At the start of the week I spoke with Fairfax Media’s Breaking Politics host Chris Hammer and Andrew Laming about what’s making news, including speculation the still secret Audit Commission report has recommended making it harder for Australians to be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Here’s the full transcript:
BREAKING POLITICS – FAIRFAX MEDIA
MONDAY 10 MARCH 2014
SUBJECT/S: Pension age; Commonwealth Seniors Health Card; Relaxing media laws.
HOST CHRIS HAMMER: At just what age should Australians be able to retire and what age would they be able to access the old age pension? At the moment that age is 65 but in a few time, by 2023 it will rise to 67. Now there’s speculation the Government may raise it again to 70. Joining me to discuss that and other issues, in the studio is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Labor member for Fraser in the ACT, Andrew Leigh and from Brisbane, the member for Bowman, Andrew Laming.
Andrew Laming, good to see you. Where are you this morning?
ANDREW LAMING: Well I’m down at my local quarry where I was hoping to show off a vigorous economy but at the moment there are no customers, so you’d just have to trust me.
HAMMER: Okay, very well. To the topic at hand, Andrew Laming can the Government defend or should the Government even be looking at raising the pension age to 70?
LAMING: Well Chris, we’re certainly looking over a decade ahead now, so it’s pretty hard to predict what living standards and expectations will look like then. But I think it’s important that the Government, given the history of the pension age, continues to debate about where an appropriate age setting should be. I’m glad that’s not a topic too hard to the Coalition to discuss and look ultimately we are, as a health expert I know, slightly fitter and slightly better able to contribute to the economy and Andrew Leigh would admit, that the longer keep people in the workforce the better it is for Australia’s long term future.
HAMMER: Andrew Leigh, we are living longer. It does make sense?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION: I certainly agree on the importance of participation Chris. But you’ve got to remember there are two key ages. There’s the age that people can access their super which is 60 and the age people get the pension which will eventually be 67. The Government is only focusing on the latter of those ages and that’s of course the time at which manual workers get their pension. And so, to say to manual workers, ‘look you’re going to now have to wait ten years longer than more affluent people who’ve got money in superannuation’ and doing that in an environment where you know that manual workers, sometimes their bodies just give out, say if you’re a bricklayer. We also know that low-income Australians die younger. So, it doesn’t seem particularly fair to be pushing out the pension age for people who do hard physical labour and who in many cases die at younger ages.
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.
Today Michelle Rowland and I issued a joint media release urging ACT Senator Zed Selelja to come clean and acknowledge there was money allocated in the federal budget for assistance to the Gunghalin Jets and other groups awarded grants under the Building Multicultural Communities Program. The Abbott Government has abandoned organisations who were successful in applying for those grants.
SESELJA CAUGHT OUT ON FUNDING CUTS
Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Michelle Rowland, has called on ACT Senator Zed Seselja to front-up to organisations in the ACT, including the Gungahlin Jets, and explain to them why his Government has cut their funding rather than misleading his constituents.
Speaking on radio yesterday Senator Seselja falsely claimed that funding the Abbott Government ripped away from the Gungahlin Jets wasn’t budgeted for under the Building Multicultural Communities Program.
Senator Seselja: “They promised something they didn’t have the money for. They didn’t allocate the money for it.” – 2CC – MONDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2014
“Senator Seselja is either blatantly misleading the good people at the Gungahlin Jets or is too incompetent to read Labor’s 2013/14 Budget[i] and the MYEFO document his Government prepared[ii],” Ms Rowland said.
Last night, I launched Chris Aulich’s edited book on the Gillard Governments at the University of Canberra.
Launch of Chris Aulich (ed), The Gillard Governments
University of Canberra
30 January 2014
Andrew Leigh MP
I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, on whose lands we meet today.
It is a pleasure to be launching Chris Aulich’s edited book The Gillard Governments, the eleventh in the ‘Commonwealth Administration Series’ that has chronicled federal governments back to 1983. The title is plural: referring to Prime Minister Gillard’s Government at the end of the 42nd parliament and for much of the 43rd parliament.
As well as being a pleasure to launch this book, it’s also an honour. The editor presumably chose me because of one of the two records that I set during the 43rd parliament. During that parliament, I served for 99 days as a parliamentary secretary in the Gillard Government, making me the shortest-serving executive member of that government. According to the Guinness Book of Records, people have spent more time in space, as a hostage, travelling by taxi and living in a hotel, than I spent in the executive. The other record is that during the 43rd parliament, I published two books (one on social capital, the other on inequality).
Or perhaps the honour of today’s invitation is due to the fact that I’m the local MP representing the University of Canberra, which has produced these Commonwealth Administration Series books for over thirty years.
