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Breaking Politics – Monday, 14 April

In my usual media spot on Mondays with the Liberal’s Andrew Laming and Breaking Politics host, Chris Hammer, topics up for debate were the spectre of raising the pension age to 70 and flagged federal budget cuts to the CSIRO. Here’s the full transcript:



SUBJECT/S: Joe Hockey’s budget and cuts; Age Pension, CSIRO, the ABC and SBS; Superannuation and inequality; Unfair PPL Scheme, Trade and Foreign investment

CHRIS HAMMER: Well the budget is now less than a month away and Treasurer, Joe Hockey, is talking tough. His given the clearest signal yet that he intends to raise the pension age to 70, but perhaps not in this term of government. Joining me to discuss that and other matters, budgetary and otherwise, I’m joined by Andrew Leigh, the Federal Labor member for Fraser here in the ACT, and Andrew Laming, the Liberal member for Bowman in Queensland. Good morning. Andrew Laming, let me start with you. Should the pension age be raised to 70?

ANDREW LAMING: Well, obviously the pension age is already changing from 65 to 67 over the next decade and Andrew Leigh has long made that very important point that with longevity in Australia that period between retirement and expected length of life only continues to increase. So this is a debate that brave politicians will continue to have. I think that the pace at which it’s increasing, a couple of years per decade, is thoroughly reasonable and of course we’ve also got the life expectancy figures to back those calculations.

HAMMER: Whatever the merits of the policy though, this isn’t going to be a quick fix for the budget, is it, because we’re looking at so many years into the future?

LAMING: That’s correct. So, already these increases through to 2023 are continuing at a trajectory on from that date, obviously only helps the budget in the 2020s. It doesn’t help the budget right now.

HAMMER: Andrew Leigh, raising the pension to 70, is it a good idea, an inevitable idea?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well it was an idea ruled out Chris the day before the election by the Prime Minister who said ‘no changes to pensions’.

HAMMER: But I think he was referring to this term of government. If he goes to the next election saying ‘this is what we intend to do’, well that would be fine, wouldn’t it?

LEIGH: He certainly didn’t make that clear in his unequivocal statement the day before the election Chris. But the impact of this is that a scheme which was set up to avoid poverty among the elderly is now looking at being changed in a way that would increase poverty among the elderly. Andrew is right when he says that average life expectancy is rising but the other fact to bear in mind is that workers in manual jobs like check-out operators and cleaners find it tough to work till 70 and workers in those occupations will die on average six years younger than the most affluent Australians. So on life expectancy, there’s a big gap between most and least affluent and I’m really scared about what this broken promise will do to the most vulnerable Australians.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Politics – Monday, 14 April’ »

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.

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’ »

Newsradio interview transcript – 11 April, 2014

This morning I spoke to Marius Benson about what Treasurer Joe Hockey has signalled; a further increase in the pension age and more means testing of welfare.




SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promise on the Age Pension; Free trade agreements; Unemployment; WA Senate; Australian Labor Party.

MARIUS BENSON, PRESENTER: Andrew Leigh, good morning.


BENSON: The economic outlook, certainly the employment outlook, did brighten noticeably yesterday.

LEIGH: Marius, there’s two ways of bringing down the unemployment rate. You can either have a whole lot of people find jobs or you can have a whole lot of people cease looking for jobs. Economists call the latter the ‘discouraged worker effect’ and given that the participation rate went down yesterday I think what we’re seeing is mostly people giving up unfortunately, rather than people moving from unemployment into employment.

BENSON: The unemployment figures are more complex than they look on the surface, but it did seem to cheer, at least, the Australian dollar. But everything connects, the dollar rose yesterday that makes life harder for our exporters who were thinking life might get easier as the result of a couple of free trade agreements over the past week or so. How important do you think those free trade agreements are when you look at the dollar going up a couple of cents?

LEIGH: A multilateral free trade agreement always beats a bilateral free trade agreement, so we’re in the world of the second-best once we’re striking country-to-country deals. This one seems to have attracted an unusual amount of criticism from agricultural groups: the National Farmer’s Federation saying that it falls short of the mark, cane growers saying that it’s a kick in the guts, Cattle Council disappointed, the Australia Pork Limited describing it as ‘a missed opportunity’. So that’s a surprising amount of critique from the agricultural sector about a deal which is principally on agriculture for Australian exporters.

Continue reading ‘Newsradio interview transcript – 11 April, 2014’ »

Labor’s Legacy on Taxation, Superannuation & Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Monday Breaking Politics – 25 November 2013

In my regular discussion on Breaking Politics with Tim Lester about issues shaping the news, I spoke about potential GST reform for online purchases and the Abbott Government’s adoption of a new position on Israel at the UN. I also caution against a Grattan Institute plan to delay access to aged pensions.





