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Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate

My speech at the Lowy Institute looks at population size, immigration flows and refugee policy.

Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate*

Lowy Institute
13 March 2014

Andrew Leigh
Shadow Assistant Treasurer
Federal Member for Fraser
www.andrewleigh.com

I’ve wanted to say something about this rather controversial topic for a long time. Now that I take to the podium, I can’t help thinking of an epitaph Dorothy Parker penned for her gravestone: ‘Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.’

A great epitaph for a writer. Perhaps not so much for a politician. Nevertheless, I hope what follows shows that my belief in evidence is stronger than my desire to avoid tough questions.

If there’s one thing that’s really big in the population size debate, it’s the size of the scare campaigns made by both sides.

A big Australia, one side tells us, is a ‘catastrophe’[1] that ‘risks destroying our traditions and even our common language’.[2] Immigration has ‘undermined our higher education system, [and] put intolerable pressure on an overstretched health and transport system’.[3] Some go further, blaming ‘limp-wristed citizenship requirements’ for ‘ethnic crime waves sweeping across our nation, where samurai swords and machetes have become part of the media lexicon’.[4]

Not to be outdone, the other side of the debate argue that: ‘Putting caps on growth would turn Australia into a stagnant, ageing and inward-looking country – a basket case to rival the declining states of Europe.’[5] Some have warned that if population growth is too slow, the share market would stagnate, small businesses would be unable to fund their ventures, taxes would rise, and debt would balloon.[6]

Continue reading ‘Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate’ »

Defending the ABC

I spoke in parliament today in defence of that great national institution, the ABC.

ABC, 27 February 2014

There are more than 200 ABC employees in the Australian Capital Territory. They cover national politics from Parliament House and local issues from Dickson. They cover everything from disasters to national politics. Of course, under this government, those are not mutually exclusive categories. I do not always agree with their perspective or the questions, but I absolutely respect the role of the ABC.

I am fortunate to chat regularly with Waleed Aly and Senator Sinodinos on Radio National, a conversation with two men I genuinely respect and which I think probably makes me a better politician. When I am at home, my three boys love watching Bananas in Pyjamas, the Wiggles and Playschool. If we are in the car, you will likely find us listening to triple j, NewsRadio or one of the thoughtful podcasts such as Conversations with Richard Fidler; the Religion and Ethics Report, with Andrew West; or Geraldine Doogue’s Saturday Extra.

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A Musical Life

My Chornicle column this week is on classical music, inspired by a stint on Canberra’s Artsound 92.7FM.

Music Gives Richness to Fabric of Life, The Chronicle, 4 February 2014

In his book Music Quickens Time, conductor Daniel Barenboim argues that classical music has much to teach us about living well together. Good music cannot be pure reason or pure emotion – it must combine both. And music, like life, reminds us that everything is interconnected.

I thought of Barenboim when presenter Jim Mooney invited me to appear on Artsound 92.7FM last month. The brief was simple: no partisan politics, just talk about the role of classical music in a well-balanced life, and play a few favourite pieces of classical music.

Continue reading ‘A Musical Life’ »

A Musical Interlude

I was delighted to appear today on Artsound Canberra (92.7 FM), to spend half an hour talking with presenter Jim Mooney about the role of classical music in a well-balanced life. Jim invited me to choose a few of my favourite tracks, so here’s what I opted for:

  1. Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony (Allegro) – his great musical denunciation of the craziness of Stalin’s era
  2. Leoncavallo, Pagliacci, ‘Vesti la guibba’ – I chose the 1902 Caruso recording, which is scratchy, but magnificent nonetheless
  3. Wagner, Tannhauser, ‘Wie Todesahnung’ – I used to take singing lessons for fun, and this is one I enjoyed singing
  4. Carl Vine, 5th Symphony, Part II (Tarantella) – a slightly crazed movement from the unique Australian composer

Here’s a photo afterwards, with ArtSound general manager Chris Deacon (on the left) and Jim Mooney (on the right).

Cranleigh School Art Show – 18-20 October

The Cranleigh School Artshow is being held in late-October. They have asked me to publicise it on my blog, and I am happy to do this. Details below.

