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Archive for November 2011

Internships and Fellowships

With the parliamentary year having wrapped up, I thought I’d post another call for potential interns and fellows. Details here (or below).

In particular, I’m interested in students with data-crunching skills (eg. someone with one or two semesters of econometrics under their belt). There are a couple of empirical projects I’m keen to try out.

Continue reading ‘Internships and Fellowships’ »

Advice to PhD Students

I gave a keynote address this afternoon to the ANU Crawford School’s PhD student conference. I’ll post the video when it becomes available, but I promised the audience that I’d post on my website now the ten economics papers that I’d like to read. (Since my production of research has tailed off lately, the least I can do is to suggest papers I want others to write!)

Continue reading ‘Advice to PhD Students’ »

ABC News 24 Capital Hill 28 November

Lyndal Curtis hosted me and Michaelia Cash on the Capital Hill program yesterday evening. Topics discussed include Labor’s plan for the Murray-Darling Basin, the Australian Labor Party national conference and how to involve party members, along with Tony Abbott’s statement about only the “right kids” staying at school until year 12.

Non-Parental Care

A report in today’s Herald Sun returns to an economics paper that Chikako Yamauchi and I put out in the public domain in 2009, and which garnered quite a bit of coverage when I presented it to the December 2009 LSAC conference. The basic findings of the paper are:

  • the differences in behaviour between kids in parental and non-parental care are small;
  • there isn’t ‘one effect’ of daycare – it differs across socioeconomic groups; and
  • kids appear to do a smidgin better in daycare centres with smaller ratios.

If you’re interested in the paper (or would like to see our application of the Altonji-Elder-Todd approach of using selection on observables in order to gauge the potential importance of unobservables bias), it’s available here.

Wrapping up the Parliamentary Year

Lil tent joins big tent

Due to the popularity of the 4×6 metre ‘Big Tent’ among local community groups, I’ve now bought a second marquee. The younger sibling is a smidgin smaller at 3×3 metres, and fits in a regular sedan with the front seat down. (The bigger one requires a station wagon or similar.)

If your community organisation would like to borrow one (or both!), just email me at <AT>, or phone 6247 4396.

Pictures of the two tents are below (small at the top, large at the bottom).

And of course, we also have a PA system for loan.

National Memorials

I spoke in parliament today about the new national memorials report (and as it was my last speech for the year, thanked my staff, volunteers, interns and family).

National Capital and External Territories Committee Report
24 November 2011

National memorials are a crucial part of the nation’s collective memory. They bind a nation together through one of the most powerful of unifying forces—shared history. The National Memorials Ordinance 1928 came about at a time when Canberra’s population was under 10,000, and Lake Burley Griffin was just lines on a map. It was instigated by Prime Minister Stanley Bruce when parliament had just moved to Canberra and rapid development was underway in the new national capital. The recommendations arising from the inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories into the administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 reflect Canberra’s transformed milieu and how Australia’s management and use of national memorials can be improved.

Continue reading ‘National Memorials’ »

Promoting Cancer Research and Treatment

I spoke in parliament today about cancer research and the Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun.

Ben Donohoe Fun Run, Capital Region Cancer Centre
24 November 2011

Ben Donohoe was a sports-loving, caring and intelligent nine-year-old boy who lived with his parents, Robyn and Peter, and siblings, Luke, Lauren and Kate. An active boy who particularly loved cricket and soccer, he played every sport. He also loved his music and would sing and dance around his bedroom to the sounds of Shrek, Robbie Williams and Shannon Noll. Ben attended Latham Primary School and was in year 4 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour on 10 June 2005. When he became sick, his mother Robyn would often ask him if there was anything she could get for him and Ben would simply say, ‘Just a cuddle.’ That is a testament to his caring nature. Despite an operation to remove the tumour and despite Ben’s determination, the tumour was too aggressive. Ben passed away on 2 August 2005, less than eight weeks after being diagnosed.

Continue reading ‘Promoting Cancer Research and Treatment’ »

Time to Simplify Phone Plans

I spoke in parliament yesterday, arguing that Australian mobile phone plans are too complex, and phone companies should make them simpler.

