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Archive for August 2011

Capital Hill 30 August 2011 with Stuart Robert

Lyndal Curtis hosted Stuart Robert and me on the Capital Hill program yesterday evening, discussing a range of political issues. Topics included support for the manufacturing industry and the plan to put a price on pollution.

Sky AM Agenda with Mitch Fifield (29 Aug)

Transcript below (thanks to Mitch’s team for transcribing).

Continue reading ‘Sky AM Agenda with Mitch Fifield (29 Aug)’ »


As a inveterate Kindle user, I’ve just added this blog to Amazon’s list of Kindle-accessible blogs. Unfortunately, Amazon’s policy is to charge for all blogs (in order to cover their data transfer costs, I assume). But if $1.99/month strikes you as reasonable for the convenience of reading this blog on your Kindle, you can access it here. And in the unlikely event that Amazon actually pass part of that cost back to me, I’ll donate it to charity.

Update: It turns out that Amazon doesn’t yet allow Australian Kindle readers to subscribe to blogs – so this post is really only relevant if you’re in the US (and perhaps in the UK).

Death, Dollars and Degrees

The academic pipeline being what it is, my paper with Philip Clarke on mortality and socioeconomic status has just been published in Economic Papers. Titled ‘Death, Dollars & Degrees: Socioeconomic Status and Longevity in Australia‘, it estimates how much longer someone in the richest fifth of the income distribution can expect to live than someone in the poorest fifth (6 years), and how much longer someone with a diploma/degree can expect to live than someone with a junior high school degree (5 years). We’re the first in Australia to come up with these figures using individual-level data (rather than regional aggregates).

Our findings represent massive differences, given that most of us would give up a large share of our income to buy a handful of extra years on the planet. Indeed, the Department of Finance uses for its costings the figure of $151,000 for an additional year of life.

The paper has been written up by Peter Martin (in the SMH/Age), and Philip and I had a very pleasant chat with Peter Mares on the ABC radio National Interest program.

And while I’m on the topic of research, I thought I’d let you know that I’m off to Munich on Saturday to give the keynote talk at a CESifo conference on the economics of education. My topic is the politics and economics of teacher performance pay. I’ll post the paper here when it’s ready (likely to be a month or so before I have a polished version).

Wrapping up the Parliamentary Week

The last parliamentary fortnight wrapped up with a debate over a motion moved by the Liberal Party about Australia’s ‘forgotten families’. I spoke in the debate, and used it as a chance to discuss the government’s achievements and agenda, and contrast them with the relentless negativity of the Opposition Leader.

Continue reading ‘Wrapping up the Parliamentary Week’ »

Plain Packaging of Cigarettes

In the debate over plain packaging of cigarettes, we had some procedural shenanigans this afternoon, with the Coalition calling two ‘quorums’ on every Labor speaker. In order to get the debate finished, Labor eventually withdrew several of our speakers, including yours truly.

But I rather liked my speech (which Huw Pohlner and Louise Crossman had put a lot of time into), so have pasted it below for your enjoyment.

Most importantly, the bill has now passed the House of Representatives.

Continue reading ‘Plain Packaging of Cigarettes’ »

What Canberrans Say About Same-Sex Marriage

In parliament today, I reported back on my conversations with Canberrans about same-sex marriage.

Same Sex Marriage – Report Back to Parliament, 24 August 2011

In a representative democracy parliamentarians have a responsibility to do more than simply reflect opinion polls. If that were our only job, you would replace us with machines that phone poll the electorate and voted accordingly.

Leadership is about careful judgment. But you cannot exercise that judgment without listening. On this issue I have been struck by the willingness of hundred of Canberrans to share their stories with me by email and in person in my electorate office, community forums and mobile offices, stories told with dignity, grace and humility.

Continue reading ‘What Canberrans Say About Same-Sex Marriage’ »

Canberrans Can Go Heywire

Are you aged 16-22, living outside Australia’s big five cities? Then why not put an entry into the ABC’s HEYWIRE competition. As the competition website says:

The HEYWIRE competition is now open to people aged 16 – 22, to submit a story about life in Australia outside the major cities.

Your story can be created in any form of media: text, video, photography or audio.

