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Archive for May 2011

The Power of Information

I moved a private members’ motion yesterday on the benefits of putting more information in the public domain.

On the motion of Dr Leigh—That this House:
(1) recognises:
(a)  Australians are keen to have better access to information about government performance;
(b) more transparent public services have been shown to perform at higher levels; and
(c) greater access to information helps Australians make the best choices; and
(2)  commends the Australian Government on the creation of the MySchool, MyHospitals and MyChild websites.

Continue reading ‘The Power of Information’ »

Bob Gould

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the passing of left-wing activist and Newtown bookseller Bob Gould.

Bob Gould, 30 May 2011

I rise to pay tribute to Newtown bookseller Bob Gould, who passed away on 22 May 2011 aged 74. Bob was part of the progressive left in Australia for the better part of the post-war era. From the Vietnam War to asylum seekers, he has marched and argued for what he believed in. As former New South Wales MLC Meredith Burgmann noted, ‘He was involved in most of the great political protest movements of the time.’

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A Plain Suggestion

My AFR op-ed today discusses the evidence in favour of plain packaging for tobacco as a way of reducing smoking rates.

Cigarettes: The Plain Facts, Australian Financial Review, 31 May 2011

A family friend has been a chain smoker for the past sixty years. Last week, doctors discovered the cancer that has eaten away at his larynx. If he wants to get rid of it, he will need an eight-hour operation, which will leave him speaking through an artificial voicebox. As you read this, he is deciding whether it might be better just to give the game away altogether.

Continue reading ‘A Plain Suggestion’ »

Tobacco Donations

Private Members’ Business
Tobacco Products, 30 May 2011

Each year 15,000 Australians die from smoking. That means 41 people a day. By the time this debate has concluded, an Australian will have died because she smoked. Continue reading ‘Tobacco Donations’ »

Commonwealth Pensions

I spoke last week about retirement benefits for military personnnel and former public servants.

Continue reading ‘Commonwealth Pensions’ »

Taking off from Gloomy World

Back in 2006, Justin Wolfers and I took issue with a pair of UK researchers who’d claimed that Australians ranked poorly on international surveys of happiness and life satisfaction. I’m delighted to say that new OECD findings back up our optimism. A good news story indeed.

Update: For a fair dinkum shake of the sauce bottle, have a geeze at Justin Wolfers bonzer post.

Tax Reform

I spoke in parliament this week about the long-term tax reforms in the budget – particularly the phasing out of the old-fashioned Dependent Spouse Tax Offset, removing perverse Fringe Benefits Tax incentives for cars, and replacing the Entrepreneurs’ Tax Offset with more effective measures.

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Climate Change & Carbon Farming

I spoke in parliament yesterday about climate change and carbon farming.

Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill, 25 May 2011

Once upon a time in a country far, far away a world leader stood up and discussed three environmental challenges that faced the world: acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer and greenhouse gases. The first, a nation solved through an innovative approach, an approach the member for Flinders championed in his honours thesis. It was a market based approach, which was the same market based approach George Bush Snr put into place, that made companies pay for the privilege of putting noxious gases into the air. The results of market based mechanisms tend to be better than were envisaged by policy makers at the time. Industries put in place innovative solutions to ensure that the economic cost was minimised and the environmental problem was solved.

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Reserve Bank of Australia

I spoke in parliament this week on new appointments to the Reserve Bank of Australia, inflation, and public debt.

Reserve Bank of Australia, 24 May 2011

I would like to speak about three things today: the recent appointments to the Reserve Bank board and the members who are stepping off the Reserve Bank board; the broader outlook for inflation in the Australian economy; and the current low levels of government debt.

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ABC24′s Capital Hill

A Nudge in the Right Direction

I’m not in the habit of linking to corporate press releases, but given how many people find themselves falling foul of unduly complex mobile phone plans, this is a welcome announcement:

Telstra consumer mobile customers soon will be able to use their phone’s data service without the risk of an unexpectedly high bill, commonly known as “bill shock”.

They will be among the first in the world to have their data speeds slowed when they exceed their mobile data allowance and not be charged for excess domestic data usage.  The changes are in development and will be launched by year’s end.l

Centenary of Canberra

Centenary of Canberra, 23 May 2011

When Canberra turns on its charm and offers that perfect day—the sun shines, the water glistens and the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot—it is easy to see how this city charmed the federal parliamentarians who visited in 1906 and 1907 on their tour of potential sites for the new nation’s capital. Originally Canberra was not the preferred location of either the media or the politicians. But for the perfect Canberra day on 13 August 1906 and then again on 23 August 1907, the parochial interests of a Premier and the change of heart invoked by a Victorian senator, our nation’s capital could have been somewhere entirely different.