SUBJECT/S: Israeli settlements, Age/Nielsen Poll, GST and online purchases, carbon pricing, pension age.

TIM LESTER: The Abbott government appears to have made a contentious, but largely unreported change in a critical foreign policy stance in recent days. Has it reduced Australia’s opposition to some of the most contentious of Israeli activities in the West Bank, including the construction of settlements? Every Monday Breaking Politics is joined by Labor MP from Canberra, Andrew Leigh. Welcome in Andrew.


LESTER: Tell me, what worries you about Australia’s foreign policy approach to Israel and the Palestinians at the moment?

LEIGH: As a good friend of Israel’s, I believe Australia should be committed to a two-state solution. That means that we need to ensure that Israel maintains the adherence to international norms which are so vital in bringing about a two state solution. There’s a thing called the Geneva Convention, we’ve had it for more than 60 years, that says that if you’re an occupying power, you shouldn’t deport people out of the territories you occupy or transfer new people into it. But we’ve seen occupied settlements going up 70 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the first half of last year. That was deplored under Labor, sitting with the vast consensus in the international community as being illegal against international law. But now the Coalition has back-flipped on that and voted with just eleven countries against 160 countries that believe that Israel should adhere to international law.

Continue reading ‘Monday Breaking Politics – 25 November 2013’ »

Sky Lunchtime Agenda – 5 March 2013

On Sky Lunchtime Agenda, I spoke with host David Lipson and Liberal Senator Scott Ryan about the importance of treating asylum-seekers with dignity and compassion, and the value of making sure we have more and better-trained workers in the aged care sector.

Making a Difference in Fraser

I spoke today about the federal government actions that have made a positive difference in my electorate of Fraser.

Appropriations Bills, 12 February 2013

There are several old chestnuts the Liberals can be relied on to trot out every election year, and one of those that we hear so often in the ACT is the line, ‘Labor ignores Canberra’—the suggestion that somehow Labor governments take Canberra for granted. But, unfortunately for the Liberals, the people of Fraser are a clever bunch. They are able to see through this line easily, because it is so demonstrably false. The investments that this Labor government has made in Fraser are visible everywhere, from the Majura Parkway to the National Broadband Network rolling out and the many schools enjoying new facilities thanks to the Building the Education Revolution program.

In fact, if you were to take the time to visit all of the sites where Labor has invested in my electorate of Fraser, you would be taking a pretty comprehensive tour of Canberra’s north. I can even provide you with a loose itinerary. You can set off from the flourishing suburb of Braddon, where my electorate office is located and where Minister for Human Services Kim Carr and I opened a one-stop shop for Medicare and Centrelink in October last year. The co-location of these facilities is a core part of Labor’s service delivery reforms. It is making access to housing, health, crisis support, education and training, and family and financial support easier for Canberrans.

Continue reading ‘Making a Difference in Fraser’ »

Superannuation Reforms

In parliament today, I spoke about superannuation, and about aged care.

Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Reducing Illegal Early Release and Other Measures) Bill, 11 February 2013

In 1991, the then Prime Minister Paul Keating said of the superannuation guarantee:

‘It will make Australia a more equal place, a more egalitarian place and hence a more cohesive and happier place.’

We do not often talk about happiness and superannuation in the same breath, but I think we should, because a strong superannuation system is a system that ensures dignity in retirement. It ensures that Australian retirees can enjoy that extra grey nomad trip and the comfort of being able to spend time with loved ones without worrying about paying the bills. It ensures that generations that have given much to Australia enjoy the retirement to which they are entitled.

Continue reading ‘Superannuation Reforms’ »

Love, new and old

My Chronicle column this month is on love and related adventures.

Valentine’s Day is a time for new and old love, The Chronicle, 5 February 2013

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s probably no more inappropriate song to be listening to than Tim Minchin’s ‘If I didn’t have you… I’d probably have someone else’. In the song, Minchin tells us he thinks it’s mathematically pretty unlikely that he met the one girl on earth specifically designed for him while studying at a university in Perth. Life is chaos, he argues, not fate.

Continue reading ‘Love, new and old’ »

Aged Care Reform

Many older Canberrans and their loved ones are thinking about their aged care options. In my second aged care forum in as many months, I outlined Labor’s plans to reform the sector and heard from those who will be directly affected by these reforms.

If you’d like more detail, check out the Australian Government’s 2012 Living Longer, Living Better policy statement and the Productivity Commission’s 2011 Caring for Older Australians report.

Ageing Not a Problem

My Chronicle column this week is on ageing, concluding with a shameless plug for my community forum this Friday.