This being Canberra, I can count among the book’s 24 contributors people who have been my boss, my co-worker, and my research assistant.
They are an impressive group, who bring expertise in policy and politics to bear in analysing the Gillard Governments.
Today I issued a media release about internal Tax Office discussions regarding the potential closure of regional office across four states. I raise doubts about the Coalition’s commitment to regional jobs.
Shadow Assistant Treasurer
WRITING APPEARS TO BE ON THE WALL FOR CLOSURE OF REGIONAL ATO CENTRES
Pressure is on the Abbott Government to explain if it’s committed to regional Australia after reports that the Australian Tax Office is likely to quit 10 regional sites across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
The ATO has flagged that it’s looking to close offices in Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Mackay, Cairns, Port Macquarie, Grafton, Orange, Sale, Bendigo, and Launceston.
The regional centres have been run down for some years making the ATO’s decision appear a fait accompli.
Eighty staff and countless small businesses will be affected by this decision.
It’s a blow for regional communities and those families with ATO workers who face being forced to uproot and move to bigger centres or be sacked. This is no way to acknowledge hard-working regional teams.
The Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss claims to have a passion for regional Australia. But what is the National Party getting out of the Coalition partnership if it can’t defend and keep regional services and regional jobs?
The ATO is a national organisation with national responsibilities. Does the Coalition value the ATO regional network or not?
The ATO’s Bunderberg office shut its doors earlier this month. It sets a bad trend for regional Australia amid increasing insecurity in the public service under Tony Abbott.
Today in parliament Dr Who fans and colleagues from both sides of the parliament paid homage to The Doctor, fifty years on this month. My contribution noted a few connections Australia shares with the long-standing BBC series and encouraged the latest incarnation of the Time Lord, crew and producers to come Down Under to film an episode here. My speech is below followed by the Private Members Motion that sparked it.
ANDREW LEIGH (Fraser): In the spirit of bipartisanship that pervades this debate, let me acknowledge the members for Moreton, Mitchell and Dawson for their fine speeches before me. It clearly proves that sci-fi nerdom is a bipartisan gene. The next series of Doctor Who should be filmed in Australia and, indeed, it should be filmed right here, in Canberra, because what better setting to host an attack of the cybermen, the Daleks or the Slitheen than the ‘Shine Dome’, the home of the Australian Academy of Science, colloquially referred to around town as the ‘Martian embassy’.
The member for Dawson has done a terrific job in his motion of highlighting a range of connections with Doctor Who to Australia. I might also point out another one from one of my electors, Peter Martin, that Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert, who essentially set up the program, came to Australia many years later in the 1980s to film ‘Evil Angels’ in the Central Desert. Peter Martin also points out that several of the lost tapes for the early episodes, which had been binned by the BBC and assumed to be lost forever, were actually found in Australia, archived by the ABC. The love of Doctor Who also extends to Senator Conroy. One can go on Twitter and look at the twitter account, @ConroyMO, which features not Senator Conroy’s face but the logo of a Dalek.
Doctor Who turned many Australian kids onto science and technology. It made science ‘cool’, and in recent episodes it has broadened that discussion to ethics through ‘Torchwood’. There are many pieces of advice from Doctor Who which are sage for this government. In season 2, episode 2, the Doctor said: ‘You want weapons? They’re in the library—books. The best weapons in the world.’ It is good advice for a government which is cutting back on science. For those of us who are perhaps mourning a government that fell too short, in season 3, episode 6, the Doctor says: ‘Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It’s not the time that matters; it’s the person.’
Over the weekend I issued a media release calling on Tony Abbott to overturn a draft decision of the Tax Office that could result in higher rents for pensioners and families living in mobile homes.
Sunday 10 November, 2013
GST HIKE ON MOBILE HOMES BAD NEWS FOR LOW INCOME AUSTRALIANS
Assistant Shadow Treasurer, Dr Andrew Leigh, has raised concern about a new draft Australian Tax Office ruling that could see thousands of mobile home owners face higher rents.
The ATO has issued a draft ruling on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) paid by park owners managing properties where mobile homes are based.
The draft ruling, now out for consultation, will mean park owners are slugged double the GST paid on leased sites.
“Labor is concerned the ATO ruling would not just lead to higher costs for park owners but that those costs will be passed on to low-income Australians who permanently live in demountable or mobile homes.”
ACT FEDERAL LABOR REPRESENTATIVES CALL ON ZED TO COME CLEAN AS GOVERNMENT’S NATURAL ATTRITION LINE COMES UNSTUCK
Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh and Senator for the ACT Kate Lundy have called on ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja to admit that he has broken his natural attrition promise.
The three say that Senator Seselja’s pre-election promise that planned public service job cuts would be made through natural attrition alone is looking increasingly feeble, with the Canberra Times reporting this week that several departments have already offered post-election redundancies.