Entries for the 2011 Heywire Competition close on Monday 19 September 2011 at 5pm.

And while I’m on the topic of youth competitions…

The Connections UnitingCare Anti-Poverty Awards recognise that there are many young people in Australia who are working towards the eradication of poverty locally, nationally or internationally. These awards aim to recognise and acknowledge the hard work and dedication of individuals and schools across Australia who demonstrate a deep understanding of the causes and effects of poverty. One recipient will a $4000 grant to continue their work and one school will win a $2500 Jinta Sport pack. Applications Close 31st August 2011.

For more information about the awards to apply visit or free call 1800 137 036 and speak to someone in the Community Relations team.

Water Safety

I put out a media release today on the ‘Kids Alive Do the Five’ water safety campaign.


With the weather starting to get warmer, Federal Labor Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, has joined with Laurie Lawrence in promoting the important Kids Alive Do the Five water safety message.

Andrew Leigh has organised with Laurie Lawrence for every local family to be provided a free Living with Water DVD.

Continue reading ‘Water Safety’ »

Carbon Pricing – Getting on with the Job

I spoke in parliament yesterday against Tony Abbott’s motion that calls for a carbon price plebicite.

Carbon Tax Plebiscite Bill 2011
22 August 2011

The Carbon Tax Plebiscite Bill before the House is an embarrassing leftover from the Leader of the Opposition’s attempt to have a vote that even he said he would not abide by. Having told this parliament that a plebiscite was going to be brought before it, the Leader of the Opposition has had to follow through. But it is difficult to know what the Leader of the Opposition expects to make of this. As with his ‘say one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience’ approach, on this issue the Leader of the Opposition has said on some days that he would abide by the results of a plebiscite and on other days that he would not abide by the results of a plebiscite.

Continue reading ‘Carbon Pricing – Getting on with the Job’ »

Schools Reforms

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the government’s school reforms.

Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011
22 August 2011

We all come to this place to make a difference, to leave a mark and hope that by being here we have made a contribution to a better future—a better future for our children, communities, constituents and this country. That is why I am speaking in support of Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011. This bill is part of the passion and purpose this government has to provide a better future for our nation through providing our children with quality education for the next century, an education that prepares children for a life where they have the skills to adapt to the jobs of tomorrow and the building blocks of lifelong learning.

Continue reading ‘Schools Reforms’ »

Polio Eradication

I moved a motion in Parliament yesterday on eradicating polio.

Polio Eradication, 22 August 2011

As an economics professor at the Australian National University, one of the people I admired most was Bob Gregory, one of Australia’s most creative minds. As well as being a great thinker, Bob is also one of the last people in Australia to contract polio. In an interview with William Coleman he talks about what happened in 1953, when he contracted polio at age 14. Bob said:

Continue reading ‘Polio Eradication’ »

Disability Volunteers

I gave half a dozen speeches yesterday, amounting to about an hour on my feet. Here’s one recognising disability volunteers.

Disabilility Volunteers, 22 August 2011

Today I rise to pay tribute to community sector workers in my electorate who are working with individuals who have a disability. I attended two community events recently that brought home to me the valuable work that this sector is doing. On 2 August I attended a DisabiliTEA event in Holt, hosted by the Sharing Places organisation.

Continue reading ‘Disability Volunteers’ »

An Apple a Day Keeps the Trade War at Bay

My AFR op-ed today looks at the benefits that Australia gains from playing by global trade rules.

Apple Ruling Makes Sense, Australian Financial Review, 23 August 2011

In 1995, Japan accepted imported rice for the first time. A nation whose politicians had sometimes claimed that foreign rice was unfit for Japanese consumption yielded – thanks to a World Trade Organization deal. Within a few years, Australian rice exports to Japan were worth over $200 million.

Yet today, the Liberal and National parties are calling for Australia to thumb its nose at the WTO’s finding that our apple quarantine system was not based on solid science. Rather than allowing New Zealand apple imports, the Coalition would prefer to see Australia start a trade war.

