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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):

ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION
MEMBER FOR FRASER

Battlers and Billionaires: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat*

National Press Club Address

THURSDAY, 27 MARCH 2014

CANBERRA

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’ »

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.

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

INTERVIEW
BREAKING POLITICS – FAIRFAX MEDIA

MONDAY, 3 MARCH 2014

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.

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Closing the Gap – in Jervis Bay

I spoke in parliament about the importance of Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, focusing on the Wreck Bay community that I represent.

Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014, 26 February 2014

I rise to speak on Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014. Closing the Gap is not a mere slogan; it is a bi-partisan commitment to change lives for the better, and we owe this to generations of Indigenous people. Closing the Gap is about life over death, hope over hopelessness, resilience over ruin. It is an expectation that all Australians should flourish. Being an Indigenous Australian should not mean being marked by disadvantage. We are learning more all the time about the challenges and barriers facing Indigenous Australians. We are making some progress on overcoming them, but there is much more to be done. All of us in this House can make a difference in improving the poor health of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared to that of the non-Indigenous population.

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SKY AM Agenda – Transcript – Monday 27 January

On 27 Jan, I joined host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield to discuss the evidence against Work for the Dole, the possible sell-off of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Australian of the Year Adam Goodes and speculation about the next Governor General. A transcript is over the fold.

Continue reading ‘SKY AM Agenda – Transcript – Monday 27 January’ »

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’ »

Why Australia Prospered

In the latest issue of the Journal of Economic Literature, I review Ian McLean’s terrific book on Australian economic history.

Review of Ian McLean, Why Australia Prospered: The Shifting Sources of Economic Growth
Journal of Economic Literature, 2013

In the 1990s, Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński was asked by his fellow citizens: ‘You’ve been all over the world. Isn’t there a country somewhere that has found a middle way – where market forces rule, but where the government looks after the kids and the old and the sick and the poor? Somewhere where the bosses give the workers a reasonable deal? Somewhere where people help each other instead of just looking after themselves?’ And Kapuściński told them: ‘Yes, it’s called Australia.’ (quoted in Knightley, 2001, 31)

In the scheme of things, Australia has fared pretty well. In the late-nineteenth century, it had the highest per-capita incomes in the world. In the early-twentieth century, it was the first country to allow women to both stand for office and vote (and can on this basis lay claim to have been the world’s first democracy). In recent years, it has defied the global slump, keeping unemployment below 6 percent and growing 14 percent since the end of 2007. In 2013, the OECD’s Better Life Index gave Australia top spot for the third year in a row.

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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?

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Boost for ANU to support native title anthropology – 27 August 2013

Campaign Media Release

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus

Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh

NEW GRANTS FOR NATIVE TITLE ANTHROPOLOGY

The Rudd Labor Government is providing over $1.75 million to attract a new generation of anthropologists to native title work and to    encourage senior anthropologists to stay on in the field.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Member for Fraser Dr Andrew Leigh today visited the Australian National University to  announce Native Title Anthropologist Grants for the next three years.

“I congratulate the successful recipients and welcome their contributions to the native title anthropology sector,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“These projects will provide a range of programs, including training for junior anthropologists, field work programs, an Indigenous internship and research placements.”

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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’ »

Helen Hughes

I spoke in parliament today about the passing of distinguished Australian economist Helen Hughes.

Helen Hughes, 17 June 2013

Economists have a tradition of paying tribute to colleagues of a different ideological view. Friedrich Hayek said of John Maynard Keynes, ‘He was the one really great man I ever knew, and for whom I had unbounded admiration. The world will be a very much poorer place without him.’

Larry Summers said of Milton Friedman, ‘He and I probably never voted the same way in any election. …. Nonetheless, like many others I feel that I have lost a hero, a man whose success demonstrates that great ideas convincingly advanced can change the lives of people around the world.’

I am far from that league, but it is in that same spirit that I rise to acknowledge the free-market economist Helen Hughes, who died on Saturday aged 85. Born in Prague, Professor Hughes emigrated to Australia in 1939. Educated in Melbourne, she did her PhD at the London School of Economics and then worked at the World Bank in Washington DC.

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Mr Yunupingu, Lead Singer of Yothu Yindi

I spoke in parliament tonight about the death of Mr Yunupingu.

