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Talking budgets and pensions with Steve Price on 2GB

I joined Steve Price on 2GB to discuss how Joe Hockey has doubled the deficit, by scrapping sensible tax measures – and why it would be unjust for Prime Minister Abbott to break his promise to pensioners. Here’s a podcast.

Sky News with Helen Dalley

I joined presenter Helen Dalley on Sky News to discuss the fact that the Abbott Government has doubled the deficit since coming to office, and now looks set to breach its pension promise.

Age pension under attack – Network Ten interview – Monday, 14 April 2014

I appeared on Network Ten’s breakfast show, Wake Up, this morning to discuss Joe Hockey’s anticipated budget attack on pensions. Here’s the transcript:








SUBJECT/S: Age pension and the budget; Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme; and CSIRO cuts.

NATARSHA BELLING: To talk more, we are joined this morning by Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Good morning Andrew, thanks for joining us this morning.

ANDREW LEIGH: Morning, Tarsh.

BELLING: Now, in regards to Mr Hockey’s statement he claims that his generation will have to work longer because there will be serious future budgetary stresses from an ageing population. So is this something the Government needs to do?

LEIGH: Well Tarsh, the Government has said very clearly before the election there would be no cuts to pensions, so this would be a breach of that promise, and I think a very unfair one. We established the pension over a hundred years ago to deal with poverty among seniors, and to address it now in a way that increases poverty among seniors doesn’t seem smart or fair.

JAMES MATHISON: You talk about smart and fair but the reality is that the population is ageing. What are you guys proposing that would be an appropriate age or an appropriate way to combat the fact that our population is getting older?

LEIGH: We did two big things in government James. We raised the pension by the largest amount since its introduction, then we phased in a rise from 65 to 67 and that will be phased in between 2017 and 2023. To go as far as 70, as your vox pop illustrated, there’s a bunch of people whose bodies really struggle to get them to 70 in jobs like cleaning and check out operators. But on top of that, we know that low income Australians die about six years earlier than high income Australians, so they’ll enjoy the pension for fewer years.

Continue reading ‘Age pension under attack – Network Ten interview – Monday, 14 April 2014’ »

Opening up the Labor Party – 666 Canberra interview – Tuesday, 8 April 2014

In the wake of the WA senate election re-run, this morning I joined ABC 666 Breakfast presenter, Philip Clark, for a discussion about the democratisation of the Australian Labor Party and the important contribution of an increasingly diverse and modern union movement. I argue that the ALP should be more attractive to small-l liberals and that it should be easier for people across the community to join. Here’s the podcast.

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’ »

Battlers & Billionaires @ National Press Club

At lunchtime on Thursday 27 March, I’ve been invited to speak at the National Press Club, on the topic ‘Battlers and Billionaires: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat’. I will talk about why inequality matters, and the risk that the wrong set of policies will threaten an egalitarian ethos that is fundamental to who we are as Australians.

I’d be delighted if you could join me. Tickets can be booked at the National Press Club website.

Australia After the Boom

On 21 February 2014, I took part in a panel discussion at the Perth Writers’ Festival on Australia’s economic future. The other panellists were Ross Garnaut, Mike Nahan, Andrew Burrell & Scott Ludlam. The chair was Carmen Lawrence. The conversation was subsequently broadcast on ABC Big Ideas.

Investment, Education and Fairness

I spoke in parliament on the government’s failure to turn a G20 growth aspiration into a clear plan for prosperity.

MPI – G20, 26 February 2014

I congratulate the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development on his decade-old diggings, but I am happy to assure the House that I, like all members on this side, do not support a GP tax. The aspiration set by the Treasurer for an additional 0.4 per cent growth per year over the next five years is a perfectly reasonable aspiration, and nobody in this parliament would disagree with it, but an aspiration is not a plan.

There are two very clear plans for growth on offer in this parliament. This side of the parliament believes that growth is driven by investment, by education and by fairness. That side of the parliament believes it is driven by cuts, cuts and cuts—cutting infrastructure, cutting services and cutting wages.

