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Archive for April 2012

Free Computer & TV Recycling

From 15 May, Canberans will be able to drop off old computers and TVs free of charge at the Mugga Lane and Mitchell recycling stations. It’s part of a joint ACT/Federal government scheme, funded by the computer and television industries. The ACT is the first jurisdiction to take it up. More details here.

Effective Aid

In a short program on the ABC’s Radio Australia network, I spoke about foreign aid with Girish Sawlani. Here’s a podcast.

The Asian Century Beckons

Senator Lisa Singh and I have an opinion piece in today’s Canberra Times on the implications of the rise of Asia for Australia. The full text is over the fold. It’s based on our submission to Ken Henry’s Asian Century white paper.

The Asian Century Beckons, Canberra Times, 25 April 2012

In the 21st century, we can confidently predict two trends. First, Australia will become more ethnically diverse. And second, we will become more enmeshed with Asia. The next generation of Australians will be more likely to have been born in Asia, travelled to Asia, worked in Asia, or married someone from Asia.

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Gallipoli: Shooting History

On the eve of ANZAC Day 2012, I thought I’d post one of the finest pieces I’ve read about Gallipoli: Peter Weir’s 2001 lecture, titled ‘Gallipoli: Shooting History’.

So far as I can work out, it’s not online, so thanks to Leonie Doyle for scanning it, and I hope the copyright holders won’t object.

Science Breakthroughs on ABC

Here’s a podcast of my chat this morning about science breakthroughs on ABC 666 with Alex Sloan.

And here’s a short version of the speech that was published on the ABC’s Drum website.

Loneliness in the Digital Age

On ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra program this morning, I spoke with host Jonathan Green and the aptronymous Helen Razer about social isolation and new media (Facebook, Twitter, email). Here’s a podcast.

Gauging Grog’s Guidelines

With Liberal MP Andrew Laming and Greens Senator Richard Di Natale (who – unlike me – are both medical docs), I’ve proffered a few thoughts on FARE Australia’s 2012 alcohol survey.

Our comments are available on FARE’s website (intro, Leigh, Di Natale, Laming). Mine are also below.

Gauging Grog’s Guidelines, Drink Tank Blog, 20 April 2012

According to a 2010 Roy Morgan report, people who consume more than three drinks a day account for more than half of all alcohol sales. That fact sometimes makes me pause when I’m at a liquor store. Looking across the shelves of Boags, Bundy and Bordeaux, it’s striking to think that half the contents of the store will be drunk by people who exceed the Australian Guidelines for safe alcohol consumption.

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In Praise of Bookworms

My monthly column in the Chronicle newspaper is about reading.

National Year of Reading, The Chronicle, April 2012

When Dick Adams left high school, he wasn’t able to read or write. It didn’t worry him much. As he told his local paper, ‘I was too busy playing cricket, helping my family on the farm, hunting and fishing’. But eventually, he realised that it would be hard to get far in life without reading and writing, so he found an adult literacy teacher and spent four years learning to read and write.

Today, Dick is a federal MP for the seat of Lyons in Tasmania. At Parliament House, he occupies the office two doors down from mine. He’s someone I can always trust for advice, and I know I’m not the only parliamentarian who feels that way.

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Five Science Breakthroughs That Could Change Politics

I gave a speech to a group of Sydney University students this morning on ‘Five Science Breakthroughs That Could Change Politics’. The text is below.

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The Drum – 12 April

I had my first appearance on ABC News 24′s The Drum yesterday evening where I was fortunate enough to be able to talk about one of my favourite topics – why Canberra is the best city in Australia. We also discussed the COAG Business Advisory Forum, the efficiency of a carbon price compared with the complexity of paying polluters, and skills training.

The Art of Choosing

My op-ed in today’s Sydney Morning Herald discusses new research about how to make better decisions.

Spoilt by choice: how data ruins decisions, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2012

In a share-trading experiment, two groups of university students were pitted against one another. One team saw only share prices, while the other team could also consult experts and media reports. The result? The better-informed team ended up reacting to rumours and gossip, made too many trades, and earned half as much as their less-informed classmates.

In his book How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer discusses a host of situations in which too much information leads us to make worse decisions. Guidance counsellors who can only see test scores do a better job of predicting whether students will perform well at university than when they can also draw upon essays and a personal interview. In the case of back pain, doctors who obtain an MRI scan are more likely to misdiagnose the patient as having disc abnormalities, and more likely to erroneously prescribe intensive medical interventions. Doctors are now advised not to get scans done on patients with non-specific lower back pain.

Continue reading ‘The Art of Choosing’ »

Coming Talks

I’m speaking at a few public events in the next month or so. Here are a few of them.

