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Chatting Population with Tim Webster

On 2UE Sunday afternoons, I joined Tim Webster to discuss my Lowy Institute speech on population. Here’s a podcast.

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’ »

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’ »

Launching Common Ground Canberra

JULIE COLLINS MP
Minister for Housing and Homelessness

ANDREW LEIGH MP
Member for Fraser

SHANE RATTENBURY
ACT Minister for Housing

MEDIA RELEASE
A $17 million boost to help tackle homelessness in Canberra

Continue reading ‘Launching Common Ground Canberra’ »

More Affordable Housing for Canberra

On 24 July 2013, Andrew Barr MLA and I opened one of the largest affordable housing developments in the ACT, supported by the National Rental Affordability Scheme.

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’ »

Affordable accommodation for students

The Gillard Government continues to help make Canberra an attractive place to live and study by investing in affordable accommodation for future University of Canberra students. This is a project I lobbied for as the local Federal Member of Parliament because I know how important affordable student accommodation is for the entire community. It frees up other rental accommodation in nearby suburbs and is a key part of maintaining a good housing mix in Canberra’s north.

There are three numbers you need to know about federal investment in affordable housing through the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). But to keep it simple, each number is 20.

  • Since 2007, NRAS and other federal programs have contributed to construction of 1 in 20 new homes.
  • NRAS homes must rent for at least 20% below market rates.
  • 1 in 20 NRAS homes have been in Canberra (despite the fact that only 1 in 60 Australians live here, we have bigger challenges of housing affordability).

It was a noisy sod-turning with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker needing to drill through the concrete so that the Chief Minister and I had something to turn.

My media release is below. Continue reading ‘Affordable accommodation for students’ »

Homeless Connect Day

I spoke in parliament today about Homeless Connect Day.

Homeless Connect Day, 9 August 2012

On 9 August it was my pleasure to attend Homeless Connect Day at Pilgrim House on Northbourne Avenue. Homeless Connect Day is a one-day event for homeless people, or those at risk of homelessness, to access services, support and essentials. On the day there was a range of services available to people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness: free food, clothing, haircuts, massage, personal care packs, health advice and even entertainment. I was grateful to see the folks from Canberra FM there as well, drawing public attention to one of the real challenges that Australia faces.

Continue reading ‘Homeless Connect Day’ »

Development in Campbell

The Hansard from the parliament’s biannual quizzing of the National Capital Authority became available today. For the benefit of Campbell residents who are interested in Development Application 74, I’ve pasted below the answers to my questions. The full transcript is available here.

Continue reading ‘Development in Campbell’ »

Intergenerational Disadvantage in Canberra

I spoke in parliament about my latest community conversation on disadvantage, which focused on intergenerational poverty.

Fraser Community Summit, 31 May 2012

Every six months or so I hold a conversation to talk about disadvantage in the Fraser electorate. On Tuesday, 29 May I was pleased to welcome 10 representatives from local community sector groups up to Parliament House for an early breakfast conversation. I call it a community summit, but really it is more of an informal conversation with people I regard as my brains trust on poverty.

The focus of this conversation was on intergenerational disadvantage and how to stop the cycle of poverty from replicating itself across generations. One of the attendees at the summit made the point that disadvantage itself is now more complex than it was in the past and is often interrelated with issues such as mental illness, poor health, substance abuse, domestic violence and addiction. Another attendee told the story of a child whose parents were addicted to hard drugs and who was never given anything by his parents; all he had were the things that he had found or stolen. Another spoke about families who eat McDonald’s every meal because it is simpler to get takeaway than to prepare a meal. Attendees were concerned about the impact of imprisonment on the children of those who are behind bars.

Continue reading ‘Intergenerational Disadvantage in Canberra’ »

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.

Community Summit

I spoke in parliament yesterday about my November Community Summit.

Fraser Community Summit
1 November 2011

Early this morning, I convened a breakfast roundtable in Parliament House to discuss with 13 ACT community sector leaders the issues of poverty and disadvantage in Canberra. This is the second of these forums that I have arranged and the focus of today’s discussion was on financial literacy, debt and savings. Attendees emphasised that financial problems can be caused by stress factors, such as family breakdown, mental illness, substance abuse and problem gambling. Conversely, financial problems can also cause disadvantage, with money problems leading to health problems, family stress and gambling in an attempt to ‘win back’ losses. Some attendees commented that crisis services are now seeing people who they call the ‘working poor’—such as apprentices and community sector workers. They also pointed out the challenge of high housing costs in the ACT. For people caught in a debt cycle, community leaders pointed out that life is a constant juggling act. People often borrow from their friends and neighbours, and these personal debts can take priority over paying utility bills. One attendee quoted a person in crisis who said, ‘Debt makes me feel like half of me is in the grave already.’

Continue reading ‘Community Summit’ »

New Social Housing

I attended the opening of eight new social housing units in O’Connor this morning. The bottom four units will be occupied by people with mobility impairments, while most of the top four units will be single parent families. For some of the tenants, it’s the first place they’ve ever had to call their own.

Continue reading ‘New Social Housing’ »

Land, land everywhere, but not a block to buy

A new RBA paper by Mariano Kulish, Anthony Richards and Christian Gillitzer has some fascinating figures on housing. For example, did you know that the vast bulk of new housing has been created in the outer burbs?



Or that for their population, the density of Australian cities is much closer to North America than Europe?

All this, and much more, here.