Continue reading ‘Investment, Education and Fairness’ »

Liberalism vs Communitarianism

In a couple of speeches and articles, I’ve argued that Labor should be the party of both egalitarianism and social liberalism. Blue Labour fan Nick Dyrenfurth takes a different view, so Tim Watts MP organised a Google Hangout to explore the issue further. Here’s a video of the event.

ABC NEWS 24 Interview – Thursday 6 February 2014

This afternoon I joined ABC News 24 host, Greg Jennett, to discuss a speech at the Lowy Institute delivered by Treasurer Joe Hockey today. Mr Hockey used the occassion to again trot out platitudes about the end of  ‘age of entitlement’ but showed he had no economic plan except cuts that will disproportionately hurt low and middle income Australians. Here’s the transcript:




SUBJECT/S: Ford jobs; Entitlements; G20.

GREG JENNETT: Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, has been listening to that [Joe Hockey’s] speech. He joins me now.


JENNETT: Thanks for coming in. Let’s start first of all with the issue of Ford. Closures were announced or an intention of them last year. This will come as an extra blow to workers there?

LEIGH: As I understand it, we haven’t had a formal announcement yet but certainly we’ve had some pretty dark days for jobs under this government, whether they’re Holden jobs that the Government goaded to leave or some of the other manufacturing jobs we’ve seen put in jeopardy by the Government’s decisions around SPC. So, it would be a concern and I think adds to uncertainty about Australia’s employment position at a time where clearly the Government is going to struggle to meet its own jobs target.

JENNETT: Was there enough flexibility within the package that the negotiated around that time last year to roll with these sort of developments and make sure that the workers are retrained and protected in some way?

Continue reading ‘ABC NEWS 24 Interview – Thursday 6 February 2014’ »

Talking Economics with Peter Van Onselen – 28 Jan 2014

On 28 Jan 2014, I spoke with Sky News host Peter Van Onselen about macroeconomics, jobs and how policy might affect the gap between battlers and billionaires.

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’ »

The Lucky Country, 50 Years On

In the AFR bumper edition, I have a column on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the publication of Donald Horne’s classic, The Lucky Country.

Hard to Find Equality in the Lucky Country, Australian Financial Review, 20-26 December 2013

If you could take a one-way trip in a time machine back to 1964, would you choose to do so? Before you answer, recall that your income (accounting for purchasing power) would be less than half what it is today, and your life expectancy at least a decade shorter.

If you’re female, you would face greater sexual harassment and more pay discrimination. If you’re non-Anglo, you would be more vulnerable to violence. If you’re a gay man, sexual activity would be illegal. If you’re Indigenous, there would be pools and pubs displaying signs that said ‘No Blacks’.

And yet there are two important metrics on which things have worsened over the past half-century.

Continue reading ‘The Lucky Country, 50 Years On’ »

Transcript: MYEFO Interview – ABC Radio Queensland









NICOLE DYER: With me Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Member for Fraser. Mr Leigh, good morning.

ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning Nicole.

DYER: So Labor fudged the figures, what’s your response to that?

LEIGH: It’s a worthy try on, but unfortunately it’s an approach which was foreclosed by none other than Peter Costello, the former Liberal Treasurer. He put in place a thing called the Charter of Budget Honesty back in the mid-1990s. When he put that in place, he said that the reason he was doing it was so that there would be a Pre-election Fiscal and Economic Outlook and elections could be conducted on the basis of facts and not on the basis of deceit.

DYER: Well how much responsibility then does Labor take for the budget deficit?

LEIGH: We take responsibility for taking on debt to save jobs in the Global Financial Crisis. We also take responsibility for the fact that when we took office, ours was the 15th largest economy in the world, and when we left office it was the 12th largest economy in the world. So that debt that we took on saved jobs in the global downturn. If you think we shouldn’t have debt, basically you think that we should have lost more jobs. But everything since the election, that’s Joe Hockey’s – the $9 billion that he’s given to the Reserve Bank, the multi-billion dollar tax cut he wants to give to mining billionaires…

DYER: But you can understand, Mr Leigh, you can understand why people are so confused because at one stage while Labor was in power, we were going to be in surplus and then of course that didn’t happen and then it had to be re-forecast, so were you stalling? Was Labor stalling to get to the federal election? I mean for how long did you know that there were major problems within the budget that would mean that there would be no surplus?