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Indigenous Affairs

AM Agenda 23 May 2011

Refugees and Asylum Seekers — Expanding Protection

Podcast of Lowy Speech

A podcast of my presentation at the Lowy Institute on Wednesday can be found at

Capital Hill 20 May 2011

Transcript of ABC News Breakfast Interview

18 May 2011  – Topic: foreign aid

Michael Rowland: The debate for foreign aid has increased significantly over the past year due to a big rise in national disasters and global political unrest.

Beverley O’Connor: By 2015 Australia’s foreign aid budget is expected to double to $8 billion. Some experts believe Australia needs to take a very targeted when it comes to aid spending. Dr Andrew Leigh will be talking about this topic a little later on. He’s the Federal Member for Fraser in the ACT, and he joins us now from Canberra. Many thanks for your time this morning. First of all, let’s start with the size of the budget doubling by 2015 – do you think that is too much for a country like Australia?

Andrew Leigh: Well Beverley, it is important to remember where we start off. Australia, compared to other developed countries is in the bottom third of donors and by the time we get to 2015-2016 we’ll be giving 50c out of every $100 that Australia earns and that will put us at the rich country average. So no, I think that is an appropriate scaling up that recognises the good Australia can do in the region and the benefits that being generous brings back to us, in terms of a more secure region and in terms of more trade in the future, which is good for our businesses. Continue reading ‘Transcript of ABC News Breakfast Interview’ »

The Pro-Growth Progressive

I spoke last night at a community forum in Charnwood on economic growth.

The Pro-Growth Progressive: How Economic Reform Can Make Us Happier

Andrew Leigh
Federal Member for Fraser

Ginninderra Labor Club, Charnwood
18 May 2011

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this lands on which we meet.

The Origins of Growth

As Australians, we’re used to economic growth.[1] It’s the benchmark by which governments are often judged. Yet it is easy to forget how unusual growth is in human history.

Go back a few centuries to the Victorian era and the average person was no better of off than the average caveman.[2] There were a lucky few who enjoyed tea in china cups, but the true living standards of 1800 were better captured by Charles Dickens than Jane Austen.

Continue reading ‘The Pro-Growth Progressive’ »

Fragile States and Agile Aid

I spoke at the Lowy Institute today, suggesting a few ideas for improving Australia’s aid program.

Fragile States and Agile Aid: Some Ideas for the Future of Australia’s Development Assistance Program

Andrew Leigh
Federal Member for Fraser

Lowy Institute
18 May 2011

I acknowledge the traditional Indigenous owners of the lands on which we meet today.

Aid Works

Dai Manju lived in a small village in central China. Because her parents were ill and couldn’t afford the cost of sending her to school, she dropped out. When journalist Nicholas Kristof visited in 1990, she was hanging around the school hoping to pick up bits of knowledge.[1]

After publishing a front page article about Dai in the New York Times, Kristof was chuffed to receive a donation of $10,000 from a reader. He promptly sent it on the school, which spent it on improving facilities, and provided Dai with a scholarship to stay in education so long as she passed exams. After a good amount of the money had been sent, Kristof phoned the donor to thank him for the generous gift. It was only then he realised that the man had in fact only sent $100, and the slip of a bank teller’s fingers had multiplied it one-hundredfold. Informed of their error, the bank agreed to provide the difference as a donation.

Continue reading ‘Fragile States and Agile Aid’ »

Discussing foreign aid on ABC News Breakfast

Indigenous Education

I spoke in parliament last week about some great things happening in Indigenous education.

Adjournment Speech – Indigenous Affairs
12 May 2011

Where kangaroos graze on an oval overlooking the Pacific Ocean lies the most picturesque school in my electorate. Founded in 1914, Jervis Bay Primary School serves children of Defence Force personnel serving at HMAS Creswell as well as children from the Wreck Bay community. Although it has the lowest ICSEA score of any school in my electorate, a like-schools comparison makes Jervis Bay Primary one of the top-performing schools in the ACT system.

Continue reading ‘Indigenous Education’ »

Turning the Resource Curse into a Blessing

My AFR article today is on the Natural Resource Charter.

Break the Resource Curse, Australian Financial Review, 17 May 2011

One of the most robust results in development economics is the fact that developing nations who have more natural resources are more likely to be poverty-stricken dictatorships. This ‘resource curse’ arises because mineral endowments tempt despots into fighting their way into power and filching the wealth.  It’s difficult for an autocrat to steal incomes from farming, industry or services. But diamonds are a dictator’s best friend.

Continue reading ‘Turning the Resource Curse into a Blessing’ »

Congratulations to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher

Congratulations to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher on becoming the Australian Capital Territory’s 6th head of government and the 3rd woman to lead our nation’s capital.

Continue reading ‘Congratulations to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher’ »


I gave a short speech to parliament on Thursday about the challenge of loneliness, an issue that gets less policy attention than it probably deserves.