Complex Mobile Phone Plans
23 November 2011

I rise to speak on the unnecessary complexity of mobile phone plans in Australia. According to the 2009-10 report of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, 15 million Australians use a mobile phone. Thirty-seven per cent of Australian adults use a mobile phone as their main form of communication. Mobile phones are an integral part of life for many of us. They help us stay connected while travelling, simplify the process of meeting a friend on the weekend, make it easier for tradespeople to do their jobs and allow parents to keep tabs on their teenagers. The mobile phone is a great piece of technology, yet the process of choosing a mobile phone plan is currently Byzantine.

Continue reading ‘Time to Simplify Phone Plans’ »

Breaking the intergenerational poverty cycle

I spoke in parliament yesterday about policies to break the intergenerational poverty cycle through education.

Continue reading ‘Breaking the intergenerational poverty cycle’ »

Economic Management

I spoke in parliament on Tuesday about the importance of good economic management.

Continue reading ‘Economic Management’ »

Minerals Resource Rent Tax

I spoke in parliament today about the government’s Minerals Resource Rent Tax package.

Continue reading ‘Minerals Resource Rent Tax’ »

White Ribbon Day

I spoke today about White Ribbon Day, and the issue of violence against women.

Continue reading ‘White Ribbon Day’ »

Reducing Crime and Incarceration

I moved a private members’ motion in the House today on reducing crime and incarceration rates. The motion and my speech are below.

Continue reading ‘Reducing Crime and Incarceration’ »

Sky News AM Agenda

I was on the Sky News AM Agenda program this morning with my usual sparring partner Mitch Fifield. Topics today included fair minerals taxation, the Coalition’s unfair workplace laws, the Qantas dispute and Afghanistan. Hosted by Kieran Gilbert.

Eslake Returns to Banking

The almost peerless Saul Eslake is leaving the Grattan Institute to join Bank of America Merrill Lynch – which I regard as a gain for them, and a loss for the rest of us. Saul’s contribution to the public economic debate over recent years has been extraordinarily valuable, particularly given the lack of non-aligned macroeconomists and public economists who are willing to write for the popular media and speak on TV.

If you think you might be the next Eslake, Grattan would love to hear from you.


I wrote a column for the Chronicle newspaper recently about the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme.

National Disability Insurance Scheme
The Chronicle

If you ever feel like you’ve had a tough week, try chatting with a parent who’s caring for a child with a profound disability. Chances are, they’ll be bleary-eyed and bone-tired. They may be struggling to make ends meet, and often contending with health issues of their own.

Like every parent, they love their children – but their parenting journey is harder than most. The regular cycle of life is that children leave home and start families of their own. But parents of children with a disability can find themselves caring for a 40 year-old with the mental abilities of a toddler. Many face a searing fear: what will happen to my child when I die?

Continue reading ‘NDIS’ »

Stimulus, Schools and Skating

I wrote a column for the Chronicle newspaper recently about the opening of the ‘Belco Bowl’.

Stimulus, Schools and Skating
The Chronicle

The original skateboarders were bored California surfers – they came up with the new sport in the 1940s as a way to kill time when the waves were flat. Opening the new ‘Belco Bowl’ with Chris Bourke MLA earlier this month, I told the audience that its location couldn’t be more apt. As Canberra skaters look out over the calm waters of Lake Ginninderra, they can be reminded of how their sport started.

Continue reading ‘Stimulus, Schools and Skating’ »


Having been an Obama fan for quite some time, I was pretty chuffed to be able to meet him this week (as was my US-born wife, Gweneth). A few pics below.

Superfast Broadband

I wrote a column for the Chronicle newspaper recently on the rollout of the National Broadband Network.

Superfast Broadband
The Chronicle

I was 11 years old when I bought my first computer. It was 1984, and the machine was an Aquarius. It had rubber keys, a cassette tape drive, and 3.5 kilobytes of memory. I used it to write simple programs in the BASIC language. Later that year, I upgraded to a VIC-20, with a whopping 5 kilobytes of memory. At about this time, Sydney Morning Herald computer editor Gareth Powell said that there was no advantage to any program in going beyond 16 kilobytes of memory.