LEIGH: Nicole we take responsibility for the state of the books at the time when Labor left office. That was clearly set out in the Charter of Budget Honesty, and that gave us a deficit for this year of $30 billion.

DYER: Yeah, but how did Labor get it so wrong? I mean how realistic was the pre-election budget proposing to bring the budget back into surplus in four years, and it now looks like it will take over a decade?

LEIGH: Well, this isn’t Labor getting things wrong, this is decisions made by the Treasurer. The Treasurer has chosen to give $9 billion to the Reserve Bank – not $9 billion they’ve asked for, $9 billion he’s giving to them because he wants a bigger dividend later. The Treasurer is choosing to walk away from $3 billion of tax savings such as closing tax loopholes. The Treasurer is choosing to give a big tax cut to Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer. The Treasurer is choosing to move from our current, fair Paid Parental Leave scheme to an unfair scheme that will give $75,000 to millionaire parents when they have a child. They’re the Treasurer’s decisions and they’re what’s going to take the budget backwards in the statement that Joe Hockey’s bringing out today.

DYER: Andrew Leigh, thank you very much. Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Member for Fraser. No doubt, there’ll be a lot of poring over figures when the mid-year budget is handed down in Parliament today.

Same Sex Marriage

I spoke in parliament today on the High Court’s decision on same-sex marriage.

Today the High Court unanimously decided that the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 of the ACT could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act. This judgment was the result of a decision by the Abbott government to challenge the ACT law in the courts. It is a decision which I believe was fundamentally misguided. Same-sex marriage is a political issue that should be decided in this chamber. As the Prime Minister’s sister, Christine Foster, has tweeted: ‘Sad news that the ACT same-sex marriage law has been overturned. Focus now firmly on federal parliament.’

Many members of this place support same-sex marriage, but the challenge is that the Liberal Party does not give its members a conscience vote. If Senator Brandis puts out press releases making statements such as, ‘Freedoms are some of the most fundamental of all human rights’, then the least he could do would be to allow his party room the freedom to vote for same-sex marriage.

As Warren and Grant of Aranda, who have been together for 27 years, told me: ‘Our marriage would not undermine heterosexual marriage—quite the opposite—our desire to be married reflects our deep respect for the institution of marriage.’

Future generations of Australians will look back and wonder why it took Australian parliaments so long to bring about the reform of marriage laws.

High Court ruling on marriage equality – 12 December, 2013

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.


Federal Labor Members in the ACT

Andrew Leigh MP, Member for Fraser
Gai Brodtmann MP, Member for Canberra
Kate Lundy, Senator for the ACT


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.

Viva Mandela – Condolence Speech, 9 December 2013

Yesterday I joined parliamentary members in expressing sadness over the passing of the former South African President, Nelson Rolihlahla Nelson. I gave this condolence speech:

Richard Stengel, who worked with Nelson Mandela on his autobiography, told the story of when he was out walking one morning in the Transkei with Mr Mandela and they spoke about when he would be joining his ancestors. Mandela said:

Men come and go. I have come and I will go when my time comes.

He had an extraordinary life. The first time he shook the hand of a white man was when he went off to boarding school. He was born into a relatively privileged family by black South African standards. He grew to stand six foot two and he had a strong education. Nonetheless, when he was a young man in Johannesburg people spat on him in buses, shopkeepers turned him away and whites treated him as if he could not read or write. He thought to himself that, if that was how he was treated, how must it be for so many other black South Africans?

He was tried for his revolutionary activities for the ANC and sentenced. In the sentencing hearings, he spoke for four hours, finishing with the final statement:

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Continue reading ‘Viva Mandela – Condolence Speech, 9 December 2013’ »

Homelessness BBQ

This week, I spoke in parliament about a barbecue for the homeless at the Canberra Early Morning Centre.

Homelessness BBQ, 5 December 2013

On 26 November 2013 it was my pleasure with Team Leigh volunteers to put on a barbecue at the Canberra Early Morning Centre, as part of Social Inclusion Week. Social Inclusion Week, created by Jonathon Welch, aims to ensure that all Australians feel included and valued. It is about connecting local communities, workmates, family and friends and addressing isolation, loneliness and homelessness.

