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Capital still an ideas leader

My Chronicle column this week is on innovation.

Capital still an ideas leader, The Chronicle, 1 April 2014

Ask a non-Canberran what words they associate with ‘Canberra’, and it’s likely they’ll come back with ‘politics’ or ‘government’. Yet as those of us who live here know, ours is a city that’s considerably more than the seat of government. If I had to devise a single notion that sums up smart bureaucrats, connected academics and innovative start-ups, it would be that Canberra is an ‘ideas city’.

Recently, I had the pleasure of launching a new book by Peter Dawson, titled Creative Capital. It tells the tale of a city that is informed, modest and connected. Peter Dawson discusses the Australian National University’s role in dating rocks from Apollo 11, Vikram Sharma’s work on quantum cryptography and Alex Zelinsky’s machines that prevent drivers from falling asleep. He reminds us of about Chris Parish’s cancer research, Peter Gage’s HIV research, Charmaine Simeonovic’s work on diabetes and Tim Hirst’s breakthroughs on influenza. And he describes Canberra scientists who’ve delivered environmental breakthroughs: Andrew Blakers on solar photovoltaic cells; Stephen Kaneff, Peter Carden and others on concentrating solar.

Continue reading ‘Capital still an ideas leader’ »

National Press Club address – Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat – Thursday, 27 March 2014

Addressing the National Press Club, I talked about a generation of rising inequality, how the Abbott Government’s policies will affect inequality and the importance of maintaining Australia’s egalitarian ethos (download audio; iTunes podcast):


Battlers and Billionaires: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat*

National Press Club Address



In 2002, two bombs exploded in Bali nightclubs, killing and injuring hundreds of people. At the local hospital, there was a shortage of painkillers. Graeme Southwick, an Australian doctor on duty, asked patients to assess their own pain levels. He kept being told by patients in the ‘Australian’ ward that they were okay – the person next to them was suffering more.

Coming across this account, historian John Hirst was reminded of the description of injured Australians in Gallipoli nearly a century earlier. He quotes the official war historian Charles Bean, who describes the suffering and then says, ‘Yet the men never showed better than in these difficulties. The lightly hurt were full of thought for the severely wounded.’

Even in the midst of their own pain, the first instinct of many Australians was to think of those worse off than themselves.

Continue reading ‘National Press Club address – Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat – Thursday, 27 March 2014’ »

Youth Connections

I spoke in parliament today about the Youth Connections program, delivered in the ACT by Anglicare, which faces the prospect of cuts this year.

Youth Connections, 3 March 2014

I rise today to applaud Youth Connections, a national youth education program which is delivered in my electorate by Anglicare and to urge the federal government to continue to fund it. At this stage it is uncertain whether there will be funds beyond this year for the Youth Connections youth education program to continue. Youth Connections is designed to keep young people engaged in high school. It offers a flexible service which keeps them in school and on the road to meaningful and decently-paid work.

Take the story of Alice. When Alice moved with her family to Canberra at the age of 12 she found it difficult to make friends at school. She was bullied severely and eventually stopped going to school. Suffering from depression, she started taking harmful drugs, ran away from home and fell pregnant. She found safe shelter in a refuge. Faced with the prospect of becoming a young mother, Alice sought help from Youth Connections. She joined the program, and they provided essential baby items, helped to transport her to medical appointments and—after the birth of her daughter—assisted with domestic violence issues and court proceedings.

Continue reading ‘Youth Connections’ »

Literacy, Numeracy and School Funding

I spoke in parliament today on a motion relating to Australia’s literacy and numeracy performance, and funding for schools.

Australian Educational Performance, 3 March 2014

I thought I would start with a quiz: ‘Joe had three test scores: 78, 76 and 74, while Mary had scores of 72, 82 and 74. How did Joe’s average compare with Mary’s?’ You are not responding immediately, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am sure that the answer you have in your head, as other members do, is that both Joe and Mary have the same average. This question was asked on successive tests in Australia from 1964 to 2003. In 1964 88 per cent of students answered correctly; in 2003 just 68 per cent answered correctly. A fifth of students who were able to answer it in the 1960s could not answer it in the early 2000s.

