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Archive for June 2012

Mobile offices

Mobile offices tomorrow (Sat 30 June): 10am at Gungahlin (Hibberson St outside Big W), and 11.15am at Dickson Woolies.

Drop by and say g’day.’s Kindle Pricing Policies

I spoke in parliament yesterday about getting Australians a better deal on Kindle books.’s Kindle Pricing Policies
House of Representatives, 28 June 2012

Access to many and affordable books is an important component of a civilised society. It is through books that children are exposed to new ideas and it is through books that many of us as adults broaden our experience. Indeed, one of the last things I wrote while as an academic was a survey of the books that federal parliamentarians were then reading which turned into an article with my friend Macgregor Duncan. Reading opens new worlds and makes us better people. It is in that vein that I urge the House to place pressure on to provide better and cheaper access to books through the Amazon Kindle.

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Personal Explanation

I made a personal explanation today about a deliberately deceptive advertisement posted online by the Liberal Party this week.

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Welcome to Australia Day

I spoke in parliament this morning about the ACT Welcome to Australia Day.

Welcome to Australia Day
27 June 2012

Last Saturday, it was my pleasure to join a significant group of Canberrans on the Welcome to Australia walk. Welcome to Australia walks were organised throughout Australia on Saturday. They recognise that there are thousands of Australians who do not care much for politics and do not know a great deal about immigration policy but do know that they care about people. Welcome to Australia began as a conversation between a number of individuals and not-for-profit organisations who believed that there needed to be a positive voice in the conversation around multiculturalism. Last Saturday was certainly a positive experience. The speakers included Henry Sherrell, the tireless organiser; MLA Joy Burch; Mark Kulasingham; Claire Doube; Dr Kim Huynh, from ANU, who told a wonderful story in which he used the analogy of tomato soup, salads and stir fries to describe the three alternative visions of multiculturalism; and Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan. Chris Bourke and Katy Gallagher from the ACT Legislative Assembly were also there.

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Maths & Science

I spoke in parliament this morning about evidence-based policies to boost the number of students studying maths and science.

Higher Education Support Amendment (Student Contibution Amounts and Other Measures) Bill 2012
27 June 2012

Graham Freudenberg recalls in his book A Certain Grandeur Gough Whitlam was asked for concrete example of equality. Whitlam replied, ‘I want every kid to have a desk with a lamp in his own room to study.’ One can argue that for Whitlam the light on the hill shone from that lamp on the desk. I would like to think that at some of those desks they would be studying the sciences and mathematics, fulfilling their curiosity and passion for new insights and a deeper understanding of the world, building and developing skills that will enable them to make new discoveries, create innovations and be part of breakthroughs that will revolutionise our way of life. The sciences and mathematics are vital fields of knowledge for our prosperity and for our place in the world. Labor recognises this, which is why we are taking evidence based steps to ensure we foster the critical thinking, reasoning and creativity the sciences engender.

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Do you have children aged 0-4?

If you haven’t yet filled in my Child Care Survey, you can follow the hyperlink or complete it below. I want to hear from a wide variety of parents in my electorate of Fraser, including those who care for their own children at home.

Development in Campbell

The Hansard from the parliament’s biannual quizzing of the National Capital Authority became available today. For the benefit of Campbell residents who are interested in Development Application 74, I’ve pasted below the answers to my questions. The full transcript is available here.

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Sky News Lunchtime Agenda 26 June 2012

On Sky Lunchtime Agenda, I spoke with David Lipson and Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos about the need to find a bipartisan solution on asylum-seekers, how emission trading schemes harness the ingenuity of the market, and the proper role of governments in providing industry assistance.

Labor and Consumer Protection

I spoke today about payday lending, reverse mortgages, and Labor’s history of consumer protection.

Consumer Credit and Corporations Legislation Amendment (Enhancements) Bill 2011
26 June 2012

Not all debt is bad. Many of us here have a mortgage. Many of us have taken a loan to buy a car. My own calculations using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey suggest that 60 per cent of Australian adults live in a household that has some debt and that the average is $100,000 of property debt. On average, debt levels rise with household net worth: if a household increases their net worth by $10, they will typically take another dollar of debt. Thanks to home loans, Australians are now able to buy houses at a much younger age than was the case in my grandparents generation. So credit in that sense has made us better off. Business loans also make the corporate sector grow faster; they help productive firms grow more rapidly. Car loans allow young people to take a job that requires four wheels. And although too many Australians probably carry unpaid balances on own credit cards, they are a handy source of finance to carry us through a tight spot.

It is only when sources of credit are made available to people in circumstances contrary to their interests that it becomes a problem. Care Inc., a financial counselling service in the ACT, told me the story of a client of theirs on a disability support pension, supporting her low income by selling the Big Issue magazine. She had sought assistance for a payday loan she had been paying for well over a year, and that was despite the initial loan being for one month. The client was regularly short of money to pay for food and utilities but continued to take out payday loans. Often a new loan would be provided with the outstanding amount being rolled in. That client felt trapped in a cycle of debt and felt great anxiety. Care Inc. told me that her limited understanding of budgeting and dependence on payday loans significantly affected her quality of life. Having an intellectual disability and mental health issues only compounded the issue.

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London Olympics

I moved a private member’s motion in parliament today wishing our Olympians and Paralympians well in London.

2012 London Olympics
25 June 2012

To move—That this House:
(1) notes:
(a) that the 2012 London Olympics will take place from 27 July to 12 August and the Paralympics will take place from 29 August to 9 September, with London becoming the first city to host the modern Olympics on three occasions; and
(b) the diversity of the Australian team, comprising athletes from all parts of Australia;
(2) recognises the dedication and hard work of the extraordinary athletes that make up the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams, and their coaches, friends and family;
(3) acknowledges the unique role played by the Australian Institute of Sport in preparing athletes for the Olympics and Paralympics; and
(4) wishes our athletes well in London.