Mr Yunupingu, 4 June 2013

It is my pleasure to follow the eloquent words of the member for Fremantle. In 2008, 17 years after he first sang of ‘hearing about it on the radio and seeing it on the television’, Mr Yunupingu reflected on the Hawke government’s promise for a treaty for Indigenous Australians. ‘I am still waiting for that treaty to come along for my grandsons,’ he said. ‘Even if it is not there in the days that I am living, it might come in the days that I am not living.’

Mr Yunupingu’s optimism rings with particular poignancy in light of his passing this weekend. At only 56, his days on this earth were too few. Pushing Indigenous Australian issues to the forefront of the national psyche in a fashion that blended the political with pop culture was a momentous achievement. His influence extended internationally. He drew global attention to the ongoing mistreatment and inequality within Australia, while always encouraging a positive and inclusive attitude. Few of us could forget Yothu Yindi’s performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics closing ceremony, bracketing, as it did, the role that Cathy Freeman played in the opening ceremony and with her victory in the 400 metres. During a period in Australian history where the government was reluctant to say sorry, thousands of voices sang along to Treaty, showing the world that non-Indigenous Australians wanted a better future with our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

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Closing the Gap

I spoke in parliament about the Prime Minister’s statement on Closing the Gap.

Prime Minister’s Statement on Closing the Gap, 12 March 2013

It is a pleasure to follow the member for Hasluck in this important debate on closing the gap. He is the only Indigenous member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which is an indication of one gap that we need to work to close. Were Indigenous Australians to be represented in this place in proportion to the number in the Australian population there would be at least five Indigenous members in parliament and many debates, this one included, would be richer for that. I hope we will see Nova Peris joining the next Senate, but we still will have further to go. It is an indicator of how many of these gaps take too long to close.

I am proud to represent an electorate which is the home of the Ngunnawal people. Often when I am looking for stories of Indigenous Australia I turn to Stories of the Ngunnawal, an excellent book which discusses some of the stories of the Ngunnawal elders. One story by Dorothy Brown Dickson reminds us of how tough it was for some of the Ngunnawal people. Ms Dickson grew up in an Aboriginal reserve in Yass. She refers to how tough life was for the young men. She says:

Continue reading ‘Closing the Gap’ »

Youth Activism

I spoke in parliament today about some optimistic and inspiring stories of youth social entrepreneurship and volunteering.

Youth Activism, 14 March 2013

I rise to speak about three examples of inspiring youth activism. This morning it was my pleasure to meet some of the Oaktree Roadtrip youth ambassadors. These are a group of young Australians who are travelling the country aiming to gather 100,000 names of Australians who support the movement to end poverty, a movement that will show public support for increased foreign aid—as this government has been delivering. I particularly enjoyed spending time with the Canberra Roadtrippers, having farewelled them from Canberra only on Saturday at the Australian National University. Since then, they have travelled to Western Sydney, to Eden and to Cooma and they are back hitting the road again tomorrow. They will be part of a great movement to bring an end to extreme poverty.

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Canberra’s Centenary, and the Case for a Bigger ACT Assembly

I spoke today on a bill to give the ACT Assembly the power to set its own size.

Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill, 12 March 2013

It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2013 today, the 100th birthday of Canberra. This morning we had a re-enactment out the front of Parliament House of the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone. I have here the program for that ceremony, which was held on 12 March 1913. Today’s ceremony aimed to shadow that historic ceremony of 1913, when sheep greatly outnumbered the residents of Canberra. The ceremony this morning acknowledged the rich history of Canberra—not only the political heritage but also the social tapestry of the city. I was very pleased today to hear the member for Stirling speak so warmly of the city that I have the honour to represent in the federal parliament.

Walter Burley Griffin said that he was designing a city for a nation of ‘bold democrats’. To borrow a phrase from Seamus Heaney, I have always thought of Canberra as being the kind of place where hope and history rhyme. In the centenary celebrations, Canberra has been given an opportunity to celebrate but also to remember much of our history. Historian David Headon has produced a series of centenary booklets and centenary director Robyn Archer has made sure that history has been interwoven into the celebrations.

