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Archive for October 2011

$50 Million to Eradicate Polio

Success has many parents, but having moved a private members’ motion in parliament a few months ago asking for CHOGM to focus on polio, I’m chuffed to see the PM today announcing $50 million to eradicate the disease in the four countries where it remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and Pakistan.

Getting rid of the final few cases will take ingenuity. In a speech earlier this year, I quoted former Economist journalist Robert Guest, writing in 2004:

‘Somalia has no government, unless you count a “transitional” one that controls a few streets in the capital, Mogadishu, and a short stretch of coastline. The rest of the country is divided into warring fiefdoms. Warlords extract protection money from anyone who has money to extract. Clans, sub-clans, and sub-sub-clans pursue bloody vendettas against each other, often fighting over grudges that pre-date the colonial period. Few children learn to read, but practically all self-respecting young men carry submachine-guns.

‘I was at one of the country’s countless road blocks, on a sandy road outside Baidoa, a southern town of shell-blasted stone walls and sandy streets. The local warlord’s men were waving their Kalishnikovs at approaching trucks, forcing them to stop. Many of the trucks carried passengers perched atop the cargoes of logs or oil drums. The men with guns then ordered all the children under five to dismount and herded them into the shade of a nearby tree. There, they handed them over to strangers with clipboards, who squeezed open their mouths and fed each one a single drop of polio vaccine.’

Robert Guest is describing vaccination work carried out by the World Health Organisation, which decided that working with local warlords to distribute polio vaccine was the lesser of two evils.

Don’s Parting

Don Aitkin’s term as chairperson of the National Capital Authority wrapped up yesterday. A true Canberra icon, Don has brought a great deal of energy and experience to the NCA, and I’m sure he’ll be greatly missed.

Shelly Penn, who has been serving on the NCA’s board, will step into the role of acting chairperson.

A Propitious Cycle

Noting the absence of bike racks near my office on 1 Torrens Street, I wrote to the ACT Government to ask whether they’d consider installing one. This week, I received a letter from Simon Corbell, saying that they’ll be putting a bike rack nearby. So if you’re coming to an event or meeting in my office, you’ll soon be able to lock up your bike close by.

Six Impossible Things

(Cross-posted on the ALP blog, which is the place to leave comments.)

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice: ‘Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

I was recalling this line the other day when thinking about the task faced by Tony Abbott. Here are the six impossible things that the Opposition Leader has to believe before breakfast every day.

Continue reading ‘Six Impossible Things’ »

Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun event

Ben Donohoe, the son of a staff member at Hawker College, was only 9 years old when he passed away from a brain tumour in 2005. Since then, the students of Hawker College have been organising an annual charity fun run to raise money for the ACT Eden-Monaro Cancer Support Group and Make-A-Wish Australia. Now in its 7th year, the Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun event will be held on Sunday 6th November, at Lake Ginninderra.

I’m going to be pounding the pavement with 10 of my staff and friends to help add to the $220, 000 that has already raised for this important cause.  If you’d also like to be part of the action you can register online here, or you can make a donation here.

What: Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun

Where: John Knight Memorial Park, Lake Ginnindera

When: Registration from 7.30am – 8.30am, Sunday 6th November 2011

You can find more information on the event website.

Hope you can make – please feel free to swing by my marquee and say hello if you do!

New Social Housing

I attended the opening of eight new social housing units in O’Connor this morning. The bottom four units will be occupied by people with mobility impairments, while most of the top four units will be single parent families. For some of the tenants, it’s the first place they’ve ever had to call their own.

Continue reading ‘New Social Housing’ »

Any club that will have me as a member…

The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) has elected 26 new fellows. Bizarrely, they’ve including a sitting politician. Have they no standards?

(On a more serious note, I’m chuffed to be joining in the same cohort as Lisa Hill, who taught me in my undergraduate political science degree, Stephen Bell, who marked my undegraduate honours thesis in 1994; and former ANU colleagues Dave Chalmers, Hal Hill, Jeff Bennett, Kaarin Anstey and Andrew Podger. Thanks too to my nominators – who I’ll refrain from naming in case they’d like to maintain anonymity.)

Know a community group that wants to make some noise?

For the past six months I’ve been lending out my marquee to community groups. It’s been very popular, and has been used to assist causes as diverse as motorcycle awareness and the Mount Rogers Explorer Day. Now I’ve got a small public address system which I’d be happy to lend to any community group that needs a bit of amplification. It’s simple to use, operates off a rechargeable internal battery (or mains power), and it comes with a microphone. It’s ideal for addressing small gatherings – indoor or outdoor. Phone 6247 4396 or email me at Andrew.Leigh.MP<AT> to book either the marquee or the PA system for your event.