Art Show October 2013

The Cranleigh Capital Chemist Artshow is an annual event held at Cranleigh School, Starke Street in Holt on the third week of October. The show raises money for the school and promotes well known Canberra and regional artists. It also showcases the abilities of our students.

This year we are hoping to raise more than $25,000 for a specialised music program at Cranleigh.

Friday 18th – Opening Night

6.00pm for sponsors.

7.00pm – 9.00pm for the public

Opening night includes

  • Robyn Archer AO, Centenary of Canberra Creative Director, will be opening the show.
  • Featured Guest Artist Kylie Heslop.
  • Wine and delicious food served by students from The Woden School.
  • Live jazz music by the Radford jazz band.
  • Silent auction.

19-20 October gallery open for viewing 9.00-5.00pm

Grants awarded to creative young people

Today in my electoral office I was delighted to meet local beneficiaries of the Creative Young Stars program. With financial support gained, Year 11 student Gabrielle Carter is heading to Glasgow to compete in an international ballet competition. Alison Plevey travels to dance festival in England and Jacob Niessl will be able to pursue his passion for music, competing in eisteddfods and community concerts with Canberra Youth Music.  My congratulations to all the winners.

MEDIA RELEASE

Twelve creative and aspiring young people have received Australian Government grants of up to $3000 to help them develop their  talents and chase their dreams.

The grants have been awarded under the Creative Young Stars program which provides individual grants of $500 and group grants of  $3000 to assist students and young people participate in creative, cultural, academic and community based activities, events or  training.

Two community groups in the electorate of Fraser are also beneficiaries of the program.

Member for Fraser, Dr Andrew Leigh, today congratulated the grant recipients and thanked all applicants, noting that the quality of young talent was outstanding.

“Our community is full of young people with many great talents. The exceptional contribution they make to our community and beyond will only increase with the chance to develop those talents further,” Dr Leigh said.

“The Creative Young Stars grants help young people of primary, secondary and tertiary school-age to participate in events such as competitions, eisteddfods, public speaking tournaments and other cultural, artistic or academic events.

“We want these young people to feel supported, and to have their talent and hard work recognised so their confidence and creativity develops.

“These grants do this but also support our young people in a practical way to make achieving their dream a little easier.”

Mix106.3 Canbera – 28 August 2013

On MixCanberra this morning, Liberal candidate Zed Seselja and I discussed optimism and talking with kids, kangaroos and roadside signs, Miley Cyrus and high-speed rail, and which Canberra agency will be forcibly relocated to the Central Coast if the Liberals win. Unfortunately, we didn’t get an answer on all these issues, but here’s a podcast.

$6.5M for Civic and Citizenship Education – 26 August 2013

This morning, I joined Bill Shorten and Gai Brodtmann for a tour of Questacon before announcing some funding certainty for the popular Parliament and Civics Education Rebate (PACER) program. The funding will deliver a steady stream of young patrons to the capital’s vital national institutions:

MEDIA RELEASE

Minister for Education Bill Shorten, Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, Member for Fraser Andrew  Leigh

Minister for Education Bill Shorten joined the Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh and the Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann on the steps of  Questacon today to announce a further $6.5 million for the  popular Parliament and Civics Education Rebate (PACER) program.

PACER provides a subsidy for schools travelling more than 150 kilometres to visit the national capital as  part of a civics and citizenship education  excursion.

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Mr Yunupingu, Lead Singer of Yothu Yindi

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

Mr Yunupingu, 4 June 2013

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

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

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Creativity and Innovation

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’.

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The First “People’s Map” of Canberra’s Northside

Today I released the first ever ‘people’s map’ of the Fraser electorate. The map is the result of an extensive exercise in community engagement, and was designed by a local design student.

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Hottest 100

Eight hours to go before voting closes for Triple J’s Hottest 100. Here are my choices.

Ten “People’s Maps” of the Fraser Electorate

Back in October 2011, I launched the ‘Mapping the Northside’ project to develop a people’s map of my electorate.