Continue reading ‘Superfast Broadband’ »

Aid Event

Pat Boldra from Friends of Plan Australia has asked me to let you know about their charity art and craft show, which I’m happy to do… even though it’s a smidgin south of the electorate.

Our charity art and craft show which will be held at the Weston Creek Community  Hall on 25th-27th November? Each year the Friends of Plan Canberra group selects a Plan overseas aid project to support with all funds raised from our efforts.  So far we have raised over $2,500 this year towards clean water and improved sanitation in East Timor and we are well on the way to raising another $2,000 from the art and craft show and raffle of paintings donated by a local artist, Eleanor Inns.  The Ambassador for East Timor, His Excellency Abel Guterres, has agreed to open the show at 6pm on Friday 25th November and the raffle for Eleanor’s paintings will be drawn at 3pm on the last day of the show, Sunday 27th.  In-between we will have on sale art and craft by local people in support of the project, much of it ideal as Christmas gifts.

Street Party Invitation

With summer nigh upon us, it’s a good chance to hold a summer street party. And to make it easy, here’s a template:

This year, we’re holding a summer street party, to get to know the neighbourhood.

Our address is: _______________________________

Time: _______________________________

Date: _______________________________

RSVP by phoning: _______________________________

Please bring something to eat or something to drink.

We look forward to seeing you there.

To hold your own street party, just fill in the blanks on this template invitation and pop it in the letterbox of people in your street. There are plenty of ways to tailor it – one thing we’ve done is to look up the person after whom the street is named in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and tell your neighbours a bit about how much that person loved socialising with friends.

Walking and Social Capital

In the final chapter of Disconnected, one of the things that I advocate is ‘reclaiming the footpaths’, as a way of building civic connectedness. Reading this passage, local resident Neville Hurst sent me a delightful account of his regular walks around Lake Ginninderra. He’s given me permission to post it here.

Continue reading ‘Walking and Social Capital’ »

Foreign Aid and Volunteering

I’m holding a foreign aid forum in the Griffin Centre at 12.30pm today (details). In that spirit, here’s a column I wrote recently for the local Chronicle newspaper.

Continue reading ‘Foreign Aid and Volunteering’ »

The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay

One of the things that many people don’t realise about academic economics is how slowly the research pipeline moves. Since leaving the ANU in July 2010, virtually my only research activity has been to revise a few papers for publication, incorporating referee comments. Yet in 2011, I’ve had half a dozen papers appear in journals (partial list here), and there will be probably be a few more in 2012.

However, there is one new piece of research I’ve done, which comes out of a keynote talk I gave for an economics of education conference in Munich, organised by Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessman. It gave me the chance to survey the burgeoning literature on the economics and politics of teacher merit pay.

I’ll be giving a talk tonight at the Grattan Institute, drawing on the paper. In case you’re interested, here’s a copy. Feedback most welcome (particularly if it sparks off the content of the paper, rather than just the title).

What I’m Reading

A few links that have caught my fancy lately.







Speech to the Australian Orangutan Project

I spoke last night to the fundraising dinner of the Australian Orangutan Project.

Continue reading ‘Speech to the Australian Orangutan Project’ »

Jolly Good Fellows

The ‘new fellows’ induction into the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia on Tuesday was a fascinating affair, conducted in the Harry Potter-esque surroundings of ANU’s Great Hall. I particularly enjoyed the chance to re-connect with my former politics teacher Lisa Hill, who works on compulsory voting and Adam Smith.

And in an interesting coincidence, it turns out that because ASSA was formed in 1971, I’m the only current fellow who’s younger than the Academy. (A fact that’s sure to be overturned soon, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.)

Moving closer to equal pay

The Prime Minister announced today that the Government will provide $2 billion to deliver a pay rise to the social and community service sector. It’s worth having a look at Julia Gillard’s excellent speech announcing the equal pay commitment. Continue reading ‘Moving closer to equal pay’ »

One person can…

Margaret Hender has asked me to publicise the ‘One Person Can…‘ project. Details below

Continue reading ‘One person can…’ »