And while I’m talking about community groups, I’m also opening up a spot in my newsletter, the modestly-named Leigh Report, as a noticeboard for organisations that are seeking to expand their membership. It could be an appeal for volunteers or it could be a shout out to like-minded Canberrans who just don’t know you exist. Email the contact details of your organisation and a one-sentence summary of who in the community you’re trying to reach to Andrew.Leigh.MP<AT> and I’ll try to include it in the next newsletter.

More Information > Less Infections

I’ve written and spoken before about the power of information to improve public services. So it’s beaut to see that the MyHospitals website will from today contain information on hospital infection rates.

ABC 24 Capital Hill

My video from my latest Capital Hill appearance with Kelly O’Dwyer, hosted by Julie Doyle.

Sky AM Agenda

Here’s my latest Sky AM Agenda appearance with my regular sparring partner Mitch Fifield. Kieran Gilbert’s the host this time.

Using pork barrelling to learn something about fiscal policy

In today’s SMH, Peter Martin has a neat write-up of my Economics Letters paper with Christine Neill, which exploits Howard Government pork-barrelling to estimate the impact of fiscal stimulus on job creation. We find that the cost per job amounted to $10,000 to $31,000 over a three-year period.

Next Community Forum

Just a reminder about my community forum tomorrow night. The main focus of the forum will be Labor’s plan for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, but I’ll also be happy to take questions on any other local or national topics, from tax to terrorism, roads to refugees, postboxes to polio.

Details, details…

Venue: Belconnen Community Services, Swanson Court
Time: Tuesday 25 October 6.00-7.30pm

I hope to see you there. And in the event you can’t make it along, here’s a complete list of my coming mobile offices and community forums.

Open Australia Reopens

Due to a change in the way Hansard was formatted, Open Australia (main site, my page) has been out of action for several months. I’m pleased to say that this spunky interface for following parliament is now back online.

Teacher Merit Pay

On Mon 14 Nov, 6-7pm, I’m giving a talk on ‘The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay’ at the Grattan Institute in Melbourne. Here’s a summary:

The debate over merit pay can be summed up as follows: economists like it, voters love it, and teachers are divided. Can merit pay be made to work? Andrew Leigh MP will discuss these issues with John Daley, Grattan’s CEO.

Looking across the international evidence, Andrew Leigh surveyed three sets of data that are relevant to answering this question: impact studies of teacher merit pay schemes, evidence on teacher attitudes to merit pay, and surveys of attitudes in the general public to merit pay. Looking at the existing merit pay plans, one is struck by the fact that they their incentive schemes are often very complicated, and most estimates are of short-run effects (so do not capture selection into the teaching profession).

Teacher attitudes are mixed, with new teachers more open to merit pay than their more experienced colleagues. US surveys find that voter support for merit pay is high and rising. I conclude with ten suggestions for future research on teacher merit pay.

To RSVP, click here.

(Incidentally,  Grattan is presently looking for a fellow to work in its cities program. If you liked Ed Glaeser’s book, you should consider applying.)

Positive Coaching

The New York Times has a great blog post on the new Positive Coaching Alliance. Some snippets:

youth sports has come to emulate the win-at-all-costs ethos of professional sports. While youth and professional sports look alike, adults often forget that they are fundamentally different enterprises. Professional sports is an entertainment business. Youth sports is supposed to be about education and human development. …

As a father of an 8-year-old who has happily regained his love of soccer thanks to a very positive coach, I can attest to the value of its teachings. Research has found that youth attrition rates are 80 percent lower for children whose coaches practice positive coaching (pdf, p.11). …

P.C.A. encourages parents to let go of winning and concentrate on life lessons. “There are only two groups of people whose job is to win games,” says Thompson. “Coaches and players. Parents have a much more important job: to guide their child’s character development.”

What works best is helping children understand that they control three key variables: their level of Effort, whether they Learn from experiences, and how they respond to Mistakes. …

Because there are so many opportunities to fail in sports, it is a gold mine of teachable moments. “If a child misses a big play, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk about resiliency,” explains Thompson. “‘I know you’re disappointed and I feel bad for you, but the question is what are you going to do now? Are you going to hang your head? Or are you going to bounce back with renewed determination?’” …

One technique, adopted by many, is teaching players to “flush” their mistakes. Using a hand gesture that mimics flushing a toilet, a coach can signal from the sideline and players can signal to each other. “So the kid looks at the coach and the coach goes: ‘Flush it.’ The teammates are saying: ‘Hey, Flush it, we’ll get it back.’ “The single most important thing we do is help coaches teach kids not to be afraid to make mistakes,” he adds. …

The key is not to withhold criticism, but to deliver it in a way that is helpful. If the child is angry or sulking or defensive, she’s not going to be listening very well anyway. “When you ask people to focus on mastery, it’s not soft,” notes Thompson. “And screaming at a kid is not tough. That’s just a lack of impulse control.”