Behind this motion are a truth and a falsehood. I want to focus on the truth first, that Australian literacy and numeracy performance has failed to rise over a very long run, a much longer time frame that even discussed in the motion. Work that Chris Ryan and I published in the journal Education Finance and Policy found a small but statistically significant fall in numeracy from 1964 to 2003 and in both literacy and numeracy from 1975 to 1998. Work that Chris Ryan published in the Economics of Education Review last year looked at the change in PISA scores from 2000 to 2012. It found that mathematical literacy fell at the top of the distribution and reading and literacy fell throughout it. It found that declines in school performance were most marked in private schools. Work that Chris Ryan and I have done on teacher aptitude, which was referred to by the mover of the motion, also found declines in literacy and numeracy of new teachers relative to those within the same class. From 1983 to 2003 the share of teachers in the top fifth of their class halved and the share of teachers in the bottom half of their class doubled.

Continue reading ‘Literacy, Numeracy and School Funding’ »

Closing the Gap – in Jervis Bay

I spoke in parliament about the importance of Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, focusing on the Wreck Bay community that I represent.

Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014, 26 February 2014

I rise to speak on Closing the Gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014. Closing the Gap is not a mere slogan; it is a bi-partisan commitment to change lives for the better, and we owe this to generations of Indigenous people. Closing the Gap is about life over death, hope over hopelessness, resilience over ruin. It is an expectation that all Australians should flourish. Being an Indigenous Australian should not mean being marked by disadvantage. We are learning more all the time about the challenges and barriers facing Indigenous Australians. We are making some progress on overcoming them, but there is much more to be done. All of us in this House can make a difference in improving the poor health of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared to that of the non-Indigenous population.

Continue reading ‘Closing the Gap – in Jervis Bay’ »

Active After-School Communities

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the Active After-School Communities program.

Active After-School Communities, Members’ Statements, 24 February 2014

In the electorate of Fraser, the Active After-School Communities Program is a terrific way of keeping young people engaged with sport. In 2014, a number of schools in my electorate have joined the program: Gold Creek School, Burgmann School, Kingsford Smith School and Maribyrnong Primary School; as well as Emmaus Christian School and Mount Rogers School at the end of last year.

Continue reading ‘Active After-School Communities’ »

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.

Continue reading ‘Ideas and Engagement: The Western Australian Economic Story’ »

Monday Political Forum – ABC 702 Drive – 3 February 2014

Yesterday evening, ABC Radio’s Richard Glover hosted a political forum with me, Kathryn Greiner, former City of Sydney Commissioner and member of the Gonski review panel, and writer and publisher Richard Walsh. Topics included school funding, industry assistance, and potential piracy of Game of Thrones’ fourth season. Listen to the podcast here.

Launching a book on the Gillard Governments

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.[1] 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.

If there is a general message that comes out of the policy analysis in this book, it is that Labor can count a significant number of legislative achievements under Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership. Continue reading ‘Launching a book on the Gillard Governments’ »

SchoolKids Bonus this January could be last for ACT families – Media Release – 9 January

This month over a million Australian families will receive Labor’s SchoolKids Bonus which helps low and middle income families meet the costs of school expenses. The payment will cease if the Abbott Government gets its way. Today, I issued a joint media release about this with my Federal ACT colleagues.



If the Abbott Government gets its way, more than a million families will find it much more difficult to pay for school books and uniforms from next year.

This January, 1.3 million Australian families will be receiving the SchoolKids Bonus, a payment of $410 for every primary school child and $820 for every secondary school child.

The payment, developed by Labor when it was in Government, is made at the start of Terms One and Three to help cover the cost of items such as stationery, textbooks, software, laptops, bags, uniforms and shoes.

The SchoolKids Bonus also can help cover the cost of school camps, excursions and extracurricular activities such as music lessons.

However, the Abbott Government has introduced legislation to scrap the SchoolKids Bonus, which will affect 12,812 families in the ACT.

If this legislation passes the Senate, the January SchoolKids Bonus payment will be their last.

Continue reading ‘SchoolKids Bonus this January could be last for ACT families – Media Release – 9 January’ »

ABC RN Drive with Arthur & Waleed – 4 Dec 2013

This evening I spoke on ABC RN Drive with Arthur Sinodinos and Waleed Aly. We discussed debt, school funding and standards and consistency in politics. Here’s a podcast. And, below is the full transcript.

WALEED ALY: It seems though the Coalition and the Greens have reached a deal on getting rid of the debt ceiling. There’s some strange bedfellows in politics. We have the strangest coupling I suppose you can, although the new Senate may throw up some new challenges to that… To discuss this I am joined by our knights in shining armour, Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, and Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. Thank you very much for coming in.


ANDREW LEIGH: G’day Waleed. G’day Arthur.


ALY: It’s the Greens, we love the Greens is it? Is that what’s going on Arthur?