Loneliness, 12 May 2011

A recent article in the Australian noted that one in four Australians suffer from loneliness as a serious problem. In fact, loneliness is one of the fastest-growing contemporary issues in modern Australia. Many of us here know Professor Adrian Franklin as a panel member on the ABC’s Collectors program. But he is also one of the country’s leading sociologists and has recently conducted extensive research on housing, loneliness and health. Loneliness is a grim reality that I know the member for Wakefield has also written about.

Continue reading ‘Loneliness’ »

Mind the Gap

I’ve written a guest post for ‘Insider’ (the blog at current affairs website Inside Story) on the topic of inequality.

Mind the Gap

In a new report on inequality, the OECD has tracked income changes in several developed nations including Australia. It finds that from the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, the average rate of real household income growth among developed nations was 1.7 per cent per year. But while incomes grew at an average rate of 1.4 per cent for the bottom 10 per cent of households, they grew at 2.0 per cent for the top 10 per cent.

Continue reading ‘Mind the Gap’ »

McMullan -> EBRD

Congratulations to my predecessor Bob McMullan, who will shortly be off to the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, continuing his long-running interest in foreign affairs and international development.

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Canberra and the Federal Budget

Federal ACT Labor Representatives, Kate Lundy, Gai Brodtmann, and Andrew Leigh, have welcomed 2011-12 Budget investment in Canberra.

To mark the capital’s Centenary celebrations, the Budget delivers over $68 million to partner with the ACT Government to deliver a program of Canberra Centenary celebration for all Australians.

Labor’s responsible Budget will strengthen Australia’s economy, create more jobs, and generate training opportunities in Canberra and the region.

The 2011-12 Budget delivers for Canberrans, key highlights include:

  • $82.2 million for road infrastructure this financial year
  • $30.6 million for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation building
  • $6.1 million increase in base funding for the High Court
  • $33.9 million increase over four years for the Australian War Memorial
  • $1.7 million seed funding for the Australian War Memorial to commence planning for a new permanent exhibition on the first World War to commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC
  • Additional $2 million this financial year for the completion of the National Gallery of Australia building refurbishments and enhancement project
  • $2.3 million dollars to improve critical outreach and training in health
  • 6700 local families eligible for an extra $4200 per child between 16-19 years old to assist with the cost of living
  • 7397 apprentices will be eligible for the Trade Apprentice bonus scheme

The Budget builds on Labor’s strong economic record and will ensure we are back in black by 2012-13.

There is a renewed focus on creating opportunities for all Australians, focusing on jobs and skills for Canberrans.

Labor also continues to support families and young people in the ACT by investing in training, education and job creation.

This budget builds on Labor’s core values, particularly our commitment to strong employment.

Welcoming the Babies 2011

I spoke in parliament yesterday about my ‘Welcoming the Babies’ event, held last March.

Welcoming the Babies
11 May 2011

On 27 March this year I held Canberra’s inaugural ‘Welcoming the Babies’ event at Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park. Over 150 mums, dads, bubs, brothers and sisters enjoyed a perfect Canberra autumn morning while taking the time to engage with local services and other families. As a parent of two young boys myself, I know the challenging moments that one has in raising a family: endless nappy changes, throwing food at dinner time and early wake-ups. For example, my one-year-old arose at 4.15 this morning. That is why I believe it is important to celebrate being a parent and to share survival tips.

Continue reading ‘Welcoming the Babies 2011’ »

Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Expanding Protection

I spoke last night on legislation that deals with ‘complementary protection’. Its effect is to update our 1950s-era refugee legislation so that it expands the existing categories to include asylum-seekers who would face persecution based on their sexuality, or who would face domestic violence. Astonishingly, the opposition are opposing it.

Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Bill 2011
11 May 2011

As a child, four years of my childhood were spent in Malaysia and Indonesia, including attending primary school in Banda Aceh. I was there because my father was working on an AusAID project to improve education in Indonesia. As the only white child in my class, I came to appreciate perspectives and cultures quite different from my own. It also does not hurt to have the experience of being the outsider.

Australia is a modern nation. Our humanitarian ethos has advanced considerably since 1951, when the Refugee Convention was originally drafted. Our moral attitudes towards asylum applicants can no longer be bottlenecked by a convention written in the context of post-war Europe. Those who require humanitarian refuge but fall outside the 1951 convention include individuals who are at risk of being subjected to the death penalty, such as a woman at risk of an ‘honour killing’ or domestic abuse, or a person who would be prosecuted on the basis of their sexuality. These are all people of whom the vast majority of Australians would feel that the federal government has a duty to protect. Does the coalition really believe that someone who would be jailed for being gay in their home country does not deserve our protection? Is a woman who is at risk of an honour killing really a woman who is making a vexatious refugee claim?

Continue reading ‘Refugees and Asylum Seekers – Expanding Protection’ »