Continue reading ‘An Apple a Day Keeps the Trade War at Bay’ »

Talking Climate Change

Over recent months, I’ve enjoyed engaging with local voters about the issue of climate change. I’ve held two community forums* specifically on the issue of climate change. My regular mobile offices bring the conversation to you – whether you’re in Dickson or Belconnen, Civic or Charnwood. This week, I sent a postcard out to all the whole electorate asking for people’s views, and am enjoying reading through the first batch of responses. Today, I was out with my team doorknocking the suburbs of Gungahlin, discussing the issue face-to-face with local residents.

Overall, the message has been positive. In a soundbite era, my sense is that many people are looking for a style of politics that allows us to get past fear-mongering and slogans, dismiss the common myths about carbon pricing, and talk about the optimistic low-carbon future that is the goal of the package.

If you’ve got views on climate change and putting a price on carbon pollution, I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call (6247 4396), drop me an email ( at, or come along to one of my community events. For example, on Saturday 27 August, I’ll be holding my third community forum that’s specifically focused on climate change. The venue is Majura Hall, Rosevear St, Dickson, and it’ll run from 10-11.30am.

I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Update: Here’s a video wrapping up the forum.

Canberrans Feel the Result of Abbott’s Fear Campaign

A convoy of trucks is due to arrive in Canberra over the next few days, and to choke traffic on major roads like Northbourne Avenue. Everyone has the right to peaceful protest, but it’s pretty clear that Tony Abbott’s mobile scare campaign over recent months has whipped up plenty of fear. Greg Combet has been running a series of releases titled ‘Abbott absurdities on climate change’, which include:

Claim: “Pensioners who can’t afford to turn on their heater or in summer their air-conditioner are going to be very, very badly impacted by the carbon tax.” (Tony Abbott, Super Radio Network, 27 July 2011).

Fact: The Government will provide pensioners with assistance that at least offsets their average price impacts from a carbon price. Pensioners will receive the equivalent of a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum rate of the pension: an extra $338 a year for singles and $255 a year for each member of a couple.

Claim: “There will be 45,000 jobs lost in energy-intensive industries. There will be 126,000 jobs lost mainly in regional Australia.” (Tony Abbott, Hansard, 21 June 2011).

Fact: Modelling by Treasury and other sources has consistently shown the economy will continue to grow strongly under a carbon price, with new jobs being created in low pollution sectors more than high pollution sectors.

Claim: “A carbon tax ultimately means death to the coal industry.” (Tony Abbott, 9 June 2011, Peabody Energy’s Metropolitan Mine, Helensburgh, NSW).

Fact: Treasury modelling of the CPRS showed the Australian coal mining industry’s output would grow by 66 per cent from 2008 to 2050 with a carbon price.

Claim: “One of the things that people haven’t quite twigged to is that carbon dioxide is invisible, it’s weightless and it’s odourless, how are we going to police these emissions?” (Tony Abbott, 2SM, 7 July 2011)

Fact: Australian corporations have been reporting their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases since July 2008 under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007. When Mr Abbott’s colleague Malcolm Turnbull introduced this legislation to Parliament he said: “The bill I am introducing today lays the foundation for Australia’s emissions trading scheme. Robust data reported under this bill will form the basis of emissions liabilities under emissions trading …”

Claim: “Look, there are many economists who prefer our plan to the Government’s plan.” (Tony Abbott, Doorstop Interview, 6 July 2011).

Fact: Mr Abbott was asked which economists prefer his Direct Action policy to a market mechanism like a carbon price. He was unable to name one.

So if Canberrans find themselves stuck in traffic on Monday morning, they should think of Tony Abbott’s fear-mongering. After months of misleading statements from the Liberal Party, we shouldn’t be surprised when people mistakenly think that pricing carbon will hurt Australia.

For anyone looking for the facts on climate change, and why putting a price on carbon pollution is the most efficient solution, it’s worth checking out the Clean Energy Future website.

Cadel Evans

I spoke in parliament yesterday about Cadel Evans’ victory in the Tour de France.