SINODINOS: I think our love has fluctuated from time to time, but at the moment…

ALY: I don’t recall a fluctuation, I have to say. It’s been fairly consistent.

SINODINOS: In all seriousness I want to thank them for the fact that they’ve approached this debate in a very constructive way. I was the President of Senate Estimates when this issue of the debt ceiling got quite an airing. The Secretary of the Treasury was being interrogated by senators and the Greens, in that context, raised this proposition around the debt limit and whether in fact it was better to move to a more transparent process of debating the uses and abuses of debt and being transparent about what they are used for, as opposed to having just an argy bargy over the fact that there was a limit and it needed to be raised every so often. So I think what we come to is actually something which will improve the transparency of the budget process. It also incorporates things like more references to climate change, intergenerational report and the like. So these are quite significant things.

Continue reading ‘ABC RN Drive with Arthur & Waleed – 4 Dec 2013’ »

Honouring Two Great Australian Economists

I spoke in parliament yesterday in honour of two great Australian economists – Steve Dowrick and Paul Miller – who I worked with, and who died much too young this year.

Steve Dowrick and Paul Miller, 2 December 2013

I rise this evening to speak about the passing of two great Australian economists, Steve Dowrick and Paul Miller. Steve Dowrick was born on 7 May 1953 in Dublin, Ireland, and passed away in August of this year. His life and his contributions to the economic profession have been beautifully laid out in an obituary for the Canberra Times by Bruce Chapman and Maria Racionero. I will draw on that obituary in some of my comments today.

Continue reading ‘Honouring Two Great Australian Economists’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 2 December 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg about the Coalition’s broken promise on school funding, protectionist decision on foreign investment, and problematic calls in foreign policy.

Junking school funding policy a breach of trust – 29 November 2013

Bill Shorten with Ainslie Primary students in Canberra yesterday (image - Fairfax Media)

This morning, ahead of what will be a heated meeting between the Federal Education Minister and his state and territory counterparts, I issued this media release urging the Government to think again about its school funding broken pomise:



Tony Abbott has this week broken his promise to match Labor when it comes to school funding.

“This is an outrageous breach of the trust of the Australian people,” Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh said.

“This move shows that this government is not the government they said they’d be.”

Continue reading ‘Junking school funding policy a breach of trust – 29 November 2013’ »

Sky Viewpoint – 3 November 2013

On 3 November, I joined Sky Viewpoint host Peter Van Onselen to discuss economics, politics and the two big policy problems that keep me awake at night.

Monday Political Forum with Richard Glover – ABC 702 Sydney

Average Australians are now the richest people on the planet according to the latest Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report. Has Australia got the balance right between freeing people up to generate wealth and distributing it fairly? Wealth distribution was just one of the topics discussed with ABC 702 host Richard Glover and fellow guests Dr John Hewson, former Liberal leader, and Reserve Bank board member Heather Ridout for Monday Political Forum. Hear our tips for students swotting for their higher school certificate and more.

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

Labor will defend Canberra – 6 September 2013

Media Release


An extra efficiency dividend on the public service will more spell even harder times for the Commonwealth Public Service should Tony Abbott and the Liberals win tomorrow’s election.

An extra 0.25 per cent increase in the efficiency dividend announced by the Liberals yesterday will take it to 2.5 per cent next financial year.

This is in addition to the minimum 12,000 jobs due to be axed if Tony Abbott wins government.

On the final day of the campaign, ACT Federal Labor representatives urged Canberra to remember the devastation to the local economy and relocation of families when Mr Howard was elected in 1996.

Senator Kate Lundy and MPs Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann pledged to protect jobs and continue building a healthy and inclusive Canberra.

Continue reading ‘Labor will defend Canberra – 6 September 2013’ »

ABC RN Drive – 2 September 2013

On ABC RN Drive last night, I spoke with host Waleed Aly and Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos about vocational training, costings gaps, boat buy-backs and more. Here’s a podcast.

Find the full transcript below.

Continue reading ‘ABC RN Drive – 2 September 2013’ »

ABC Lateline – 30 August 2013

I appeared on ABC Lateline with host Emma Alberici and Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne to discuss the Coalition’s hide-and-seek game with their policies, how their announced policies will disproportionately benefit the top 1%, naval bases and Labor’s plan to invest in productivity through infrastructure and education.

A transcript (thanks to Lateline) is over the fold.

Continue reading ‘ABC Lateline – 30 August 2013’ »

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.