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Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians

I spoke in parliament today in favour of a bill that will progress the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill, 7 February 2013

We speak a lot in this House about Indigenous gaps. Yesterday we heard the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition speak eloquently about the gaps in life expectancy, educational attainment and employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is important to focus on those gaps, but it is also important to have a sense of optimism and pride in Australia’s Indigenous heritage. As the member for Throsby noted earlier in this debate, it is great and exciting to know that we have in this country a people whose association with the land goes back tens of thousands of years. Maintaining that sense of excitement and living alongside people with the longest continuing link to their land is a great thing. This bill in some sense recognises our pride in Australia’s Indigenous heritage. That Indigenous heritage involves maintaining a multiplicity of languages. As the member for Blair noted, there has been a decline in Indigenous language knowledge over recent years, and that is important to redress because language is culture—it maintains your links with generations gone by.

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Nova Peris

On ABC666, I spoke with Adam Shirley about the challenge of balancing local ALP democracy with having a caucus that looks like the rest of Australia. While rank and file preselections are at the heart of the ALP, it’s also true that in twelve decades, that system has failed to put a single Indigenous Labor member into the federal parliament.

2CN Morning Show – Nova Peris by Andrewleighmp on Mixcloud

Liberalism & Egalitarianism

I have an opinion piece in the Australian today, continuing to prosecute the case that Labor is the true party of small-L liberalism in Australia (on the same theme, see also my first speech, this Global Mail article and this speech to Per Capita).

Liberals are conservatives while Labor is the true party of Alfred Deakin, The Australian, 10 January 2013

In the United States, if you want to insult a right-winger, call them a ‘liberal’. In Australia, if you want to insult a left-winger, call them a ‘Liberal’. In both countries, liberalism has become detached from its original meaning.

It’s time to bring Australian liberalism back to its traditional roots. Small-L liberalism involves a willingness to protect minority rights (even when they’re unpopular) and a recognition that open markets are the best way to boost prosperity.

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Indigenous Jobs in the Public Service

I spoke today about Indigenous jobs in the public service.

Indigenous Public Service Jobs, 22 August 2012

As a member representing an electorate with a large number of public servants, I rise to speak about the employment of Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service. The government has set a target to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment in the APS from 2.2 per cent in 2010 to 2.7 per cent by 2015. We are working through COAG to make sure similar goals are met in the states and territories. Disturbingly, the State of the Service Report 2010-11 noted a decrease in Indigenous employees from 3,383 to 3,236 in that financial year—a four per cent drop. That was the first fall in the number of Indigenous public servants since 2008.

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20th Anniversary of the Mabo Judgment

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.

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Mabo Day

This Sunday is the 20th anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo judgment. Because parliament is sitting, I won’t be able to attend Mabo Day celebrations being organised tonight by the ACT Torres Strait Islanders Corporation at the National Museum of Australia. But here’s the statement I’ve prepared to be read out.

Statement from Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser

Born on Murray Island one can only imagine what it would have been like to witnesses the moment Eddie Koiki Mabo realised that his land was owned by the Crown and not him and his people.

Noel Loos and Henry Reynolds recall of that moment in 1974: “Koiki was surprised and shocked”. They remember him saying “No way, it’s not theirs. It’s ours”.

From that moment to the High Court decision of June 3rd 1992, Eddie Mabo showed us that understanding is the responsibility of all Australians.

That an appreciation and understanding of Indigenous Australia, its history, culture and challenges is not an optional part of being Australian. It is essential to who we are.

Eddie Mabo Day helps further the understanding that is critical to reconciliation, through acknowledging and celebrating all Indigenous Australians and their contribution to our nation.

It is an opportunity to celebrate the life of a great Australian, to remember a man of extraordinary vision, warmth and intelligence. It encourages us to reflect upon a national identity with Aboriginality as a central and distinguishing theme.

With Indigenous stories taking their place as fundamental parts of the Australian story.

My apologies for not being able to be with you today to celebrate the remarkable contribution and life of Eddie Koiki Mabo.

Jervis Bay Territory

I spoke in parliament today about the Jervis Bay Territory, including Wreck Bay and HMAS Creswell.

Jervis Bay Territory
14 March 2012

When Canberra was founded it was decided you could not have a capital city without a port, so one part of my electorate is the Jervis Bay Territory. It was my great pleasure last Thursday to visit the Jervis Bay Territory for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Wreck Bay land grant. In 1987, the then Minister of State for Aboriginal Affairs, Clyde Holding, a minister in the Hawke government, held an important ceremony to grant land to the Wreck Bay Indigenous community. The Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council now has an elected executive. I would like to personally thank them for their hard work in making these celebrations such a success: Craig Ardler, Joseph Brown-McLeod, Annette Brown, Julie Freeman, Jennifer Stewart, Clive Freeman, James McKenzie, Cyril (Todd) Roberts and Darren Sturgeon.