Continue reading ‘Homelessness BBQ’ »

Eureka Lecture, Ballarat – Tuesday 3 December 2013

This evening I delivered the 2013 Eureka Lecture arguing the Eureka Stockade is Australia’s greatest story and deserves far greater prominence.


‘A victory won by a lost battle’: What Eureka Means to Australians Today



Delivered at the Museum of Australian Democracy, Eureka, Ballarat East

Exactly 159 years ago, in the dirt upon which we are gathered, a man called ‘Happy Jack’ fought and perished. We know little about him – not even his real name. But he was described in one nineteenth century newspaper account as ‘a big black fellow… one of the pluckiest fighters in the Stockade’. Without the Eureka Stockade, Happy Jack might have made his fortune on the goldfields – or, as was more common – scrabbled to eke out a living. But he would likely have had a family. A handful of children. A classroom’s worth of grandchildren. He might have lived to see the dawn of the twentieth century. To be there at the moment of Federation.

Happy Jack was fighting for a cause larger than himself. So too were those who stood alongside him. They came from around the globe. From Canada, Württemberg, England, Nova Scotia, Petersburg, Wales, Scotland, Elberfeldt, Prussia and Rome. Eleven of the dead miners came from Ireland.

The killing was brutal. After perhaps a 15 minute exchange of bullets, the soldiers were within the stockade. Most of the dead were slain after this point. Troopers, hot with victory, killing in cold blood, stormed through the mining encampment, setting fire to occupied tents, cutting at the injured and fleeing or riding them down beneath the hooves of their horses.

Llewellyn Rowlands was hacked to death by troopers over 800m from the stockade. A woman, her name unrecorded, was murdered pleading for the life of her wounded husband. Eyewitness accounts mention Captain Wise bravely leading his men over the wall, ignoring a bullet hole in his leg. The same accounts describe Captain Ross, a Canadian miner, being killed after the action was finished. He died at the foot of a flagpole that held aloft a flag called the Southern Cross.

Continue reading ‘Eureka Lecture, Ballarat – Tuesday 3 December 2013’ »

The Pension and the Fair Go

My AFR op-ed today looks at proposals to raise the pension age to 70.

Not everyone can work till they’re 70, Australian Financial Review, 27 November 2013

In 2009, the federal government raised the maximum rate of the single age pension by $1600 a year. The next year, Australia’s poverty rate fell by one-fifth.

Few social policies are as tightly targeted as the pension. The decisions to means-test it in the 1930s, and asset-test it in the 1980s were vigorously contested. But they have ensured that this vital part of the social safety net goes where it is needed the most.

Over the past week, there have been calls to increase the pension eligibility age from 67 to 70. Yet those advocating this change seem to have forgotten that low-income workers are more likely to do jobs – like childcare, construction and hairdressing – that involve tough manual labour.

Continue reading ‘The Pension and the Fair Go’ »

Strong reasons to keep MRRT – 19 November 2013

I spoke in parliament today about the need to retain the Mineral Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) as Labor is committed to spreading the benefits of the mining boom. I look back at the history of taxing resources and its broad support across many and perhaps surprising quarters.

It is my pleasure to rise on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013, which repeals a profits based mining tax in Australia. It is useful to step through some of the history as to how Australia came to this point. In the late 1980s a profits based petroleum resource rent tax was put in place. It was criticised by many of the same voices that criticise this mining tax on the grounds that it did not raise very much revenue in the early years, but the petroleum resource rent tax has now raised billions of dollars and is an established part of the Australian taxation system.

When the Henry review called for submissions it was the Minerals Council of Australia that put forward a submission to the Henry review arguing in favour of a profits based mining tax. The Minerals Council of Australia did so because profits based taxation is just a more efficient way of taxing resources. If we compare the early part to the late part of the mining boom—say, 2000 to 2007—we will see that the Australian taxpayer in the early period was getting one dollar in three in taxes from mining and in the late period was getting one dollar in seven. That is because, under a royalties regime, when the world price goes up taxpayers get none of that benefit. They get the volume effect but not the price effect. If the increase in that world price was somehow due to the ingenuity of Australia’s miners then that might be defensible, but it turns out that world prices are out of the hands of our miners. They are ingenious in many ways but they do not control the world price.

