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Archive for October 2010

ABC24 with Scott Ryan

Last Wednesday, I appeared on ABC24 in a segment with Liberal Senator Scott Ryan, moderated by Chris Uhlmann. Transcript below.

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What (Victorian) Politicians Read

Back in March, Macgregor Duncan and I wrote a piece for the Australian Literary Review on what federal politicians are reading (article, spreadsheet with full results). In today’s Age, Jane Sullivan does a similar exercise for Victorian politicians. My favourite quote:

[Judith Graley,] Labor member for Narre Warren South is also a big fan of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet: “I often read the opening paragraph, it is so poignant and sets the mood for feeling both overwhelmed and inspired, as we all do when dealing with family matters.”

For what it’s worth, I’m currently enjoying two autobiographies: Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch 22, and Dalton Conley’s Honky.

Disconnected: Snippets and Reviews

A few pieces about Disconnected in the weekend papers:

  • The Australian carries an extract in its “Inquirer” section (update: and an article this week by Angela Shanahan)
  • The SMH has a review article by Adele Horin (who also wrote a generous quote for the dustjacket)
  • The Canberra Times has a book review by Don Aitken in its “Panorama” section (not online at this stage)

And on the radio…

Faulkner on Being a Minister

On Wednesday night, John Faulkner launched Learning to be a Minister: Heroic Expectations, Practical Realities. I would’ve liked to attend, but was refused a pair, so had to make do with enjoying the text of his speech. John has given me permission to post it below.

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Afghanistan Speech

I spoke in Parliament yesterday on the Australian mission in Afghanistan.

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West Belconnen Health Co-Op

I spoke in Parliament yesterday about the terrific work of the West Belconnen Health Co-Op in Charnwood and the Belconnen town centre.

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PM’s speech launching ‘Disconnected’

Julia Gillard launched my book Disconnected in Parliament House yesterday. Here’s her speech.

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Labor and Liberalism

My opinion piece today is on the ALP and small-l liberalism.

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Suicide Prevention and Mental Health

On 25 October 2010, I spoke in parliament on the issue of suicide prevention and mental health.

Mental Health, 25 October 2010

At age 22, I gave the eulogy at the funeral of my friend Andrew McIntosh, who had taken his own life. It was one of the hardest things I had ever had to do. Andrew was a high school friend of mine, a gifted athlete who could pick up a new sport within a few hours, a person who took the time to listen to his mates and who was always there to share a laugh. He drove a bright yellow Valiant Charger, loved music and was always up for a night out. Andrew was studying sports education at the time of his death. We all thought that he was on his way to becoming a great teacher. But none of us caught sight of the fact that the black dog had found its way inside him. Andrew died in 1994, but I know that his parents, Grahame and Rena McIntosh, still miss him every day.

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Lateline Interview

Lateline’s Leigh Sales interviewed Kelly O’Dwyer and myself about the week in politics (multiculturalism, asylum seekers, water, economic policy and Afghanistan). Transcript and video here.

Dignity in Retirement

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the importance of dignity in retirement.

Hansard  – 21 October 2010

One of the most important things a society can do is look after older members. Indeed, the first payment issued from the Commonwealth government was the age pension, instituted in 1909. Labor continues in that proud tradition today.

In the last term of government we increased the single age pension from 25 per cent of male total average weekly earnings to 27.7 per cent.  This was the largest increase in the pension since its inception. The

Gillard government is also committed to raising the minimum superannuation contribution from nine to 12 per cent.

Another important principle is ensuring that people live in homes that are appropriately set up for their needs. I am delighted to be joined in the gallery today by Charmian Leigh, who is here with Rosemary Chivers and Gabrielle Leigh and my parents Barbara and Michael.

Charmian is an occupational therapist whose work aims to ensure that veterans can continue to function in their own homes by installing a range of mobility aids such as ramps and handrails. I know one hospital in Sydney that refers to this work as that of the ‘geriatric flying squad’.

It is critical to providing older Australians with dignity in retirement, and I could not be more proud of Charmian and her work.

Ride to Work Day

I spoke in parliament yesterday about ‘Ride to Work Day’.

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Congratulations to my ACT colleague Senator Kate Lundy, who has been named one of the Top 10 People Changing the World of Internet and Politics at the 11th World eDemocracy Forum held last week in Paris.

First Speech

I gave my first speech to parliament today. The full text is below.

Thank you to all those who came along to hear it.

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What I’m reading

Field of Dreams

With ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr, I opened a new playing field in Gungahlin today. We celebrated with a kids vs ‘celebrities’ touch footy game (Darters, Capitals, politicians). While I didn’t keep score, I have a sneaking suspicion the kids might have beaten us.

More details below.

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Zombie Economics

I’m hosting an event tomorrow to discuss the ideas in John Quiggin’s new book, Zombie Economics. Details below.

Date:             FRIDAY 15 OCTOBER
Time:            1.00 PM
Venue:         Parliament House, Committee Room 1R3
Topic:           Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us 

In his new book, Zombie Economics, John Quiggin argues that the recent financial crisis should have killed certain ideas, but they live on in the minds of many. Among the ideas that he critiques are the idea that deregulation had conquered the financial cycle, that markets were always the best judge of value, and that policies designed to benefit the rich made everyone better off.

Professor Quiggin will speak briefly about the ideas in his book, and will then take questions.

The discussion will be introduced and hosted by Andrew Leigh MP.  

Ride to Work Day

This morning, I joined five Pedal Power activists, who were waiting for me at 6.45am at the Hackett shops, to cycle into work for their annual ‘Ride to Work’ day. A very pleasant way to start the day. And fortunately, the gentle drizzle didn’t turn into torrential rain until the very end.

Social Capital is Good Economics, too

My opinion piece in today’s Australian Financial Review discussed how social capital can not only be good for our society, but also for our economy.

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Murray-Darling Basin – Canberra Info Session

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority released its ‘Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan’ last Friday (read it here). If you’d like to be part of the ACT region community information session, here are the details:

ACT Region community information session

11 NovemberVenue: Finkel Lecture Theatre, John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU, Building 131, Garran Road, Canberra

Time : 9am-12pm

Details: We will be holding a three-hour community information session in the ACT region on 11 November.

Many venues are limited in size and we would appreciate RSVPs to 1800 230 067(free).

For public parking visit

Liu Xiaobo

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has just received the Nobel peace prize. Here’s an extract from the statement he gave the court at his 2009 trial, just before being sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I’d say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, my sweetheart, that I’m confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison; you are waiting in an invisible one.

Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough to hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummelling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.

Given your love, my sweetheart, I would face my forthcoming trial calmly, with no regrets about my choice and looking forward to tomorrow. I look forward to my country being a land of free expression, where all citizens’ speeches are treated the same; where different values, ideas, beliefs, political views . . . both compete with each other and coexist peacefully; where, majority and minority opinions will be given equal guarantees, in particular, political views different from those in power will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will be spread in the sunlight for the people to choose; [where] all citizens will be able to express their political views without fear, and will never be politically persecuted for voicing dissent.

Disconnected @ The National Interest

On yesterday’s ABC Radio National’s ‘The National Interest’ program, I spoke with Damien Carrick about Disconnected, my new book on the decline in social capital in Australia (and how we can revive it).

What I’ve been reading

Wreckers vs builders

A video blog reflecting on the first week of federal parliament sittings since the election.

More Dangerous Ideas

I spoke this morning with Genevieve Jacobs on ABC 666 about my Canberra-spruiking speech at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, and some of the reactions to it.

Canberra is the Best City in Australia

My speech at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas is over the fold.

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