Community Organisations

Two local organisations – Al-Anon and the ACT branch of the National Servicemen’s Association – have asked me to let people know a bit more about them. Details over the fold.

Continue reading ‘Community Organisations’ »


In case you’ve ever wondered what an MP’s inbox looks like, here are two messages (which arrived within seconds of one another), that neatly bookend the 200-odd emails I get in a typical day.

In response to my position on climate change:

You are an absolute fool & a joke, the science has only been settled by the rogues that the Government bought off to say the right things, IT IS A HOAX & a dirty rotten TAX, you IMBERSILE, I honestly don’t know how you & all your other oxygen thief’s sleep at night.

The lot of you are GRUBS.

In response to my position on same-sex marriage:

I have an incredible amount of respect for you Andrew.

Thank you so much, you are a wonderful person.

Mapping the Northside launched today

Me with Hannah Semler (left), Director of the Belconnen Arts Centre and professional artist Maryann Mussared. As you can see, the map is enormous.

Today I officially launched the ‘Mapping the Northside’ project along with Hannah Semler from the Belconnen Arts Centre.

Mapping the Northside is an exciting project where I’ve joined forces with the Belconnen Arts Centre to help people learn about more great places in our region.

An enormous map (3m x 2m) will be displayed in the Belconnen Arts Centre from today until Thursday 17 November upon which you can locate your favourite places in the Federal Division of Fraser – the northside of Canberra. This is your opportunity to tell everyone about your special, important places and environments and let your imagination run wild – you can include any kind of creative response, such as a drawing, photograph, story, poem or even performance work.

There will be three facilitated information sessions at Belconnen Arts Centre (Saturday 29 October 11 – 1pm), Gorman House Arts Centre (Saturday 5 November 11 – 1pm) and Gungahlin Library (Saturday 12 November 11 – 1pm), where professional artist Maryann Mussared will be available to help guide the creative process.

I encourage everyone to call into the Belconnen Arts Centre, see the big map and have a think about your favourite place on the northside. You can also suggest a favourite place to or

More information is available from the Belconnen Arts Centre (  or 6173 3300), or my office on 6247 4396

Many thanks go to both the Gungahlin Library and the Gorman House Arts Centre for their support on this exciting project.

The Social Impact of the US Recession

My AFR column today summarises a handful of fascinating new papers on the US slump.

US Recession Hits Home, Australian Financial Review, 18 October 2011

Empirical economists are a perky bunch. Give us a badly-designed policy, a natural disaster or an economic calamity, and we’ll use it to learn something about human behaviour.

And so it is with the latest recession in the US. While Tea Party Republicans force America to repeat the policy mistakes that prolonged the Great Depression of the 1930s, a spate of fascinating new research papers have analysed the current slump.

Continue reading ‘The Social Impact of the US Recession’ »

Local teachers recognised at national awards

Gai Brodtmann and I congratulated some outstanding local teachers over the weekend.

Continue reading ‘Local teachers recognised at national awards’ »

Mapping the Northside Media Launch

Just one sleep until we start Mapping the Northside. All welcome.




Time: 9:30AM

Venue: Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank Belconnen

Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser and Belconnen Arts Centre join forces this October and November to create a huge interactive map of the federal electorate of Fraser. The map will be displayed in the Belconnen Arts Centre from Tuesday 18 October until Thursday 17 November, and everyone is encouraged to drop in and plot their most meaningful places onto the map.

“Mapping the Northside is an opportunity to tell everyone about your special, important places and environments and let your imagination run wild. Show everyone that the Fraser electorate is the most vibrant place in Australia,

“The Belconnen Arts Centre and I invite everyone to be a part of Mapping the Northside and learn something new about Canberra’s north,” said Andrew Leigh.

What’s your favourite place on the Northside? Is it where you live, you work, you learn or you play? Is it a tiny restaurant you love, a bike track, your local school, a tennis court, a park, an arts or community centre, a heritage site or a quiet track or place you like to walk your dog? When describing your favourite place you can draw it, photograph it, create a collage, write a story or a poem, or even create a performance work.

There will be three facilitated information sessions at Belconnen Arts Centre (11 – 1pm, 29 October), Gorman House Arts Centre (Saturday 11 – 1pm, 5 November) and Gungahlin Library (Saturday 11 – 1pm, 12 November)

Disconnected in Brisbane

I had a very enjoyable discussion tonight with ABC Brisbane presenter Steve Austin and academic Melissa Gregg, on the topic of social capital and the impact of new communications technologies.

Perhaps ironically, a podcast is available.

Men’s Sheds

I spoke in parliament today about the Melba Men’s Shed.