Ageing Not a Problem, The Chronicle, 4 December 2012

When I hear people talk about the ‘problem’ of ageing, I’m tempted to reply: ‘it beats the alternative!’. Thanks to better food, quality healthcare, economic growth and a stronger safety net, life expectancy in Australia is now 84 for women and 80 for men, about two years longer than it was a decade ago. Older Australians are also healthier, with one study showing that the mobility and mental acuity of a 70 year-old today is comparable to that of a 60 year-old a generation ago.

Last month, I held a community forum with Minister for Ageing Mark Butler. Over 160 people came along to hear about the government’s Living Longer – Living Better reforms. Based on an 800-page Productivity Commission report and extensive hearings around Australia, the package recognises that while the aged care system has served Australia well, it is not fit for purpose in the coming decades.

Continue reading ‘Ageing Not a Problem’ »

Want to know more about aged care reform?

Over 150 people joined Minister the Hon Mark Butler MP and me at the Griffin Centre in Civic to learn about the Gillard Government’s significant reforms in the aged care sector. The event was well oversubscribed so I’m holding another event on 7 December at 10:30am, also in the Griffin Centre. If you’d like to come along, please call my office on 6247 4396 or email Andrew.Leigh.MP {at}


Minister for Mental Health and Ageing

Minister for Social Inclusion

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform


Federal Member for Fraser


19 November 2012


Minister for Ageing Mark Butler joined local MP Andrew Leigh today to report back to the community on the Government’s $3.7 billion aged care reforms.

Mr Butler met with local residents to discuss the Federal Government’s Living Longer Living Better aged care reform package, designed to provide locals with a better aged care system now, and in the future.
Continue reading ‘Want to know more about aged care reform?’ »

Equality & Superannuation

In today’s AFR, I have a piece on inequality and superannuation.

Superannuation Inequity Needs Redressing, Australian Financial Review, 10 October 2012

Wealth in Australia is more unequally distributed than incomes. That’s largely because those of us on higher incomes are able to save more than disadvantaged Australians. This becomes a wedge over the course of a lifetime. By the time rich and poor people reach retirement, those at the top of the distribution have contributed more, and earned more returns on their contributions.

Since the Commonwealth began paying pensions in 1909, a central purpose of retirement incomes policy has been to prevent poverty among the elderly. When the Keating Government introduced universal superannuation in 1992, the boost was primarily for low and middle-income earners, since many high-wage workers already had more than 9 per cent of their wage directed into superannuation. Similarly, the Gillard Government’s decision to boost contributions to 12 per cent will have its greatest benefit for low-wage workers.

Continue reading ‘Equality & Superannuation’ »

MySuper & Behavioural Economics

I spoke in parliament this week about the MySuper reforms, using the insights of behavioural economics to make defaults better.

Superannuation Legislation Amendment (MySuper Core Provisions) Bill, 22 August 2012

Retiring with dignity after a lifetime’s effort and contribution should not be a luxury for a few. Thanks to successive Labor governments and their vision for the future to introduce, enhance and defend the Superannuation Guarantee for all Australian workers, retiring with dignity is a right for Australians. Addressing the Australian Graduate School of Management in 1991, Paul Keating said of the Superannuation Guarantee:

‘It will make Australia a more equal place, a more egalitarian place and hence a more cohesive and happier place.’

Prime Minister Keating said it was the safety net most Australians would need when they retire.

Continue reading ‘MySuper & Behavioural Economics’ »

Putting Facts Before Fear in Economic Debates

I moved a private member’s motion in the House of Representatives today on the strength of the Australian economy, and the need to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear (avoiding phobophobia).

A Strong Australian Economy
18 June 2012

I move: That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) by historical standards, unemployment, inflation and interest rates are at very low levels;
(b) for the first time in Australian history, Australia has a AAA rating from all three major credit rating agencies;
(c) Australia’s debt levels, despite the hit to revenues from the global financial crisis, are around one tenth the level of major advanced economies;
(d) OECD Economic Outlook 91 confirms that the Australian economy will significantly outperform OECD economies as a whole over this year and next; and
(e) the IMF has said of Australia: ‘we welcome the authorities’ commitment to return to a budget surplus by 2012-13 to rebuild fiscal buffers, putting Commonwealth government finances in a stronger position’; and
(2) calls upon all Members to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear, and to put the national interest first when discussing the strong Australian economy.

Economic reform in Australia has never been easy. In the postwar decades, the conservatives built up a tariff wall that helped make Australian industry uncompetitive and kept consumer prices high. In 1973, Gough Whitlam began the long process of breaking down Australia’s tariff walls—the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cuts.

Continue reading ‘Putting Facts Before Fear in Economic Debates’ »

Living Longer, Living Better

I wrote in today’s Drum about the government’s aged care reforms.