Cadel Evans
18 August 2011

I rise to speak of a truly Australian story, of a man whose courage, strength and pure determination embodies the Australian spirit. Through Cadel Evans and his spectacular win in the Tour de France, the world’s toughest endurance race, all Australians can be truly proud. Cadel Lee Evans was born in Katherine in the Northern Territory, and he spent the first four years of his life in the tiny Arnhem Land Aboriginal community of Barunga, 80 kilometres outside Katherine. When the locals saw him pedalling around town on his BMX, none of them probably foresaw his triumphant rise to the top of the cycling world and his elevation to the pantheon of Australia’s great sporting heroes. Evans has lived all across this great land, from the dusty outback to the urban metropolis of Melbourne. He is an everyman, someone whom all Australians can aspire to be.

Continue reading ‘Cadel Evans’ »

Belco Bowl

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the opening of the revamped Belco Bowl.

Belconnen Skate Park
18 August 2011

On 6 August, I was delighted to join my friend Chris Bourke MLA in opening the revamped Belconnen Skate Park, known as the Belco Bowl, a BMX and skate park that was partly funded by federal money under the stimulus program. It is located on the edge of Lake Ginninderra, which could remind skateboarders that their sport started when Californian surfers looked out on flat waves and decided they had to invent another sport. The original Belco Bowl was opened in 1990, just 14 years after the invention of the ollie. I am told that this revamp makes the Belco Bowl the largest skate park in the Southern Hemisphere.

At its best, skateboarding is a sport that does not care about your age, race, sex or religion—just what tricks you can do. The new facility combines some seriously steep walls with areas for first-timers, and I hope that more experienced skaters will use the chance to teach newbies some new tricks. Most Canberrans may not be up to doing kickflips, wheelies and pivots, but I know my two young sons watched with big eyes as they saw the skateboarders and BMX riders using the new facility.

I would like to use this chance to acknowledge the work of the ACT and federal governments, the skating community, particularly Luke Brown, the designers, particularly Julia Coddington, and the builders, who have made the revamped Belco Bowl a reality.

Overseas Students

I spoke in parliament yesterday about overseas students studying in Australia.

Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Amendment Bill 2011, Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Registration Charges Consequentials) Bill 2011
Second Reading – House of Reps Hansard – 18 August 2011

The opportunity to study overseas is a unique one. I was fortunate myself to have the opportunity to study in the United States as an international postgraduate student. For me it was an invaluable experience. I learned about new subjects and to look at my own country with the perspective of an outsider. To adapt the cliché, Australia and the United States really are two countries separated by a common language. Cross-cultural relationships can have their advantages too, and my own international study experience gave me the life-changing opportunity to meet my wife, Gweneth.

Continue reading ‘Overseas Students’ »

ABC News 24 Capital Hill 11 August 2011

Andrew Leigh and Kelly O’Dwyer discuss political issues on ABC News 24′s Capital Hill program, hosted by Lyndal Curtis

UN Security Council Reform

I spoke in parliament this week about proposals to reform the UN Security Council.

United Nations Security Council Reform
17 August 2011

In 1994 the genocide in Rwanda shook the world’s collective conscience. A mixture of international unwillingness and poor procedure meant that effective action was not taken to prevent the killings. The next year, in what became the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II, United Nations forces in Srebrenica failed to protect those who had sought refuge in a so-called UN ‘safe zone’. In 1999, fear of a veto in the Security Council prevented UN forces from intervening in atrocities in Kosovo. All of these failures revealed structural defects in the way the international community responds to mass atrocities.

Continue reading ‘UN Security Council Reform’ »

Health Performance Authority

I spoke in parliament this week about health reform.

National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill 2011
17 August 2011

On 2 August I was pleased to visit the Canberra Hospital in the company of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health and Ageing, the member for Canberra, and Katy Gallagher, the Chief Minister of the ACT. We were generously shown around the Canberra Hospital by our ACT Health hosts, Lee Martin, Rosemary Kennedy, Kate Jackson and Sarah Majeed. It was a real eye-opening visit to see hospital reform in action; to see what is already occurring in Australia’s hospitals as a result of having a federal government that is committed to improving health. Our party met with 16-year-old Jake Floro and his mother Kerrie-Anne Floro. Jake had a hip operation on 15 April and he is recovering really well.

Continue reading ‘Health Performance Authority’ »

Memorials Inquiry

In recent meetings of parliament’s National Capital and External Territories Committee, I’ve been asking questions about new memorials in the parliamentary triangle. So I’m pleased that Simon Crean (the relevant minister) has now asked the committee to inquire into the process of choosing national memorials. Terms of reference below.

