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Ideas and Engagement: The Western Australian Economic Story

I’m speaking today to a business breakfast in Perth, on the theme of innovation in the Western Australian economic story.

Ideas and Engagement: The Western Australian Economic Story*

Andrew Leigh MP
Shadow Assistant Treasurer

Business Breakfast, Perth
21 February 2014

I acknowledge the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet, my federal colleague Alannah MacTiernan, Western Australian Shadow Treasurer Ben Wyatt and Shadow Minister for Planning and Finance Rita Saffioti. My thanks to the Perth Writers’ Festival for flying me over to the left coast.

It’s a pleasure to have the chance to speak with you today.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I had the chance to work for the late Western Australian Senator Peter Cook. He was then the Shadow Minister for Trade – a perfect portfolio for a Western Australian.

Peter taught me a great deal about politics, and about Western Australia. I enjoyed travelling with him through places like Kalgoorlie, Karratha and Carnarvon, talking with mine workers and farmers, local business leaders and politicians.

Peter was an instinctive internationalist. He took the view that you couldn’t be a social democrat without believing in an open Australia – and you couldn’t believe in openness without a proper social safety net. He was a yachtsman, with a yen for open waters.

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Transcript of Breaking Politics – 3 Feb 2014








SUBJECT/S: Industry assistance, National Party infighting, unions, childcare affordability

CHRIS HAMMER: Just when should the Federal Government put its hand in its pocket, pull out some tax payers’ money and help a struggling business or industry? Well, in recent months, the Federal Government has shown that it’s not inclined to do that, refusing to give additional support first to Holden, and then the fruit processor SPC Ardmona. But now, the Agriculture Minister and National Party Member, Barnaby Joyce wants the Federal Government to provide up to $7 billion in drought assistance to struggling farmers in QLD and northern NSW. Well, to discuss this issue of government support. I’m joined by Andrew Leigh, the Member for Fraser here in the ACT, a Labor member and a former professor of Economics. Andrew, you’d support the Government’s stance on Holden and SPC wouldn’t you? Because it is good economics isn’t it?

ANDREW LEIGH: Chris, I think under this government you’ve seen jobs going left, right and centre. You saw with Holden the goading of the company to leave and that terrible loss of jobs that I think is going to hit South Australia hard. You saw with SPC, Barnaby Joyce unable to persuade his colleagues to give $25 million to the company and yet here he is today in a sort of standard Barnaby Joyce style, going a full court of press on the media about what he’s going to be talking about in Cabinet today. If he can’t get $25 million for SPC, it’s difficult to see how he’s going to persuade his colleagues to get $7 billion, but you know Barnaby being Barnaby this is an issue where he’s going to run around the country and talk about his…

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Food and Grocery Code – 18 November 2013

As the Shadow Minister for Competition I issued a short media statement today acknowledging the work done by my Labor colleagues to bring supermarkets and suppliers together to agree on a voluntary Food and Grocery Prescribed Industry Code of Conduct.



The Federal Opposition welcomes the work done to get key players to agree on a voluntary food and grocery code, announced today.

This process began under Labor, with considerable consultation with the sector taking place under Labor Ministers including David Bradbury, Joe Ludwig and Joel Fitzgibbon.

We are hopeful this will provide a structure for retailers and suppliers to conduct their negotiations from a position of trust.

The Opposition will monitor developments closely to see how the code works in practice, its effect on small businesses in the supply chain and what impact it has on prices at the checkout.

Thanks to Labor’s competition reforms, many supermarket prices have fallen, helping households with their cost of living. Labor will continue to closely monitor competition issues to ensure any changes by the Government do not come at a cost to consumers.


ABC RN Drive – 15 August 2013

I appeared on ABC RN Drive with Waleed Aly and Arthur Sinodinos last night, discussing special economic zones, Coalition costings, minority government, and Waleed turning 35. Here’s a podcast.

Boosting Farm Productivity

I spoke last night on a bill that will see Australia re-engage with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and started my speech by telling the story of when I used to go along as a high school student in the 1980s to talk international development with my local MP, member for Berowra Phillip Ruddock.

International Fund for Agricultural Development Amendment Bill, 5 February 2013

It is a particular pleasure to follow the member for Berowra in this debate on the International Fund for Agricultural Development Amendment Bill 2012. My first-ever engagement with a federal parliamentarian was when I was a young volunteer for an organisation called Community Aid Abroad, now part of Oxfam. Community Aid Abroad invited us to visit our federal member of parliament, to speak about the importance of foreign aid and why it should be increased. I suspect I was to the left of the member for Berowra even as a whippersnapper but I do remember him being very good to me, giving me at least half an hour of his time, listening through what I am sure were not particularly well-informed comments about foreign aid and providing some genteel responses about his views on the issue. Those meetings do occasionally come back to me now is a federal member of parliament, thinking about the importance of giving time to somebody who has passionate feelings about an issue even if one might know more about that issue than they do. I use this opportunity to thank the member for Berowra, some two decades late, for his generosity in that regard. It made a mark and it continues to shape my dealings with my constituents.

Mr Ruddock:  Can I interject and say thank you very much.

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ABC Capital Hill – 6 Nov 2012

On ABC24 Capital Hill, we spoke about Australia’s trifecta of strong growth, low unemployment and stable inflation; about the difficult issue of live exports; and about wheat deregulation. The host was Lyndal Curtis and my co-panellist was Dennis Jensen (who bravely abstained from the Coalition’s vote against deregulating the wheat export market).

Super Trawler

I spoke in parliament today on a government bill to restrict the impact of the super-trawler FV Abel Tasman (formerly the MV Margiris, among its previous five names).

Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Fishing Activities) Bill, 13 September 2012

Balancing the economics of fishing is no easy task. Quentin Grafton, one of Australia’s leading economists of fisheries has argued that the massive expansion in fishing over the past 50 years has brought the industry to what seems like a paradox, where an immediate reduction in world-wide catch would actually increase future profits of the industry—he estimates it maybe by as much as much as $50 billion a year. There has been overfishing throughout the world and that has led to stock declines so severe that about 15 per cent of all exploited capture fisheries have collapsed or are at less than 10 per cent of their unexploited levels.

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Trade Liberalisation & Anti-Dumping

I spoke in parliament yesterday about trade liberalisation and anti-dumping.

Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2011
28 February 2012

It is my pleasure to rise to address the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2011, a piece of trade legislation that sits proudly in a Labor legacy of trade reform. The opening up of Australian markets which has been so much to the benefit of Australia’s workers and consumers is fundamentally a Labor story. It was Gough Whitlam in 1973 who first cut tariffs, and then Bob Hawke and Paul Keating who continued through the tariff cuts. They did so with a view that open markets would be good for Australia, but that that process of dropping the tariff walls would entail transition costs. So they put in place a car industry plan and TCF plan, recognising that industry would need time to adjust. Those changes have been enormously beneficial for Australian families. They have put on average $3,900 per annum into the pockets of Australian households according to a report by the Centre for International Economics. Open markets have also meant that Australian industry has become more competitive. That has meant more export jobs. It has meant more opportunities for Australian workers.

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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.

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An Apple a Day Keeps the Trade War at Bay

My AFR op-ed today looks at the benefits that Australia gains from playing by global trade rules.

Apple Ruling Makes Sense, Australian Financial Review, 23 August 2011

In 1995, Japan accepted imported rice for the first time. A nation whose politicians had sometimes claimed that foreign rice was unfit for Japanese consumption yielded – thanks to a World Trade Organization deal. Within a few years, Australian rice exports to Japan were worth over $200 million.

Yet today, the Liberal and National parties are calling for Australia to thumb its nose at the WTO’s finding that our apple quarantine system was not based on solid science. Rather than allowing New Zealand apple imports, the Coalition would prefer to see Australia start a trade war.

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So it seems that while some on the far right are opposed to foreigners bringing their bodies here, some on the far left are opposed to foreigners bringing their chequebooks here.

To make the case for greater investment (including foreign investment), here’s an AFR article I wrote a few months ago. Remember, authors don’t choose their headlines.

Doors Transcript

I was on ‘doors’ today, answering questions about some of the main issues in Australian politics. Here’s a transcript.

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Live Exports Suspension

I spoke in parliament last night on the issue of live animal exports.

Live Animal Exports, 14 June 2011

The image of our stock men and women is deeply etched on the national psyche: the laconic stockmen rocking easily in the saddle, cajoling and guiding the herd; the alert and agile stockman darting through the bush, bringing a bolter back or displaying campdrafting skills at the local rodeo.

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Fragile States and Agile Aid

I spoke at the Lowy Institute today, suggesting a few ideas for improving Australia’s aid program.

Fragile States and Agile Aid: Some Ideas for the Future of Australia’s Development Assistance Program

Andrew Leigh
Federal Member for Fraser

Lowy Institute
18 May 2011

I acknowledge the traditional Indigenous owners of the lands on which we meet today.

Aid Works

Dai Manju lived in a small village in central China. Because her parents were ill and couldn’t afford the cost of sending her to school, she dropped out. When journalist Nicholas Kristof visited in 1990, she was hanging around the school hoping to pick up bits of knowledge.[1]

After publishing a front page article about Dai in the New York Times, Kristof was chuffed to receive a donation of $10,000 from a reader. He promptly sent it on the school, which spent it on improving facilities, and provided Dai with a scholarship to stay in education so long as she passed exams. After a good amount of the money had been sent, Kristof phoned the donor to thank him for the generous gift. It was only then he realised that the man had in fact only sent $100, and the slip of a bank teller’s fingers had multiplied it one-hundredfold. Informed of their error, the bank agreed to provide the difference as a donation.

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Roll Up, Roll Up

I spoke in parliament this week about the Royal Canberra Show.

Royal Canberra Show
2 March 2011

Last weekend I took the family to the territory’s one and only Royal Canberra Show. The show puts on display the best produce and livestock that the ACT and surrounding areas have on offer. Bolstered by the best growing season many producers ever seen, there was a diverse showcase of farm animals and agricultural and horticultural produce. As a boy who attended an agricultural high school, I greatly enjoyed watching the working dogs, seeing the cattle classing and checking out the fresh produce. We also witnessed the V6 HiLux team crash two utes in front of us, prompting my four-year-old to turn to me and say, ‘Daddy, was that meant to happen?’

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Open Australia

I spoke in Parliament earlier this week against the current populist campaign to curtail foreign investment in Australian agriculture.

Foreign Investment in Agriculture
21 February 2011

An iron law of populism is that, while Australian businesspeople investing abroad are portrayed as job-creating entrepreneurs, foreign investors in our country are depicted as rapacious robber barons. And so it is with the latest campaign against foreign investment. As sometimes happens, the campaign started in the tabloids. Under headlines such as ‘Chinese buying up our farms’, ‘It’s time to stop selling off the farm’, and ‘It’s time to save our farms from foreign investors’, News Ltd tabloids have recently embarked upon a fear campaign against foreign investment in Australian agriculture. With anecdotes taking the place of statistics, foreign investment has been described by the tabloids as ‘a dramatic global land grab’, fed by ‘a looming global food shortage’.

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