Continue reading ‘Strong reasons to keep MRRT – 19 November 2013’ »

Labor’s legacy & broken Coalition promises

I delivered a speech in the House of Representatives today – what’s called an ‘Address in Reply’ in response to the Government’s opening speech – exploring Labor’s strong economic and policy legacy. I  urged the ALP to remain the party of big  ideas and one underpinned by key principles of fairness, inclusion and equality and I lamented the Abbott Government’s early and disappointing broken promises. Here’s the full text thanks to Hansard.

Can I congratulate the members for Bass and Corangamite on the passion with which they have delivered their first speeches and hope that they will serve their constituencies with the same energy and passion as their predecessors did.

I want to begin my remarks today with the stories of two constituents of mine: Carol and Denise. Denise has a 21-year-old son, Tim, with Down syndrome. She regularly has to prove his eligibility for a modest Centrelink payment and work within a system that has not been working for her and has not been working for Tim. Tim’s chromosomes are not going to change, but the old system required her to prove that. DisabilityCare will change that.

Then there is 48-year-old Carol, who works as a cleaner. Despite working on Sundays to earn some overtime she still earns less than $37,000 a year. Carol is not alone. A lot of low-income workers in cleaning, aged care, retail and hospitality are not full time and they are predominantly women. The removal of the low-income superannuation contribution will affect 3.6 million Australians and two-thirds of them are women. All of them, like Carol, work hard to make ends meet. They are the mothers who work part time because they are looking after young children. For them, saving for later in life is not a tax strategy.

DisabilityCare and the low-income superannuation contribution demonstrate how Labor take the initiative to defend those who are doing it tough. Labor are the party of ideas and we are the party of reform, the party with the courage to make the big decisions when they are needed. As the opposition leader said at this year’s Fraser lecture:

‘We’re the dreamers, doers and fighters.

‘We have ideas, and … we’re prepared to fight to make them a reality.’

I agree. Only the Labor Party is prepared to fight for a fair go for all and shoulder the responsibility for reform. Only Labor knows that reform must balance economic imperatives with social need and hope. I am sorry to say that that is in stark contrast to the approach of the Abbott government. We have already seen how quick they are to protect sympathetic vested interests and how much quicker they are to slug those doing it tough.

The Treasurer would have you believe that drastic action has to be taken because of the economic legacy left by Labor. Over the next few weeks we are doubtless going to hear, time and time again, what a terrible state the economy is in. Before the Treasurer attempts to airbrush recent history, let’s take a sober and sensible look at the economy that the government have inherited and what they have done with it so far. That look has to recognise the simple, fundamental truth. The government have inherited economic statistics and public finances that are better than those of almost any country in the developed world.

Continue reading ‘Labor’s legacy & broken Coalition promises’ »

Talking economics with Arthur Sinodinos – 12 November 2013

On parliament’s first day back, I joined Jonathan Green and Arthur Sinodinos to discuss taxation, the RBA, government debt and inequality on ABC RN Drive. (as well as to say nice things about one another). Here’s a podcast. The transcript is below.

JONATHAN GREEN: Welcome to you both.

ANDREW LEIGH: Good day Jonathan.


GREEN: Well you’re back. How does it feel?

LEIGH: Well it’s exciting. Andrew Leigh here, I was particularly excited that Arthur and I got to have parallel roles once more. I think that was, of all the changes of responsibilities, the bit I enjoyed the most. The symmetry of what I think Walleed Aly called the two knights.

GREEN: Very nice indeed.

SINODINOS: Absolutely.

GREEN: Arthur Sinodinos.

SINODINOS: We’re living in a parallel universe Jonathan.

GREEN: In so many ways.

LEIGH: But for me Jonathan there is something genuinely nice about shadowing somebody who personally I respect a great deal.

SINODINOS: And vice versa. Anyway.

GREEN: I’m glad to hear the love in the room. Clearly the kinder, gentler Parliament is off to a flying start. Arthur Sinodinos why can’t we see the figures that demonstrate the need for this rather large lift in the debt ceiling?

