
12 October 2011
It was my pleasure last week to participate in the Australian government’s tax forum, a forum designed to continue the important conversation about how to build a better taxation system in Australia. This forum, of course, does not sit in isolation. This government commissioned a once in a generation taxation report in 2009. The Henry review reported back with a range of important recommendations which this government is pursuing. In my own submission to the tax forum, I argued that among the core principles for tax reform should be the following: taxes should be shifted from mobile tax bases to immobile tax bases, taxation of savings should be more neutral and sustainable, polluters should internalise the social cost of environmental damage, disincentives to labour force participation should be reduced, and the tax system should be as simple as possible.
I spoke to parliament this week on the topic of work health and safety. Due to the intervention of a quorum call and members’ statements, the speech was broken into three parts, but I’ve sewn them back together in what follows.
Work Health and Safety Bill 2011
25 August & 12 October 2011
I rise to speak in the debate on the Work Health and Safety Bill 2011.
Five workers die aboard an unseaworthy vessel in the Torres Strait. Six motorcycles used for work are found to be unroadworthy in the Northern Territory. Camp food containing peanuts is fed to a camp attendee with a severe peanut allergy in Victoria. Two members of the public die on a rail access road and bridge in South Australia. The thing that each of these situations has in common: they are all part of the Commonwealth’s health and safety jurisdiction—the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia Post, the Department of Defence and the Australian Rail Track Corporation, respectively.
I put a private members’ motion on the notice paper this week on the topic of crime and incarceration rates. Hopefully it’ll be selected for debate in the coming weeks.
Dr LEIGH: to move:
That this House:
(1) recognises that:
(a) the Australian incarceration rate has risen from 117 prisoners per 100,000 adults in 1991 to 172 prisoners per 100,000 adults in 2010;
(b) since the Indigenous Deaths in Custody Report was released in 1991, the Indigenous incarceration rate has risen from 1739 prisoners per 100,000 adults to 2303 prisoners per 100,000 adults; and
(c) an increasing number of Australian children have a parent behind bars; and
(2) encourages governments at all levels to pursue innovative policies to reduce crime and incarceration rates, including:
(a) investing in early intervention programs to deter young people from crime;
(b) where appropriate, considering alternatives to incarceration such as weekend detention, periodic detention, restorative justice and drug courts;
(c) employing smart policing strategies, such as using real-time crime statistics to identify and target crime hotspots;
(d) establishing in-prison education, training and rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing recidivism and improving family relationships for prisoners with children; and
(e) implementing randomised policy trials (akin to the 1999 NSW Drug Court randomised trial) to rigorously evaluate the impact of criminal justice interventions.
Thanks to intern Jess Woodall for her help drafting the motion.