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Archive for September 2011

Big Tent @ Mt Rogers

If your community group needs a marquee for a special event, you might like to borrow mine. Here it is in action at the recent “Mt Rogers explorer day”.

And here’s a summary of the event from the organisers:

Project Summary: Mt Rogers explorer day was developed as an information day for residents surrounding Mt Rogers to inform them of the beauty in their backyard, being Mt Rogers reserve.  Mt Rogers landcare group organised displays and giveaways, and Ginninderra Catchment Group (GCG) contributed $100 worth of plants as a lucky door prize. Mt Rogers Landcare group organised a guided walk and provided games including the horseshoe toss and egg and spoon race.

The event was well attended, with up to 60 people throughout the day. GCG provided a BBQ lunch and information about other landcare groups within the catchment.  Thank you to Andrew Leigh Federal Member for Fraser (ALP), for the use of his marquee on the day, and a huge thank you to Mt Rogers Landcare Group convener Rosemary Blemings for her organisation of the day.

For marquee bookings, just phone 6247 4396 or email AT

Sky AM Agenda 26 September with Mitch Fifield

The video of my appearance on the Sky AM Agenda program with my usual sparring partner Mitch Fifield. Hosted by Ashleigh Gillon.

Republican Tales

No, it’s not more porkies being told by the GOP, it’s a short story competition being run by the Australian Republican Movement. Details below.

Entries close 6 November, and can be emailed in or posted to the ARM in Geebung (of Polo Club fame).

Continue reading ‘Republican Tales’ »

Boost for volunteers in North Canberra

Local community organisations on the northside of Canberra are among 4,600 across Australia to benefit from the Gillard Government’s $16 million Volunteer Grants initiative.

6 organisations will share in close to $18 000 to support the work of their volunteers and provide much-needed equipment.

Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh said the Gillard Government’s investment was delivering support to local volunteers.

“We know that volunteers give their time, energy and expertise to support our community,” Andrew Leigh said.

“The Volunteer Grants will support a range of local groups such as the Belconnen Men’s Shed, the Solid Young Fullas Aboriginal Corporation and Working Wonders incorporated.

“They will receive a grant of between $1000 and $5000 to contribute to their volunteers’ fuel costs and purchase equipment such as a new computer, or a barbeque.

“For the first time, the grants will also help cover transport costs of volunteers with disability who are unable to drive and need to use public transport or taxis as part of their volunteering role.

“Volunteers have helped to weave Australia’s social fabric. The Gillard Government has shown a strong commitment to the voluntary sector and I’m proud to be a part of these initiatives.

“Also, I’d like to remind people that they can nominate local volunteers for the National Volunteer Awards at the VolunteeringACT website,

“The Gillard Government is committed to supporting our army of volunteers and this year’s volunteer grants will help them to undertake their selfless work in supporting local communities.”

To find out more about Volunteer Grants 2011 visit or call 1800 183 374.

Helping find lost superannuation at Sunday markets in Jamison

Community Language Schools Day

The ACT Community Language Schools Association has asked me to publicise their language schools day on 22 Oct. Details below.

Continue reading ‘Community Language Schools Day’ »

Reducing Crime and Incarceration

I put a private members’ motion on the notice paper this week on the topic of crime and incarceration rates. Hopefully it’ll be selected for debate in the coming weeks.

Dr LEIGH: to move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that:

(a) the Australian incarceration rate has risen from 117 prisoners per 100,000 adults in 1991 to 172 prisoners per 100,000 adults in 2010;
(b) since the Indigenous Deaths in Custody Report was released in 1991, the Indigenous incarceration rate has risen from 1739 prisoners per 100,000 adults to 2303 prisoners per 100,000 adults; and
(c) an increasing number of Australian children have a parent behind bars; and

(2) encourages governments at all levels to pursue innovative policies to reduce crime and incarceration rates, including:

(a) investing in early intervention programs to deter young people from crime;
(b) where appropriate, considering alternatives to incarceration such as weekend detention, periodic detention, restorative justice and drug courts;
(c) employing smart policing strategies, such as using real-time crime statistics to identify and target crime hotspots;
(d) establishing in-prison education, training and rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing recidivism and improving family relationships for prisoners with children; and
(e) implementing randomised policy trials (akin to the 1999 NSW Drug Court randomised trial) to rigorously evaluate the impact of criminal justice interventions.