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.”

Boost for ANU to support native title anthropology – 27 August 2013

Campaign Media Release

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus

Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh


The Rudd Labor Government is providing over $1.75 million to attract a new generation of anthropologists to native title work and to    encourage senior anthropologists to stay on in the field.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Member for Fraser Dr Andrew Leigh today visited the Australian National University to  announce Native Title Anthropologist Grants for the next three years.

“I congratulate the successful recipients and welcome their contributions to the native title anthropology sector,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“These projects will provide a range of programs, including training for junior anthropologists, field work programs, an Indigenous internship and research placements.”

Continue reading ‘Boost for ANU to support native title anthropology – 27 August 2013’ »

Breaking Politics – 26 Aug 2013

On Fairfax TV today, Chris Hammer hosted Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer and myself. We discussed the need to invest in jobs and education, the Coalition’s admission that they’ll follow Labor’s path to surplus, and why flat-rate paid parental leave is fairer and more affordable than a plan that gives the most to those that have the most. Here’s a vodcast and 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:


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.

Continue reading ‘$6.5M for Civic and Citizenship Education – 26 August 2013’ »

New UC quality teaching and learning centre – 26 August 2013


Minister for Education Bill Shorten, Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann

The Centre for Quality Teaching and Learning will deliver professional learning programs and research from next year under a new agreement signed with the University of Canberra.

As announced in May 2013, the Rudd Labor Government is investing $26 million in the Centre for Quality Teaching and Learning to support the implementation of the Better Schools Plan in the ACT and beyond.

The Minister for Education Bill Shorten was joined by the Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann at the University of Canberra today to celebrate the new partnership and witness firsthand the cutting edge teaching technology that the University of Canberra offers.

The $26 million Centre for Quality Teaching and Learning will support the Better Schools goal of being in the world’s top five in reading, numeracy and science by 2025.

Continue reading ‘New UC quality teaching and learning centre – 26 August 2013’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 26 August 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield. I outlined Labor’s positive plan for education and infrastructure, and noted the Coalition’s $30B of regressive spending – in the form of their $22B unfair parental leave scheme and their $8B restoration of the private health insurance rebate for higher income earners. I also discussed the impact that tens of billions in Coalition cuts would have on health, education and jobs. A transcript is over the fold.

Continue reading ‘Sky AM Agenda – 26 August 2013’ »

ABC666 Political Panel with Fraser Candidates – 23 August 2013

On ABC666 this morning, I joined a ‘pollie panel’ with other candidates for the seat of Fraser. We discussed the Coalition’s regressive paid parental leave scheme, and their additional 12,000-20,000 job cuts, plus Labor’s plans to invest in education and the NBN. Here’s a podcast.

ACT Labor election launch and major investment in regional sports hub

Today I joined my parliamentary colleagues to launch our 2013 election campaign. We also announced $10 million for the second stage of the University of Canberra’s Sports Hub, a new sport and health research, training and administration facility to inspire and engage young people in sport and fitness across the capital region. My thanks to our volunteers and the ACT Labor team including Chris Sant who is running for the second Senate seat and candidate for Hume Michael Pilbrow. Continue reading ‘ACT Labor election launch and major investment in regional sports hub’ »

Interview on ABC24 Capital Hill – 14 August 2013

On 14 August 2013, I spoke with Lyndal Curtis about Trade Training Centres, Labor’s historic environmental reforms, and the risks to Canberra posed by Coalition cuts. Alas, Zed Seselja was to have joined the conversation, but withdrew at the last minute.

Campaign Transcript




14 AUGUST 2013



Subjects: Preferences, PEFO and budget honesty, Trade Training Centres.


LYNDAL CURTIS: But now joining me to discuss the day’s events Labor member for Fraser Andrew Leigh. We were expected to be joined by the Liberals Senate

candidate in the ACT Zed Seselja but he is not here. Andrew Leigh, welcome. We will start with Labor so far refusing to agree to the Liberals’

demands that it preference the Greens last at the Federal election. For the first time Tony Abbott will preference Labor over the Greens. The move

mostly harms the Greens chances in their first and only lower house seat of Melbourne.

Continue reading ‘Interview on ABC24 Capital Hill – 14 August 2013’ »

ACT secures three new trade training centres – 14 Aug 2013

Today we announced $9.4m for new training centres in the ACT as part of a long term Labor Government program to secure jobs for young people and grow our economy:

Continue reading ‘ACT secures three new trade training centres – 14 Aug 2013’ »