SINODINOS: You will Jonathan. You will see them in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which will be out before Christmas. I think the Treasurer has already been pretty transparent about the reasons for this. I think Labor, when it put down its last budget in May, should have been prepared to have another debate on the debt limit then and raised it then. And the reason we’re raising it now, is because we need to accommodate, on Treasury advice and the advice of the Office of Financial Management, is the increase in debt that’s required given the budgetary settings that we have at the moment and to take into account potential fluctuations in the amount of debt that will be needed to finance Government activity within the year as well. The advice…

GREEN: Andrew Leigh, wouldn’t you like to see that financial update before you vote on this debt increase?

LEIGH: That’s absolutely our position Jonathan. Somebody last year put the argument as follows, he said: “our money, our future is too important to be mortgaged like this without the Government giving us the strongest possible arguments for it.” That’s Tony Abbott speaking about the debt limit increase, which the Coalition opposed. We are happy to support a debt limit increase, which covers where debt was expected to peak on the last budget update. If Mr Hockey thinks that debt is going to peak at a higher level, if the decisions he’s made is going to push us past that, then I think the Australian people are entitled to some information. It’s a bit like if you’re asking for an increase in your credit card limit, well the bank’s going to want to see some evidence of how you’re going to repay the debt and why you need that. This is a bit like going to the bank and expecting a low doc mortgage.

Continue reading ‘Talking economics with Arthur Sinodinos – 12 November 2013’ »

Launching Battlers & Billionaires in South Australia

The South Australian Fabian Society generously hosted me to launch Battlers and Billionaires with former SA Premier Lynn Arnold at the University of Adelaide. Here’s a video of the event.

Talking Economics & Politics with Craig Emerson

On Friday 8 November, I joined my friend Craig Emerson on his seventh ‘Emmo Forum’ to discuss what it means to be an economist and a progressive.

You can watch it on YouTube below, or download the podcast here.

Coalition urged to reconsider ‘cuts across the board’ – 7 November 2013

Media Release

7 November 2013


Labor’s Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, says he is alarmed by the skewed priorities of the Abbott Government that slug the poor and favour the rich.

Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, said today “We need cuts across the board that reflect our policy priorities and by that I mean more focus on infrastructure spending as opposed to recurrent spending.”

“So far cuts across the board has meant abandoning a tax break for low-income superannuants, cutting the School Kids bonus, reducing income support and slashing jobs in the public service,” said Dr Leigh.

“But cuts across the board exempts mining billionaires, millionaire parents and tax breaks for those with more than $2 million in their superannuation accounts.

“Labor does not object to governments doing a stock take. What we do have a problem with is the values and priorities of the Abbott Government which indicate that it is comfortable with taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

“As the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. The only ones on the Coalition chopping board are low and middle Australia,” Dr Leigh said.

“Prime Minister Abbott said on taking office that he will not let down ‘the forgotten families of Australia’. But he seems to have forgotten that they will bear the brunt of the government’s cuts across the board.

“The Treasurer and Assistant Treasurer must know that their policies will lead to greater inequality. I urge the Abbott Government to rethink their cuts across the board.”


My Chronicle column this week looks at the issue of scarcity, as it applies to time, food and poverty.

Passionate About Poverty, The Chronicle, 29 October 2013

Consider three scenarios.

A busy academic misses deadlines on projects she had promised to complete months earlier. One day, she promises herself that she won’t commit to another project until the backlog is finished. The next day, she gets an offer to contribute a paper to a conference, and accepts on the spot.

A man is struggling to lose weight. He plans a low-fat diet, then joins some friends for dinner at a pub. Everyone else orders chips with their meal, so he joins them. At the end of the night, he figures the diet is ruined, so he might as well stop off at the petrol station for an ice cream.

A couple in poverty are trying to pay off their bills. They know what they should be doing: minimise expenses, pay off the high-interest loans first, and slowly get the finances under control. One month, they decide to get a payday loan to give them some breathing room. But soon the loan starts to snowball, and the debt load is bigger than ever.

Continue reading ‘Scarcity’ »

Unfair changes to superannuation – The Canberra Times – 31 October

I write in today’s Canberra Times about the Abbott Government’s planned changes to Labor’s Low-Income Superannuation Scheme.