  • Sydney, 18 April, 7.30am – Sydney University Talented Students Program Breakfast on ‘Five Science Breakthroughs That Will Change Politics’ (not sure whether this one is public)
  • Canberra, 19 April, 5.30pm – Speaking on foreign aid, at the launch of the ANU Development Policy Centre’s annual report
  • Sydney, 1 May, 5.30pm – Sydney Institute on ‘Why inequality matters, and what we should do about it’
  • Canberra, 16 May, 5.30pm – Radford Institute on ‘The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay’ (based on this paper)
  • Sydney, 18 May, 12.30pm – McKell Institute on ‘What do we eat after the low-hanging fruit? A brief economic history of Australia, with some lessons for the future’

And further down the track:

  • Melbourne, 9 July, 3.45pm – Australian Conference of Economists on ‘Tall Poppies in the Land of the Fair Go: Why has Australian Inequality Risen, and Does it Matter?’
  • Canberra, 24 July, 12pm – Melbourne Institute on ‘Australia: Still the Land of the Fair Go?’

Where I can, I’ll post the speech texts on the blog.

Sky AM Agenda – 12 April

Kieran Gilbert hosted Kelly O’Dwyer and me on the Sky AM Agenda program this morning. We discussed the Gillard Government’s ongoing committment to deregulation and meetings with business leaders today. Other items up for debate were monetary and fiscal policy and the carbon price and its reduction of complicated requirements for business.

Potentially Popular Podcast on Populism

In a recent forum at the ANU Crawford School, I joined Reframe author Eric Knight,‘s Rebecca Wilson, Liberal MP Joshua Frydenberg and Big Ideas host Paul Barclay to discuss the topic ‘Beyond Populist Politics and Policies’. A podcast of the show (from ABC Radio National) is now available.

Good Games

My column in the local Chronicle newspaper is on the new R18+ rating for computer games.

Support for R18+ rating for games, The Chronicle, 3 April 2012

One of the fastest-growing pastimes in Australia is computer gaming. According to one recent survey, 95 per cent of Australian homes with children under the age of 18 had a device for playing games.

Over the past generation, we’ve moved from clunky arcade games like Pacman and Space Invaders to games like EverQuest and World of Warcraft, with slick graphics and millions of players interacting with one another. No longer are gamers just teenage boys. Today, nearly half of all gamers are women, and the typical Australian gamer is aged 32.

Continue reading ‘Good Games’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 5 April 2012

On Sky AM Agenda today, I spoke with presenter Kieran Gilbert and my regular counterpart Kelly O’Dwyer about public service jobs, the value of foreign aid, and the importance of the presumption of innocence in our legal system.

Mapping the Northside Now Online

At the Belconnen Arts Centre tonight, we launched the online version of the Mapping the Northside exercise, in which people nominated their favourite spots on the north side of Canberra. To see the results on Google Maps, click on the link below.
View Mapping the Northside in a larger map

Electric Cars

I have an opinion piece in the Canberra Times today on the benefits of electric cars.

Driving a clean, green future, Canberra Times, 3 April 2012

Last month another charge spot was added to Canberra’s growing charge network. In addition to their charge locations at the Belconnen Markets, National Convention Centre, and Crowne Plaza, Better Place opened a new spot at the Novotel Hotel on Northbourne Avenue. Across the ACT there are now 14 charge spot locations.

Electric cars have the potential to benefit Australia’s economy, health and environment. With global oil prices steadily creeping upwards (due to growing demand in China and other emerging economies), average Australians are now paying over $1.40 per litre for unleaded petrol.

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Local Sporting Champions

I had the pleasure of identifying local junior sporting champions to receive $500 (individuals) or $3000 (teams) grants towards their competing in state and national competions outside of the ACT. Bronson Harrison from the Canberra Raiders assisted me and commented on the high standard of local junior athletes.

Teamwork and Healthcare

Here’s my speech from this morning, officially opening the Allied Health Professions Australia national conference on behalf of Health Minister Tanya Plibersek. My focus was on how we often place too much emphasis on individual, and not enough on teams. It’s a theme that doesn’t just apply to healthcare.

‘Teamwork and Healthcare: The Role of Allied Health Professions’
Speech to Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) Conference

Andrew Leigh
Federal Member for Fraser

Realm Hotel, Canberra
2 April 2012

[Acknowledgements omitted]


Let me start with a story.

In 1999, a three-year old girl was out walking with her parents in a small Austrian town of Klagenfurt.[1] They lost sight of her for a moment, and she fell into an icy fishpond. Her parents jumped in after her, but it was 30 minutes before they found her on the bottom of the pond.

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