Senator Zed Seselja repeated throughout the 2013 election campaign that the Coalition would only cut jobs from the public service through natural attrition, not through redundancies:
This morning I spoke with Radio National Breakfast’s Political Editor, Alison Carabine, about my contributing essay in the revised and expanded version of Mark Latham’s Not Dead Yet: What Future for Labor? The book published by Black Inc. hits bookshops today and sets out areas for continued reform and renewal. Here’s the podcast. The transcript is below.
ABC RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY 30 OCTOBER 2013
TOPIC: Labor future
FRAN KELLY: It’s nearly two months since the ALP’s heavy loss federally and the ideological battle for the future of the party is underway. A new book out today titled Not Dead Yet is a collection of essays by some of Labor’s best and brightest thinkers. And that includes the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. The Canberra-based MP makes a strong pitch to his colleagues to reject Tony Abbott’s style of negativity when it comes to Opposition. And, in a bid to democratise Labor he also proposes large scale plebiscites to select candidates and other important party positions. Andrew Leigh is in our Parliament House studios and he’s speaking with our political editor, Alison Carabine.
ALISON CARIBINE: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning Alison.
CARABINE: There is a certain arrogance that underpins your essay. You open with the bold deceleration that Labor Governments do more, Labor is the party of ideas and reform, but by contrast the Coalition is the defender of the status quo. Considering the election result it would appear that voters embraced the status quo much than they do ideas and reform.
LEIGH: I think Alison that’s to confuse electoral success with policy achievement. Fundamentally the broad contours of the Australian story, over the last century or so, are those of a succession of Labor achievements. And whether that’s putting in place the Snowy Hydro Scheme, whether it’s opening up the economy, whether it’s indeed bringing the troops back in World War Two to defend Australia, or the achievements of DisabilityCare and finally solving the Murray Darling Basin mess, those too were Labor reforms. I think that reflects the fact that ours is a party which is founded on the notion that government has an important role to play in improving the country. Conservatives are far more often comfortable just defending the status quo.
I have a chapter in a new Black Inc book on the future of the ALP. Here’s an extract, plus the endnotes (for anyone who’s interested in that sort of thing).
Labor must continue to follow road of openness, The Australian, 30 October 2013
Labor must never forget that our brand is not interchangeable with that of the Coalition. The two parties play fundamentally different roles in the Australian political system. Labor’s role is to take the initiative, to defend those whom life has treated unfairly, to carve out an activist role on the global stage. By contrast, the Coalition parties are defenders of the status quo, more likely to be heard supporting vested interests than those on the margins of society, and largely untroubled if people turn off politics entirely. Australian politics isn’t Coke versus Pepsi. To become a Labor version of Mr Abbott’s Opposition would be to repudiate the essence of what our party stands for. Labor must continue to be the party of ideas and reform.
One of the risks of hiring great staff is that other employers will offer them even better opportunities, and I’m afraid to report that my media adviser, Courtney Sloane, is the 6th staffer of mine who has been snaffled up by a minister’s office (in Courtney’s case, Human Services Minister Jan McLucas). At this rate, future reunions of Leigh alumni will empty the ministerial wing of Parliament House.
So as a result, I’m looking for a new media adviser. In the past, I’ve advertised in newspapers and on seek.com.au, but the best applications have invariably been the ones who came across the ad on my blog or twitter feed. So this time, I’m simply going to rely on word of mouth. If you know of someone suitable, please let them know.
What does the job involve? In a high-level sense, helping me do a better job of publicly communicating on issues of public policy. I have a pretty broad range of ways through which I engage on policy issues – from books to speeches to interviews to op-eds to tweets. My media adviser helps draft, coordinate, and project those ideas. This involves lots of typing transcripts, sending out media releases, and chatting with journalists. The hours tend to exceed 40 hours a week, and can be unpredictable – for which there’s an overtime allowance.
The salary range is $77,155 to $92,772, which includes an overtime/on call allowance.
If you’re interested, please send a CV with a covering email to andrew.leigh.mp<asperand>aph.gov.au. Applications close Friday 19 July.
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’.
I spoke in parliament about changes in the media, information inequality, and the government’s proposed changes to media laws.
Media Law Reform, 20 March 2013
Great journalism really can change the world. Emile Zola’s ‘J’accuse’letter did not just win Alfred Dreyfus his freedom; it helped to change the political character of modern France. When Woodward and Bernstein reported on Watergate, they brought down a president. In Australia, reporting by the Courier-Mail and Four Corners ended the Bjelke-Petersen government and led to the jailing of three ministers. In 2005, a newspaper article brought down New South Wales opposition leader John Brogden and probably changed the outcome of the 2007 New South Wales election.