Choosing Life Over Money in Our Old Age, The Drum, 2 May 2012

Quiz time. Over the past 40 years, average real incomes in Australia have doubled and life expectancy has increased by a decade. If you could have only one of those developments, which would you pick? Would you prefer twice the income, or to live a decade longer?

Continue reading ‘Living Longer, Living Better’ »

Belconnen Community Forum

I held one of my regular community forums at lunchtime today at the Belconnen Community Services theaterette (‘theatre@bcs’). I started off speaking about the mining tax package, which has just passed the parliament, and will provide for a cut to the company tax rate, an increase in superannuation, and more investment (particularly in the mining regions).

There were a wide variety of questions, covering the Gonski review of school funding, local arts facilities, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, refugee policy, the purchase of submarines, the lack of a letterbox at the Kangara Waters community, defence force and public service pension indexation, the adequacy of footpaths in the city centre, the merits of taking on debt to pay for fiscal stimulus, the frequency of grass cutting, household assistance in the carbon pricing plan, and the effect of federal pension increases on ACT public housing costs.

I enjoy the interplay of ideas at these forums, and welcome anyone who lives or works on the northside of Canberra to come along to a future community forum.

This forum was held on a weekday lunchtime, but there’s no perfect time of the day for a community forum, so I aim to vary the dates and times to allow as many people as possible to attend. For details of upcoming forums, click here.

Chatting with Ross Solly & Gary Humphries

On ABC 666 this morning, I spoke with Ross Solly and Liberal Senator Gary Humphries. Topics included the benefits of a profits-based mining tax, why the government chose the most capable person to run the Future Fund, and the importance of not bringing into play the character of a victim of an alleged sexual assault. Here’s the audio.

ALP National Conference – Day 3

Minerals Resource Rent Tax

I spoke in parliament today about the government’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax package.

Continue reading ‘Minerals Resource Rent Tax’ »

Tax Forum

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.

Continue reading ‘Tax Forum’ »

Australian Youth Forum Nominations Now Open

Are you aged under 24, with a zest to represent other young Australians? Then why not apply for a position on the Youth Engagement Steering Committee for the 2012 Australian Youth Forum? Applications close 31 October 2011. Details here.

Lost Superannuation

I spoke today in parliament about the campaign that Chris Burke and I are running to help Canberrans find their lost superannuation.

Lost Superannuation
19 September 2011

According to the Australian Taxation Office, Australians have around $19 billion in lost superannuation accounts. That is a bit over $1,000 for every adult in the country. Lost superannuation accounts arise when people change jobs and forget to update their superannuation accounts or when they take a career break. When you have your money spread across more accounts, you might end up paying excess fees or having your money invested in the wrong assets. Many people never claim lost superannuation so they do not enjoy the standard of living in retirement that is rightfully theirs. If superannuation is a nest egg then lost superannuation is like those eggs at the bottom of the garden that you never find at the end of a treasure hunt.

Continue reading ‘Lost Superannuation’ »

Wrapping up the Parliamentary Week

The last parliamentary fortnight wrapped up with a debate over a motion moved by the Liberal Party about Australia’s ‘forgotten families’. I spoke in the debate, and used it as a chance to discuss the government’s achievements and agenda, and contrast them with the relentless negativity of the Opposition Leader.

Continue reading ‘Wrapping up the Parliamentary Week’ »

Belconnen Retirement Income Seminar

The federally-funded Financial Information Service are running a free seminar next week on ‘Understanding retirement income streams’.

Details, details…

Wednesday, 17 August
6pm – 8.30pm
Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

Update: Due to the popularity of these seminars, Centrelink scheduled another one

Thursday, 18 August
6pm – 8.30pm
Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

Please RSVP to 13 6357 or

When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for four years

Having entered the world 39 years ago, I now begin my 40th year. Which made me feel rather old until I realised that if Alfred Deakin were alive, he’d be celebrating his 155th birthday today.

There are also some rather likeable features about 39, such as the fact that it’s the sum of the first three powers of 3 (31+32+33). Does this mean I should be doing things in triplicate this year?


I gave a short speech to parliament on Thursday about the challenge of loneliness, an issue that gets less policy attention than it probably deserves.

Loneliness, 12 May 2011

A recent article in the Australian noted that one in four Australians suffer from loneliness as a serious problem. In fact, loneliness is one of the fastest-growing contemporary issues in modern Australia. Many of us here know Professor Adrian Franklin as a panel member on the ABC’s Collectors program. But he is also one of the country’s leading sociologists and has recently conducted extensive research on housing, loneliness and health. Loneliness is a grim reality that I know the member for Wakefield has also written about.

Continue reading ‘Loneliness’ »

A Super System

I spoke in parliament last week about the government’s Stronger, Fairer, Simpler superannuation reforms, and the importance of making sure our superannuation policies are equitable as well as efficient.

Continue reading ‘A Super System’ »