Thanks to intern Jess Woodall for her help drafting the motion.

Update: Here’s my speech in the debate, which took place on 21 November 2011.

Migration Amendments

I spoke today on the government’s amendments to the Migration Act.

Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing)
22 September 2011

On 18 October 2001 an Indonesian fishing boat left the port of Bandar Lampung. There were 421 people on board, including at least 70 children. The boat was just 20 metres long and four metres wide, so people were tightly packed on board. The next day, about 70 kilometres south of Indonesia, the boat encountered heavy seas, took on water, listed violently to the side, capsized and sank within an hour. There were life jackets on board but none of them worked.

As a Senate committee, chaired by the late, great, Senator Peter Cook concluded, there were at least 70 children aboard when SIEV X sank. Only three survived. Two hundred adults also lost their lives. As the International Organisation for Migration pointed out, the tragedy was due to ‘the way the people smugglers pack these boats’.

Continue reading ‘Migration Amendments’ »

Samatha Stosur and Sports Participation

I spoke in parliament today about Samatha Stosur’s US Open win and the value of sports participation.

Continue reading ‘Samatha Stosur and Sports Participation’ »

What I’m Reading

A few articles that have caught my fancy over recent weeks.

Global Fund Review

I spoke in parliament today about this week’s report of the High-Level Independent Panel into the Global Fund’s financial controls.

Global Fund Independent Panel
21 September 2011

Established a decade ago, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has spent US$22 billion and saved six million lives. The Global Fund accounts for two-thirds of global spending on tuberculosis and malaria and one-fifth of global public spending on HIV and AIDS. These diseases are a real threat to Australia, as we saw with the recent outbreak of tuberculosis in the Torres Strait. In June I represented Australia at the Global Fund Partnership Forum in São Paulo, Brazil, where we discussed strategies and heard firsthand from some of the people who have benefited from Global Fund work.

Continue reading ‘Global Fund Review’ »

Canberra Youth off to CHOGM

I put out the following release today.

Fraser Commonwealth Youth Forum delegates ready to go
21 September 2011

“Two young people from the electorate of Fraser will be part of the 30-strong Australian delegation representing young Australians at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in October,” Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh said.

Andrew Leigh said Melissa Dimmick of Turner and Anthony Obeyesekere of Braddon have both been selected to provide youth-related recommendations to Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Continue reading ‘Canberra Youth off to CHOGM’ »

UN General Assembly Reform

I spoke yesterday on the topic of reforming the United Nations’ General Assembly.

United Nations General Assembly Reform
19 September 2011

In 1945, the establishment of the United Nations was a triumph of hope over experience. The League of Nations had failed to forestall World War II, yet the creation of the United Nations signalled optimism that such horrors could be avoided in the future—hope that succeeding generations, as the charter says, might be saved from ‘the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind’.

I spoke a month ago in the adjournment debate about the challenges of reforming the United Nations Security Council and I want to follow up tonight by offering a few suggestions for reform of the United Nations General Assembly. Again, I am grateful to William Isdale for his assistance.

Continue reading ‘UN General Assembly Reform’ »


My Australian Financial Review column today is on Google, and particularly its ability to forecast the present.

Google’s on Top of Today, Australian Financial Review, 20 September 2011

Some days, it seems that everyone has a crystal ball. Bank economists boldly predict exchange rate movements. Political pundits use polls to predict the next election. And fund managers vie to be the best stock-picker.