OPINION – A superannuation blow for low-income earners

The Canberra Times

Thursday 31 October 2013

Canberra resident Carol is 48 years old. She works as a cleaner, toiling on Sundays to earn some overtime. She earns less than $37,000 a year.

It would be blow to her if Labor’s Low Income Super Contribution Scheme was axed by Tony Abbott as planned.

“They’re just grabbing from everywhere, to make themselves look better, but it’s only a short term fix, like a band-aid,” she says.   “A lot of the cleaners aren’t on great wages, and they aren’t full-time.”

In his victory speech on election night, Mr Abbott reminded us that good government is one that governs for all Australians including what he called ‘forgotten families’. “We will not leave anyone behind”.

So it’s very disappointing that his government still wants to scrap a measure that sees low-income Australians pay less tax. Axing the Low Income Superannuation Contribution will hit 3.6 million low-income workers, of which nearly two-thirds are women.

Superannuation policy must be more equitable. One of the policies to achieve this – championed by Bill Shorten – is the Low-Income Superannuation Contribution. The policy introduced last year and recommended by the Henry Tax review cuts contributions tax to zero for workers earning up to $37,000 and puts the money into their super instead.

Continue reading ‘Unfair changes to superannuation – The Canberra Times – 31 October’ »

Passage of ACT Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill – 22 October 2013

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.


Andrew Leigh

Member for Fraser


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.”

Continue reading ‘Passage of ACT Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill – 22 October 2013’ »

Monday’s Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media

Returning to an important theme, I spoke to Fairfax Media’s Tim Lester about carbon policy, arguing that the ALP has a mandate to champion an emissions trading scheme. We also discussed today’s Deloitte Access Economics report and the Coalition’s proposed commission of audit which, I am concerned, will try and balance the budget off the backs of the poorest. Watch the video or read the transcript below.

Breaking Politics with Tim Lester – Fairfax Media


TIM LESTER: Labor’s shadow ministry meets today as questions emerge about how united the opposition is in the position put by new leader Bill Shorten, that is that it will oppose the repeal of the Carbon Tax. Two names have been mentioned as likely dissenters – Mark Bishop, that’s the senator and Nick Champion in the lower house. We’re joined each week on Breaking Politics on a Monday by Andrew Leigh. Welcome in Labor member for Fraser in the ACT, and now Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Congratulations on the role.


LESTER: On to the question of Carbon. Do you believe there is a split now emerging in Labor ranks on whether to try to hold the line on the Carbon Tax or not?

LEIGH: Well Tim, there’s always going to be some diversity of opinion in any sensible political party but we have a strong policy that we took to the 2007, 2010, 2013 elections and for which I believe we have a mandate. And that’s that a price on carbon pollution is the cheapest and most effective way of combating carbon pollution. We just had the hottest Australian summer on record, and the hottest Australian winter on record. We know that we get more extreme weather events as a result of climate change so we can’t be playing politics with this. We need to identify the most effective strategy and fight hard for that.

LESTER: Okay, the pressure has just begun on Labor really. There is a long and very brutal political game, you would think, being played here to put pressure on the Opposition to buckle and to give in to what looks like the demand of the last election. Are you sure Labor can hold out through all of the turbulence it’s likely to face on this issue over the next year or so?

LEIGH: Well you’re right to refer to it as a political game Tim because the Coalition has put up repeal legislation for the carbon price which will then be replaced with – well we don’t know, because they haven’t shown us the legislation for Direct Action. We know why that is. If we go to a member Mr Abbott’s cabinet, Malcolm Turnbull has said very clearly that direct action is a policy whose chief virtue is that it can be easily dismantled. It’s more expensive on households. When we brought in a carbon price, we cut taxes on workers, we raised taxes on polluters. Mr Abbott thinks the best way to fight climate change is to raise taxes on workers and cut taxes on polluters. That makes no economic sense whatsoever, and I think if 2010 taught us anything, it’s that maintaining our policy integrity on the issue of climate change is absolutely vital.

Continue reading ‘Monday’s Breaking Politics – Fairfax Media’ »