Continue reading ‘Memorials Inquiry’ »

Clean Technology Showcase

Canberrans who are interested in clean tech may wish to pop along to this important event tomorrow.

Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr invites you to the Clean Technology Showcase.

Date: Thursday 18 August, 2011
Time: 11.30 am – 1.30 pm
Venue: Mural Hall, Parliament House

This event showcases manufacturers from across Australia who have embraced clean and high technology. At the event, you can speak with these businesses and see clean and high technology products, which have been developed with the support of the Australian Government. You can also speak with parliamentarians and government officials.

Sky News AM Agenda 15 August 2011 Part 2 of 2

Andrew Leigh and Mitch Fifield discuss political issues with Sky News AM Agenda host Kieran Gilbert

Sky News AM Agenda 15 August 2011 Part 1 of 2

Andrew Leigh and Mitch Fifield discuss political issues with Sky News AM Agenda host Kieran Gilbert

Territory Bill Backed

It’s now over 22 years since the ACT Legislative Assembly’s first elections, and the Assembly has shown itself to be a mature debating chamber; the equal of any other state or territory parliament.

So I’m chuffed that today, Federal Labor made the decision to back an important piece of legislation that will make it harder for the Australian parliament to veto ACT legislation. The veto power will still remain (removing it would require changing the constitution), but it will now be exercised by the parliament – not the executive.

As Simon Crean has put it, the bill strips the commonwealth’s right to veto “at the stroke of a ministerial pen”. Vetoing an ACT law should be only undertaken in extreme circumstances, and it’s appropriate that all federal parliamentarians should have the chance to speak on such a debate.

My ACT colleague Gai Brodtmann and I took the unusual step of making a submission to the Senate inquiry into the bill. Federal Labor’s decision to back it is subject only to some technical tweaks (this AAP report has a pretty decent summary of the amendments).

I’m hoping that the Coalition and minor parties will now get on board, and support this important bill.

Caption Time

In the lead up to National Literacy and Numeracy Week, Media Access Australia has launched cap that!, a new education campaign asking teachers to turn on captions for improved literacy and inclusion for students. If you’re an educator, you can find more information and teaching resources on their website.

Mobile Offices & Community Forums

Here’s an update of my upcoming mobile offices and community forums.

Community forums

  • West Belconnen (Ginninderra Labor Club, Lhotsky St) Friday 18 November 2.00-3.30pm

Mobile offices

  • Civic bus interchange Thursday 10 November 8-9am
  • Gungahlin (Hibberson St) Saturday 19 November 9-10am
  • Dickson Woollies, Saturday 19 November 10.30-11.30am

Past forums and mobile offices

  • Community Forum @ Belconnen (Belconnen Community Services, Swanson Court) Tuesday 25 October 6.00-7.30pm (focusing on the National Disability Insurance Scheme)
  • Dickson Woollies, Saturday 20 August 9:00am
  • Civic bus interchange, Wednesday 7 September 8:00am
  • Community Forum @ Dickson (Majura Hall, Rosevear St) Saturday 27 August 10-11.30am (starting with a speech on climate change)
  • Kippax Saturday 17 September 9:00am (with Chris Bourke MLA)
  • Charnwood shops 17 Sept 10:45am (with Chris Bourke MLA)
  • Jamison Trash & Treasure Sunday 25 September 9-10am (with Chris Bourke MLA)
  • Community Forum @ Gungahlin (Gungahlin Resource Centre Function Room, Ernest Cavanagh St) Wednesday 28 September 12.00-1:30pm (starting with a speech on early childhood)
  • Gungahlin (Hibberson St) Saturday 22 October 9-10am
  • Dickson Woollies Saturday 22 October 10.30-11.30am

Belconnen Retirement Income Seminar

The federally-funded Financial Information Service are running a free seminar next week on ‘Understanding retirement income streams’.

Details, details…

Wednesday, 17 August
6pm – 8.30pm
Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

Update: Due to the popularity of these seminars, Centrelink scheduled another one

Thursday, 18 August
6pm – 8.30pm
Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

Please RSVP to 13 6357 or