Alas, many of these forecasts aren’t much good. Exchange rates are equally likely to rise as to fall. Polls years out from an election have little predictive power. And the typical managed fund underperforms the All Ordinaries index.

Faced with the dismal performance of forecasting the future, one firm is taking a more modest tack. The wonks at Google are hoping that their new project will tell us what’s happening today.

Continue reading ‘Nowcasting’ »

Lost Superannuation

I spoke today in parliament about the campaign that Chris Burke and I are running to help Canberrans find their lost superannuation.

Lost Superannuation
19 September 2011

According to the Australian Taxation Office, Australians have around $19 billion in lost superannuation accounts. That is a bit over $1,000 for every adult in the country. Lost superannuation accounts arise when people change jobs and forget to update their superannuation accounts or when they take a career break. When you have your money spread across more accounts, you might end up paying excess fees or having your money invested in the wrong assets. Many people never claim lost superannuation so they do not enjoy the standard of living in retirement that is rightfully theirs. If superannuation is a nest egg then lost superannuation is like those eggs at the bottom of the garden that you never find at the end of a treasure hunt.

Continue reading ‘Lost Superannuation’ »

ACT Black Spots Announced

One of the jobs I most enjoy is chairing the ACT Black Spots consultative panel. The Black Spots program uses federal money to fix dangerous corners and intersections, with the proviso that we can’t approve a project unless the public benefit is at least twice as big as the cost of doing the road work.

We’ve just announced eight new sites where work will be done, totaling $1.1 million (which means that the public benefit is at least $2.2 million).

  • intersection of Drakeford Drive, Summerland Circuit and O’Halloran Circuit at Kambah: $210,000 to upgrade traffic signals, provide additional pedestrian lighting and replace existing poles;
  • intersection of Hindmarsh Drive, Athllon Drive and Callam Street at Phillip: $187,800 to install traffic signal mast arms;
  • intersection of Tharwa Drive, Box Hill Avenue and Woodcock Drive at Conder: $63,000 for visibility enhancements, including improved directional signage, improved hazard signage and upgraded street lighting;
  • intersection of College Street and Haydon Drive at Bruce: $310,000 for improvements to the pavement surface and traffic signals; upgrade of existing light columns; and improvements to kerb, sign and line marking;
  • intersection of Southern Cross Drive and Kingsford Smith Drive at Belconnen: $161,800 to install traffic signal mast arms;
  • intersection of William Hovell Drive and Bindubi Street at Belconnen: $120,200 to install traffic signal mast arms;
  • intersection of Coppins Crossing Road and William Hovell Drive at Belconnen: $52,600 to reduce speed limit on William Hovell Drive; and
  • intersection of Girrawheen Street and Limestone Avenue at Braddon: $21,400 to move the limit lines forward to be flush with Limestone Avenue.

Thanks to all the members of the public who nominated sites for consideration. We’re continuing our work, so please keep those nominations coming in to me – by mail, phone or email.

Australia’s First Early Childhood Randomised Trial

I spoke in parliament today about Australia’s first randomised trial of an early childhood program.

Continue reading ‘Australia’s First Early Childhood Randomised Trial’ »

September 11 – A Decade On

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the tenth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy.

United States of America: Terrorist Attacks
14 September 2011

Last Sunday, Peter Negron once again stood before a crowd gathered in Lower Manhattan to remember and pay tribute to the victims of the September 11 tragedy. Two years after losing his father in the attacks, Peter, then a slight 13-year-old barely able to reach the microphone, had read the children’s poem Stars, including the lines:

‘I felt them watching over me, each one
‘And let me cry and cry till I was done.’