Melba Men’s Shed
13 October 2011

On 23 September I visited the Melba Men’s Shed with my staffer Damien Hickman. Members of men’s sheds come from all walks of life. The bond that unites them is that they are men with time on their hands and would like something meaningful to do with that time. Men after retirement often find that once the phone stops ringing and they are no longer called on to make decisions their social networks are not as extensive as that of women.

There are many men’s sheds across Australia for which ‘first bloke’ Tim Matheson is a patron. They provide a place for men to meet and socialise. If you look inside one you might see a number of men restoring furniture or restoring bikes for a local school, and a few young men working with older men, learning new skills and maybe something about life. The Melba Men’s Shed has grown from six to 10 people, to 25 to 30 people. I would like to thank Stuart Allan the President of the Melba Men’s Shed.

Tax Forum

I spoke to parliament on both Wednesday and Thursday about the Tax Forum, and also about the challenge of ongoing tax reform to support the kinds of social policies society is increasingly demanding.

Statements – Taxation
12 October 2011

It was my pleasure last week to participate in the Australian government’s tax forum, a forum designed to continue the important conversation about how to build a better taxation system in Australia. This forum, of course, does not sit in isolation. This government commissioned a once in a generation taxation report in 2009. The Henry review reported back with a range of important recommendations which this government is pursuing. In my own submission to the tax forum, I argued that among the core principles for tax reform should be the following: taxes should be shifted from mobile tax bases to immobile tax bases, taxation of savings should be more neutral and sustainable, polluters should internalise the social cost of environmental damage, disincentives to labour force participation should be reduced, and the tax system should be as simple as possible.

Continue reading ‘Tax Forum’ »

Occupational Health and Safety

I spoke to parliament this week on the topic of work health and safety. Due to the intervention of a quorum call and members’ statements, the speech was broken into three parts, but I’ve sewn them back together in what follows.

Work Health and Safety Bill 2011
25 August & 12 October 2011

I rise to speak in the debate on the Work Health and Safety Bill 2011.

Five workers die aboard an unseaworthy vessel in the Torres Strait. Six motorcycles used for work are found to be unroadworthy in the Northern Territory. Camp food containing peanuts is fed to a camp attendee with a severe peanut allergy in Victoria. Two members of the public die on a rail access road and bridge in South Australia. The thing that each of these situations has in common: they are all part of the Commonwealth’s health and safety jurisdiction—the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia Post, the Department of Defence and the Australian Rail Track Corporation, respectively.

Continue reading ‘Occupational Health and Safety’ »

Brian Schmidt

On Wednesday, I spoke to parliament about Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, now possibly the most famous person working in my electorate.

Brian Schmidt
12 October 2011

Professor Brian Schmidt’s day job involves measuring the difference between exploding stars, studying dark energy and tracking the expansion rate of our universe billions of years back in time. But, after becoming Australia’s newest Nobel laureate, the most important task at hand for Professor Brian Schmidt was making sure he was not late for class the next day. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has recognised the incredible work of Professor Schmidt, a lecturer with the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, awarding him the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, an award which was shared with Professor Adam Riess and Professor Saul Perlmutter, both from the United States.

Continue reading ‘Brian Schmidt’ »

Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development

On Wednesday, I spoke in parliament about the terrific Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program (if you want to be an AYAD, click here).

Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development
12 October 2011

On 28 September I had the pleasure of farewelling the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It was the second time I have done this, and it was an honour I greatly enjoyed. By coincidence, that morning I had opened the Thailand Update conference, the 21st conference of its kind, run by Peter Warr. It is a conference that aims to deepen academic relations between Australia and Thailand.

Among the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development were people going to Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor. I was there with the Cambodian ambassador Mr. Chum Sounry and both of us were impressed by the high calibre of people going overseas. I told the youth ambassadors about the late Herb Feith, Australia’s first international volunteer, and the extraordinary role he played in taking the best of Australia to the developing countries that surround us.

Women in Business

I spoke in Parliament on Wednesday about the ACT Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

Telstra Business Women’s Awards
12 October 2011

I was recently privileged to attend the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, which recognise outstanding women and their contribution to the business community. Past winners include some of Australia’s most talented business leaders, whose career paths and individual achievements continue to inspire businesspeople around the country. It is often tough being a woman in business or in other leadership roles. In her book Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine tells the story of botanist Jeanne Baret and mathematician Sophie Germain, who around the turn of the 19th century were forced to pretend to be men in order to excel in the world of science. Thankfully, those kinds of games are no longer necessary. But it is still true that it is tougher to be a woman in business than it is to be a man.

Continue reading ‘Women in Business’ »

Hawke Review of the NCA

A new review of the National Capital Authority is out today. Simon Crean’s media release is below.

Continue reading ‘Hawke Review of the NCA’ »