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At the Jervis Bay Territory – 8 March 2012

Last Thursday was the 25th anniversary of the land grant for the Wreck Bay Indigenous Community, so I timed my regular visit to coincide with the celebrations.

National Sorry Day

I spoke in parliament yesterday, recognising National Sorry Day.

National Sorry Day
13 February 2012

It was William Faulkner who said: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ Today, we are so reminded of how apt that line is in considering the national apology. The national apology to the stolen generations on 13 February 2008 saw the Australian parliament acknowledge the pain and suffering caused by previous policies and finally say, ‘We are sorry’. It is an honour for me to follow in this debate the member for Hasluck (Ken Wyatt), somebody who I have a great admiration for on this issue and many others. I count myself among those in this place who has been fortunate to have benefited from his wisdom, and I hope to learn more from him during our times here.

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Reducing Crime and Incarceration

I moved a private members’ motion in the House today on reducing crime and incarceration rates. The motion and my speech are below.

Continue reading ‘Reducing Crime and Incarceration’ »

Census Day

It’s census day, and my AFR column is on the importance and history of the census.

Take Control of Your Census, Australian Financial Review, 9 August 2011

In the 1947 film ‘Magic Town’, James Stewart plays an opinion pollster who discovers the town of Grandview: a perfect statistical mirror of the United States. Anything you want to know about the country can be found out merely by tallying the residents of Grandview.

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Indigenous Education

I spoke in parliament yesterday about Indigenous education.

Continue reading ‘Indigenous Education’ »

Chris Bourke’s First Speech

Chris Bourke – Australia’s first Indigenous dentist, and the ACT’s first Indigenous representative – gave his inaugural speech to the ACT Legislative Assembly yesterday. Full text below.

Continue reading ‘Chris Bourke’s First Speech’ »

Indigenous Affairs

Indigenous Education

I spoke in parliament last week about some great things happening in Indigenous education.

Adjournment Speech – Indigenous Affairs
12 May 2011

Where kangaroos graze on an oval overlooking the Pacific Ocean lies the most picturesque school in my electorate. Founded in 1914, Jervis Bay Primary School serves children of Defence Force personnel serving at HMAS Creswell as well as children from the Wreck Bay community. Although it has the lowest ICSEA score of any school in my electorate, a like-schools comparison makes Jervis Bay Primary one of the top-performing schools in the ACT system.

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Social Impact Bonds

Justin Wolfers draws my attention to an intriguing new idea afoot in the US and UK.

Lately, both American and British policy makers have been thinking about how to bring some of the competitive discipline of the market to government programs, and they have hit on an intriguing idea.

David Cameron’s Conservative government in Britain is already testing it, at a prison 75 miles north of London. The Bloomberg administration in New York is also considering the idea, as is the State of Massachusetts. Perhaps most notably, President Obama next week will propose setting aside $100 million for seven such pilot programs, according to an administration official.

The idea goes by one of two names: pay for success bonds or social impact bonds. Either way, nonprofit groups like foundations pay the initial money for a new program and also oversee it, with government approval. The government will reimburse them several years later, possibly with a bonus — but only if agreed-upon benchmarks show that the program is working.

If it falls short, taxpayers owe nothing.

The first British test is happening at Her Majesty’s Prison Peterborough, where 60 percent of the prisoners are convicted of another crime within one year of release. Depressingly enough, that recidivism rate is typical for a British prison.

To reduce the rate, a nonprofit group named Social Finance is playing a role akin to venture capitalist. It has raised about $8 million from investors, including the Rockefeller Foundation. Social Finance also oversees three social service groups helping former prisoners find work, stay healthy and the like. If any of those groups starts to miss its performance goals, it can be replaced.

For the investors to get their money back starting in 2014 — with interest — the recidivism rate must fall at least 7.5 percent, relative to a control group. If the rate falls 10 percent, the investors will receive the sort of return that the stock market historically delivers. “It’s been only a few months,” says Tracy Palandjian, who recently opened a new Social Finance office in Boston, “but the numbers are coming in O.K.” …

The Obama administration’s seven pilot programs would create bonds for, among other areas, job training, education, juvenile justice and care of children’s disabilities. Nonprofit groups like Social Finance could apply. So could for-profit companies