I spoke in parliament today about the late Channel 9 journalist Peter Harvey.
Peter Harvey, 13 March 2013
There is no better known sign-off in the Australian media than ‘Peter Harvey, Canberra’. It has resonated down through the ages. It has shaped so many Australians’ knowledge of politics and of this city, Canberra. Canberrans, or people who have recently moved to Canberra, will often choose to use Peter Harvey’s unique pronunciation of Canberra to define our city. It is just one mark of the man, just one mark that he left in a decades-long career covering Australian politics in journalism.
On the Sky Showdown program, I spoke with presenter Chris Kenny and Liberal MP Jamie Briggs. Topics included why media laws needs to keep pace with changing technologies and the Coalition’s attempts to keep their cuts secret from voters.
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.
I am inviting locals to come along and celebrate the newest members of our community at the third annual “Welcoming the Babies” event on Sunday 24 February 2013 (10.30am to 12.30pm) Glebe Park, Canberra City.
For the third year running, I am inviting locals to come along and celebrate the newest members of our community at “Welcoming the Babies” on Sunday 24 February 2013 (10.30am to 12.30pm) Glebe Park, Canberra City.
This month there are a series of free financial information sessions designed to help locals take control of their finances. They are a local and practical avenue for people of all ages to gain information on a range of important topics. The Australian Government has offered the Financial Information Service (FIS) for over 20 years, educating hundreds of thousands of people by providing information to help them plan for their future security. The experienced FIS Officers can show you how to make informed financial decisions and help you understand the consequences of those decisions in the short, medium and long term. These seminars are regularly held across the country, educating communities on a wide range of topics from superannuation and creating wealth, right through to finance and accommodation options in retirement and they’re not just for people receiving Centrelink payments – they are open to anyone interested, and are popular so bookings are essential.
Upcoming local seminars at Belconnen Premier Inn (110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen)
Age pension and your choices, Tuesday 12 February 2013, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm;
Running your own super fund, Thursday 14 February 2013, 6:00 pm to 8:30pm
For FIS seminar bookings call 13 6357 or email email@example.com
To find out more about Human Services free Financial Information Service seminars visit humanservices.gov.au/fis.
I spoke with both Mark Parton and Richard Glover about Australia’s gun buy-back program. We chatted about Philip Alpers’ new paper for a Baltimore gun summit, and some of the issues it raised. Can population growth explain the increase in the number of guns in Australia? And has the number of households with a gun increased? Have a listen…
An edited version of one of my opinion pieces appears in The Australian today.
ONE of the myths in the carbon pricing debate has been the claim that “Australia has the world’s only economy-wide carbon price” (“carbon” being shorthand for four greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and perfluorocarbons from aluminium smelting).
Over recent years, members of the opposition have made such a claim in parliament more than 50 times. The theme has also been picked up by many newspaper articles. Indeed, even in this newspaper it has been claimed that Australia’s carbon price – uniquely in the world – covers the entire economy.
In fact, Australia’s carbon price excludes agriculture, smaller emitters and household transport (although some businesses will face an effective carbon price via changes to the present fuel tax regime). Overall, it captures about 60 per cent of total carbon emissions.
I did a doorstop interview this morning covering a range of current events leading into another Parliamentary sitting week. Among other things, I pointed out that the weekend violence does not represent the mainstream of peaceful Muslims in Australia, and argued that horserace polls are the fairy floss of modern politics – they’re rotting the teeth of the body politic.
In the latest Quarterly Essay, I’ve penned a response to Laura Tingle’s discussion of the role of government, social spending, and whether Australians are congenitally cross.
Response to Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essay ‘Great Expectations’
Published in Quarterly Essay #47 (2012)
In 2002, David Moss described the role of government as being the ultimate “risk manager.” Governments, Moss believed, ought to act as a backstop for things that might go wrong in our lives. Just as we buy private insurance to pool our risk with other customers, so governments allow us to pool social risk across other citizens. You can think of your taxes partly as an insurance premium.
The notion of government as risk manager doesn’t cover the full gamut of what governments do, but it does encapsulate many of their important roles. For example, governments help guard against overseas threats and keep our streets safe. Managing risk explains why we have a social safety net to guard against the risk of poverty, a public health care system to deal with the risk of illness, and a public education system to remove the risk that a poor family might not be able to afford to educate their child.
On ABC 666 Pollie Panel, I spoke with presenter Ross Solly and Liberal Senator Gary Humphries about muckraking in politics and the half-billion of planned investment in the resource sector. Podcast here.
The long tail of academic publishing means that two years after leaving my professorial post at ANU, I’m still having pieces appear in the journals. In case it’s of interest, here are the handful of publications that have come out in 2012.