I launched Stuart Cunningham’s new book Hidden Innovation tonight.
Launching Stuart Cunningham, Hidden Innovation: Policy, Industry and the Creative Sector
Paperchain Books, Manuka
9 April 2013
According to one study cited in Stuart Cunningham’s book, there are two opposing groups of people: ‘political junkies’ (PJs) and Big Brother fans (BBs). PJs think that it ‘beggars belief’ that anyone could think Big Brother was useful. BBs say that politicians are unapproachable and out of touch.
So as an MP who used to quite enjoy watching Big Brother, I found myself torn. Am I a BB or a PJ? A PJ in BBs? Or a BB in PJs?
The reference to Big Brother is just one of a myriad of cultural touchstones in this fascinating book. Stuart Cunningham’s book romps through Survivor and Go Back to Where you Came From, Korean bloggers and Fat Cow Motel, Australian iTunes game Fruit Ninja and Nigeria’s ‘Nollywood’.
Celebrating the Australian Way of Diversity, The Chronicle, 2 April 2013
If you’ve ever seen a Bollywood movie, you probably know about the Indian festival of Holi, in which people shower one another with colourful powder. Indian society is typically quite respectful of social boundaries, but on Holi, it’s alright for anyone to throw powder at anyone else.
I launched Ian Warden’s new book on Canberra tonight. Here’s my speech, complete with a newly-uncovered 1977 ACT Anthem by Philip Grundy.
Launching Ian Warden, A Serious House on Serious Earth
Electric Shadows Bookshop, Canberra
4 April 2013
I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, on whose lands we meet.
It is a pleasure to be here today to launch the book of a great Canberra icon, Ian Warden (also known as the Beige Bombshell).
If you travel today to Dalgety, a town of 75 people and one pub, it strikes you that there might exists a parallel universe to our own in which Australia’s capital is on the banks of the Snowy River, and Canberra is a sleepy town of 1700 people (as it was in 1911).
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.
The folks behind the proposed Boer War Memorial are looking for support from descendents of people who served in the war. If you think a family member might have fought for Australia in that conflict, you can look them up using this handy search engine (which thoughtfully also lets you download the entire database).
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.
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.
I moved a private member’s motion in parliament today to recognise the importance of Eureka in the Australian national story.
Eureka, 26 November 2012
DR LEIGH: To move—That this House:
(1) recognises that:
(a) the Battle of Eureka:
(i) was a key moment in Australian democracy;
(ii) called for basic democratic rights, including broadening the franchise and removing the property qualification to stand for the Legislative Council;
(iii) inspired subsequent movements in Australian history, including female suffrage and the Australian Republican Movement; and
(iv) demanded changes to make mining taxation more equitable, with the revenue to be spent on improvements to local infrastructure; and
(b) the importance of the Battle of Eureka is to be commemorated by the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka in Ballarat, partly funded by the Australian Government in recognition of its national significance; and
(2) encourages all Australians to remember and respect the Battle of Eureka by:
(a) visiting the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka to learn about the history of the Battle of Eureka and its effect on modern democracy; and
(b) flying the Eureka Flag on 3 December each year in its memory.
Three hours after midnight on the Sabbath morning of Sunday, 3 December 1854, a winter and spring of discontent erupted in a short and dirty skirmish atop the gold-led diggings known as Eureka on the western outskirts of the Victorian town of Ballarat. The colonial authorities had sent troops from two British regiments, supported by the Victoria police—296 men, all told, against a tottering stockade defended by some 150 miners of the Ballarat Reform League. The miners protected a hand-sewn flag bearing a design of the Southern Cross, beneath which they had each sworn an oath ‘to stand truly by each other, to fight to defend our rights and liberties’. The bloody scrum described as the battle for Eureka lasted for fewer than 15 minutes. Six men of the colonial forces and 22 miners were killed. One hundred and fourteen of their Reform League comrades were imprisoned in the Ballarat lock-up and the flag was torn down. In the following months, 13 miners charged by the state with high treason were unanimously acquitted by citizen juries. All bar one of the political demands of the Ballarat Reform League were granted within 12 months. The first bill for the universal enfranchisement of men in the Australian colonies was passed by the Victorian Legislative Council in 1857.
For a 20th anniversary segment, I appeared on Meet the Press with Liberal MP Joshua Frydenberg, and interviewers Hugh Riminton and Misha Schubert. Topics included why I’m in the ALP, what the Asian Century White Paper means for Australia, and the importance of education and entrepreneurship to our nation’s future.
Next Monday, parliament will be debating my motion to apologise to the late Peter Norman, whose courageous stance for racial equality got him blocked from competing in subsequent Olympics. Here’s the motion:
DR LEIGH: To move—That this House:
(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;
(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute;
(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and
(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.
I spoke in Parliament today about the late ABC journalist Alan Saunders, a polymath of the airwaves. My radio listening will be poorer for his passing.