Belconnen Arts Centre displayed a 3m x 2m map on their wall, where people could come in and locate their favourite places in Canberra’s north – the federal electorate of Fraser that I have the privilege to represent. Belconnen Arts Centre also facilitated information sessions at Gorman House Arts Centre, Gungahlin Library, and at their own location in Emu Bank, Belconnen. Local professional artist Maryann Mussared was on hand to help with the creative process.

Popular locations included local universities, mountains, popular walking spots and community facilities such as John Knight Park in Belconnen and Gungahlin Skate Park.  We turned this into a Google Map of people’s favourite places.

I’ve now joined forces with design students from the University of Canberra to put some of those key places into an infographics map. The range of options and different ways of showing key northside places was incredible and I was impressed by the students’ creativity.

You can have a look at the different ideas the students came up with at the links below. My favourite was Michelle’s, and this will appear in my next community newsletter.

What do you think?

Many thanks go to Ben Ennis Butler, the University of Canberra, Belconnen Arts Centre, Gungahlin Library and the Gorman House Arts Centre for their support on this exciting project.

Bryce Courtenay

I spoke in parliament yesterday on the passing of my most famous constituent, Bryce Courtenay.

Bryce Courtenay, 27 November 2012

A little over 12 months ago Paul Keating told Leigh Sales during a Lateline interview:

‘Well, it’s all about telling the stories. You gotta be able to tell the stories, I think.’

Today I pay tribute to one of our greatest ever storytellers. Australian author Bryce Courtenay lived in the suburb of Reid in my electorate, a few kilometres from my electorate office. Last week he died of stomach cancer, aged 79. He was a prolific author. In his 23 years of writing he wrote 23 books—almost one a year. I say ‘almost’ because the only time he missed his annual deadline was last year. He was upset by this even though the arthritis in his hands were so severe he could only perform two-finger typing.

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Design in the National Capital

I spoke in parliament this evening about a bill to give the National Portrait Gallery its own piece of legislation.

National Portrait Gallery of Australia Bill, 11 September 2012

It is my pleasure to follow the member for Hinkler and to agree with so much of what he had to say in his very articulate speech. There is much that divides us in this place, but I think it is often the arts which can bring us together. I particularly appreciated the member for Hinkler’s comments about the great wisdom and prescience of the Whitlam government.

The National Portrait Gallery was something I remember first thinking about when I lived as a whippersnapper in London for a number of years. I was there on my own and loved the opportunity to visit the British National Portrait Gallery. It has that great combination of art and history you get in a portrait gallery. Wandering amidst the portraits there, I remember thinking to myself, ‘It would be great if Australia had one of these.’ As previous speakers have noted, Tom Roberts had had that idea in the early 1900s, but it was not until much later, 1999, that Australia got its National Portrait Gallery.

Continue reading ‘Design in the National Capital’ »

Robert Hughes

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the late Robert Hughes. Others had refelcted on his life more broadly, so I focused particularly on his contribution to art criticism. (Delayed by another event, I nearly didn’t make it into the chamber on time, since I was running with American Visions in one hand.)

Robert Hughes, 15 August 2012

Robert Hughes’s life is a difficult one to sum up: 74 years, 15 books, multiple TV series, three wives. The member for Wentworth yesterday in the chamber spoke on Robert Hughes’s passing with wonderful eloquence, as he so often does. I suggested to him afterwards we should create a post of parliamentary eulogist and make it his in permanence.

So many aspects of Robert Hughes’s life could attract mention today: The Fatal Shore, inspired by EP Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, or his tome on Barcelona, which was an extraordinary piece of work. But I want to focus today on his role as an art critic—I think the leading art critic of a generation—because it was in that capacity that he so much inspired me. It has been noted that Robert Hughes became an art critic by accident. In 1958 he was working as a cartoonist in Sydney for the fortnightly magazine the Observer, then edited by Donald Horne. He recounted that Horne had sacked the magazine’s art critic and snapped at Hughes, ‘You’re the cartoonist—you ought to know something about art.’ And so a career began.

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Alan Saunders

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.

Alan Saunders
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:

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In Praise of Bookworms

My monthly column in the Chronicle newspaper is about reading.