Continue reading ‘September 11 – A Decade On’ »

Climate Change Legislation

I was pleased to speak today on the government’s climate change bills (aka the Clean Energy Future plan package):

Clean Energy Bill 2011 and related bills
14 September 2011

Over the past few decades, as we in this place have debated solutions to climate change, climate science has become increasingly unequivocal: the world is warming and human beings are causing that warming. This parliament sits in a city that shares a close connection to the natural environment. The bush capital is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Unchecked climate change over the next five decades could subject Canberra to more high and extreme fire danger days, more frequent droughts, more scorching hot days when elderly people and young kids cannot go outside, and less water in our dams. We cannot blame climate change for any single extreme event but we know that more of them will impose a greater cost to households. Canberra’s devastating bushfires in 2003 delivered a damage bill of a third of a billion dollars to what was then just a $16 billion economy. If you increase the probability of extreme fire danger days then you increase the expected cost of bushfires.

Continue reading ‘Climate Change Legislation’ »

Parliamentary Budget Office

I spoke in parliament on Monday on the government’s legislation to create a Parliamentary Budget Office.

Continue reading ‘Parliamentary Budget Office’ »

Tax Forum Submission

I’m attending the government’s Tax Forum in Canberra on 4-5 October. Participants have been asked to supply a Statement of Priorities. Here’s mine:

Continue reading ‘Tax Forum Submission’ »

Sky News AM Agenda with Andrew Leigh and Mitch Fifield

Ashleigh Gillon hosted Mitch Fifield and I on the AM Agenda program on Sky News yesterday.

In praise of public sector workers

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the important role played by public sector workers – particularly teachers and public servants.

Continue reading ‘In praise of public sector workers’ »

Community Organisations

I spoke in parliament today about Canberra’s community organisations (with special mention of the Canberra Times fun run and Hall village).

Community Organisations
12 September 2011

There are many reasons to love this fine city of Canberra, but the No. 1 reason from my standpoint is its social connectedness. Canberra is a place to enjoy the simple pleasures of sharing time with friends and neighbours, working together in clubs, groups and associations and strengthening the social ties that bind us together. All of this, what academics have called social capital, is the idea that the ties that bind us together have an inherent value. When it was first introduced it was a bit controversial, much as the idea of human capital, that the skills that people have could have an economic value.

Continue reading ‘Community Organisations’ »

Find your lost superannuation

Member for Ginninderra, Dr Chris Bourke MLA, and I yesterday launched a local campaign to help our constituents find their lost super.

According to a national survey, people living in the Belconnen suburbs covered by the 2615 postcode such as Charnwood, Holt and Spence are owed more than $45 million so the campaign will concentrate on those areas.

Dr Bourke and I will hold a series of mobile offices in local shopping centres to show constituents just how easy it is to find their lost superannuation accounts and combine them into one.

If you need help finding your lost superannuation, please contact my office on 6247 4396 or come and speak to us at a mobile office.

Talking International Economics on ABC24

National Volunteer Awards

There are some parts of being a Federal MP that are incredibly rewarding. One of those is the ability to recognise local volunteers for their hard work out in the community. Today, Kate Lundy, Gai Brodtmann and I announced with Volunteering ACT the opening of nominations for the ACT’s National Volunteer Awards. The National Volunteer Awards are a part of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers activities. If you’re familiar with my work before entering the Australian Parliament, you’ll know that volunteering is something that I’m very passionate about.

If you know a local volunteer individual or group I encourage you to go to the Volunteering ACT website from tomorrow to put in a nomination. Details on award categories and how to nominate are in the media release below.

Continue reading ‘National Volunteer Awards’ »

A Mess, But No Messiah

My AFR column today is on the myth that WorkChoices was good for productivity. I conclude with a few ideas about what we might do to raise productivity.

End Work Choices Myth, Australian Financial Review, 6 September 2011

In Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, a man is accidentally mistaken for the messiah. Despite all facts to the contrary, he is unable to persuade his devoted followers that he is not divine.

And so it is with WorkChoices. Over recent months, a steady drumbeat has been sounding through the Coalition and more extreme elements of the business community, claiming that a return to the industrial relations system that existed from 2006 to 2009 would boost productivity in Australia.

Continue reading ‘A Mess, But No Messiah’ »