18 June 2012
ABC’s Radio National is one of Australia’s great public institutions, and I rise to speak about the late Alan Saunders, who died unexpectedly last Friday. Alan Saunders spent 25 years with Radio National. He moved to Australia in 1981 to pursue research at the Australian National University’s History of Ideas unit, where he received a PhD. He received the Pascall Prize for critical writing and broadcasting in 1992. He contributed to programs about food, design and philosophy. As Amanda Armstrong put it:
In the SMH News Review section today, I’ve done ‘The Essay’ – a shorter version of my McKell Institute speech.
Dumb Luck – Smart Future, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 2012
In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, sit the Galapagos Islands. Although they straddle the equator, the pattern of ocean currents has a cooling effect, making them an ideal breeding ground.
The islands are volcanic – so all animal life on the Galapagos Islands came originally by flying or floating nearly 1000 kilometres from Ecuador. And yet for the species that survived, life on the Galapagos Islands was perfect. Migrating birds lucky enough to be blown off course found an environment with few natural predators. Tortoises that floated here found beaches perfectly suited to their breeding environments. Life flourished.
Looking back across Australian economic history, I am often struck by the extent to which luck has similarly played a part in our success. Politicians are sometimes reluctant to talk about luck – preferring to focus on the things we can control than those we can’t. But I think it’s still worth talking about the role that fortune has played, if only to help understand what preparations we should be making. If we don’t do that, we’re like the Galapagos tortoise, which must have thought itself the luckiest species on earth, until British sailors discovered the islands in the late-eighteenth century, and ate them in their thousands.
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.
In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, sit the Galapagos Islands. Although they straddle the equator, the pattern of ocean currents have a cooling effect, making them an ideal breeding ground for tortoises, iguanas, penguins, finches, albatrosses, gulls, and pelicans.
Because the islands are volcanic, what’s striking about animal life on the Galapagos Islands is that all of it came originally by flying or floating nearly 1000 kilometres from Ecuador. And yet for the species that survived, life on the Galapagos Islands was perfect. Migrating birds lucky enough to be blown off course found an environment with few natural predators. Tortoises that floated here found beaches perfectly suited to their breeding environments. Life flourished.
Looking back across Australian economic history, I am often struck by the extent to which luck has similarly played a part in our success. Politicians are sometimes reluctant to talk about luck – preferring to focus on the things we can control than those we can’t. It is true that ‘chance favours the prepared mind’. But I think it’s still worth talking about the role that luck has played, if only to help understand what preparations we should be making. If we don’t do that, we’re like the Galapagos tortoise, which must have thought itself the luckiest species on earth, until British sailors discovered the islands in the late-eighteenth century, and ate them in their thousands.
On 31 May 2012, it will be 110 years since the signing of the peace treaty in the Boer War. The National Boer War Association has asked me to let descendants know about the memorial (the picture shows an artist’s rendering), and that special ‘descendants’ and ‘in memory’ medallions have been struck in honour of veterans.
The Asian Century Beckons, Canberra Times, 25 April 2012
In the 21st century, we can confidently predict two trends. First, Australia will become more ethnically diverse. And second, we will become more enmeshed with Asia. The next generation of Australians will be more likely to have been born in Asia, travelled to Asia, worked in Asia, or married someone from Asia.
In a recent forum at the ANU Crawford School, I joined Reframe author Eric Knight, change.org‘s Rebecca Wilson, Liberal MP Joshua Frydenberg and Big Ideas host Paul Barclay to discuss the topic ‘Beyond Populist Politics and Policies’. A podcast of the show (from ABC Radio National) is now available.
I spoke in parliament last night about the Centenary of Canberra in 2013.
Centenary of Canberra
20 March 2012
One hundred years ago Walter Burley Griffin said that he wanted to design a city for a nation of ‘bold democrats’. On 12 March 2013 Canberra will celebrate its centenary, a celebration that all Australians can be proud of. Tonight I want to speak about two exciting aspects of Canberra’s centenary. The first is the opportunity to speak in greater depth about what our history means and where it has been going. It is my pleasure this evening to engage in one aspect of this—a forum hosted by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects entitled ‘Sex in the city’ in which noted architecture writer Elizabeth Farrelly presented her views on gender and urban development. I would like to thank Paul Costigan, Diane Firth, my fellow commentator, Gary Rake, and many others for an important discussion about where a great Australian city is to go. Better understanding your own city is the first step towards improving it.
I spoke in parliament tonight about Asia-literacy, Ken Henry’s Asian Century report, refugees, and the Canberra Multicultural Festival. The speech is below (and if you’re at the Festival this coming Saturday, please come over to the Andrew Leigh stall and say g’day).
I spoke in parliament today about the new national memorials report (and as it was my last speech for the year, thanked my staff, volunteers, interns and family).
National Capital and External Territories Committee Report
24 November 2011
National memorials are a crucial part of the nation’s collective memory. They bind a nation together through one of the most powerful of unifying forces—shared history. The National Memorials Ordinance 1928 came about at a time when Canberra’s population was under 10,000, and Lake Burley Griffin was just lines on a map. It was instigated by Prime Minister Stanley Bruce when parliament had just moved to Canberra and rapid development was underway in the new national capital. The recommendations arising from the inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories into the administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 reflect Canberra’s transformed milieu and how Australia’s management and use of national memorials can be improved.