National Year of Reading, The Chronicle, April 2012

When Dick Adams left high school, he wasn’t able to read or write. It didn’t worry him much. As he told his local paper, ‘I was too busy playing cricket, helping my family on the farm, hunting and fishing’. But eventually, he realised that it would be hard to get far in life without reading and writing, so he found an adult literacy teacher and spent four years learning to read and write.

Today, Dick is a federal MP for the seat of Lyons in Tasmania. At Parliament House, he occupies the office two doors down from mine. He’s someone I can always trust for advice, and I know I’m not the only parliamentarian who feels that way.

Continue reading ‘In Praise of Bookworms’ »

Mapping the Northside Now Online

At the Belconnen Arts Centre tonight, we launched the online version of the Mapping the Northside exercise, in which people nominated their favourite spots on the north side of Canberra. To see the results on Google Maps, click on the link below.
View Mapping the Northside in a larger map

Mapping the Northside

Next Tuesday, we’ll be launching the final ‘people’s map’ of the northside of Canberra. Details on the BAC website (and below).

Tuesday 3 April > 6:00pm

In 2011, Belconnen Arts Centre and Andrew Leigh MP ran a joint project: ‘Mapping The Northside’. Come along and hear about the 160 favourite places of the many local residents who participated. Learn about the special natural, cultural, gastronomical and sporting spots, and find out the most popular place in the federal electorate of Fraser. The event will feature live music and light refreshments.

Cost > Free! Bookings recommended

More information & bookings > info@belconnenartscentre.com.au or 02 6173 3300

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.

Centenary of Canberra

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.

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The Asian Century

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).

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Now Hear This – Friendship

In a somewhat unusual departure from my day job, I joined seven terrifying talented Canberrans last night to tell a story onstage as part of the ABC 666 ‘Now Hear This’ event. The theme for the night was ‘friendship’. I’ll post a link to the video when it becomes available, but for now, you’ll have to make do with the photos (individual, group), and my storytelling bio (over the fold).

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Mapping the Northside – in Parliament

I spoke in parliament today about ‘Mapping the Northside’.

Mapping the Northside, 3 November 2011

There are many hidden and not so hidden gems in my electorate of Fraser. In partnership with the Belconnen Arts Centre, on 18 October I launched Mapping the Northside. Mapping the Northside is project where community members are invited to identify their favourite place on a two- by three- metre map of the Fraser electorate.

Continue reading ‘Mapping the Northside – in Parliament’ »

Mapping the Northside Media Launch

Just one sleep until we start Mapping the Northside. All welcome.

MEDIA ALERT

Event: LAUNCH OF ‘MAPPING THE NORTHSIDE’

Date: TUESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2011

Time: 9:30AM

Venue: Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank Belconnen

Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser and Belconnen Arts Centre join forces this October and November to create a huge interactive map of the federal electorate of Fraser. The map will be displayed in the Belconnen Arts Centre from Tuesday 18 October until Thursday 17 November, and everyone is encouraged to drop in and plot their most meaningful places onto the map.

“Mapping the Northside is an opportunity to tell everyone about your special, important places and environments and let your imagination run wild. Show everyone that the Fraser electorate is the most vibrant place in Australia,

“The Belconnen Arts Centre and I invite everyone to be a part of Mapping the Northside and learn something new about Canberra’s north,” said Andrew Leigh.

What’s your favourite place on the Northside? Is it where you live, you work, you learn or you play? Is it a tiny restaurant you love, a bike track, your local school, a tennis court, a park, an arts or community centre, a heritage site or a quiet track or place you like to walk your dog? When describing your favourite place you can draw it, photograph it, create a collage, write a story or a poem, or even create a performance work.

There will be three facilitated information sessions at Belconnen Arts Centre (11 – 1pm, 29 October), Gorman House Arts Centre (Saturday 11 – 1pm, 5 November) and Gungahlin Library (Saturday 11 – 1pm, 12 November)

Mapping the Northside

In conjunction with Belconnen Arts Centre, I’m running a project called ‘Mapping the Northside’. We’ll be officially launching on 18 October, but here’s a sneak preview.

Continue reading ‘Mapping the Northside’ »