Fraser is the sportiest electorate in Australia. In any Olympic sport, I would pit my electorate against the electorate of any other person in this place. Of course, it helps to have the Australian Institute of Sport! But it is also true that Canberra has plenty of non-elite athletes. Over 40 per cent of the ACT public plays some form of organised sport. The nation’s capital is also its sporting capital.

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United Nations Public Service Day

I moved a private member’s motion in the House of Representatives today on United Nations Public Service Day.

United Nations Public Service Day
25 June 2012

To move—That this House:
(1) recognises that:
(a) 23 June is the United Nations Public Service Day;
(b) democracy and successful governance are built on the foundation of a competent, career-based public service; and
(c) the day recognises the key values of teamwork, innovation and responsiveness to the public; and
(2) commends the Australian Public Service on continuing to be an international model of best-practice public service and providing outstanding services to the Australian community.

The United Nations General Assembly designated 23 June as United Nations Public Service Day. In the words of the UN, it is a day to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community. Public servants make an enormous contribution to the Australian community, and as a member for a seat based in the ACT I have the privilege of representing, meeting and working with a large number of public servants. Public servants form a significant portion of my community. In my electorate of Fraser we also benefit from a continual influx of people moving here to take up opportunities to serve the Australian public. We see this passion for community translated into a great benefit locally, the ACT having higher than average rates of volunteering and participation in sports and recreation—two indicators in which we top the nation.

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20th Anniversary of the Mabo Judgment

I spoke in parliament today on the 20th anniversary of the Mabo judgment.

20th Anniversary of the Mabo Judgment
25 June 2012

Imagine the moment in 1974 when, talking with his friends, Eddie Koiki Mabo realised his land was owned by the Crown, not by him and his people. Noel Loos and Henry Reynolds recall: ‘Koiki was surprised and shocked’. He had kept saying, ‘No way, it’s not theirs. It’s ours.’ It would turn out to be one of the most significant moments in Australian history. From then to the historic High Court decision of 3 June 1992 Eddie Mabo showed us that a deeper appreciation of Indigenous Australia is the responsibility of all Australians and that the recognition of Indigenous history and culture and the challenges it faces is not an optional part of being Australian but is essential to who we are.

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Odious Debt

I spoke in parliament this morning on a private member’s motion moved by Rob Oakeshott on debt forgiveness for developing nations, and the role of ‘vulture funds’.

Debt and Vulture Funds
25 June 2012

Debt is not the most serious issue that developing countries face, but unsustainable debt burdens can, in certain cases, be a barrier to development. So the HIPC Initiative was launched in 1996 by the IMF and the World Bank, and its aim is to ensure that no poor country faces a debt burden that it cannot manage.

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The Changing Media Landscape

I spoke in parliament today about the changing media landscape, and its impact on those journalists who live in my electorate.

The Changing Media Landscape
21 June 212

I rise to speak about the policy and personal implications of changes in the media. In 1970 there were more daily newspapers sold than televisions in Australia; now for every daily newspaper sold there are four televisions. We used to say of the political coverage in Australia that the media cycle had become a cyclone, but that cyclone now seems to be sweeping across the journalists themselves. My heart goes out to the 1,900 Fairfax journalists whose jobs have been lost in the recent restructure. I am particularly aware of this, representing the north side of the ACT—the ACT being the jurisdiction probably more affected by media losses than anywhere else.

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Sky AM Agenda 21 June 2012

On Sky AM Agenda this morning, I spoke with host David Lipson and Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer. We discussed Gina Rinehart’s refusal to sign the Fairfax Charter of Editorial Independence, the reforms needed to put the Eurozone back on track, why Australia shouldn’t be ashamed of our economic strength, and the fact that Australia will this year join 25 other OECD countries in putting a price on carbon. At one point, Kelly O’Dwyer incorrectly claimed that the Australian carbon price is economy-wide, when in fact it covers around 60% of domestic emissions (you can argue about whether that’s good or bad, but it’s the simple fact).

Frank Walker

I spoke in parliament last night about the late Frank Walker.

Frank Walker
19 June 2012

Frank Walker did more in public life than many of us can ever hope to do. During his time he suffered more than any of us probably ever will. He lost his two sons, Michael and Sean, to suicide. Both died at age 33, and he found both of them. But he contributed an extraordinary amount to our public life. He spent his first years in a Coogee housing commission home. His family moved to New Guinea in 1948 after his father, Jack Walker—a brickworks dragger and a member of the Communist Party of Australia—was black-listed. He was a campaigner for the underdog, and perhaps part of that was formed by those early years in Papua New Guinea, sitting alongside indigenous children in coastal villages.

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Showdown 19 June 2012

Peter van Onselen hosted Kelly O’Dwyer and me on his Showdown program last night. We talked about the excellent performance of the Australian economy under the guidance of the Gillard Government’s economic team, the real spending cuts in the latest budget, and the worldwide move towards carbon pricing.

At one point in the interview, we discuss spending changes in the latest budget. From 2011-12 to 2012-13, spending rose from $373.7B to $376.3B. Kelly O’Dwyer argued that this should be seen as an increase, but when you take inflation into account, it’s actually a 1.8% fall in real government spending. Put another way, government spending as a percentage of GDP fell from 25.3% to 24.3%. In over 20 years in office, the Fraser and Howard Governments never once cut real government spending.

The 1 July Tax Switch

I spoke in parliament last night about the tax switch on 1 July, which will see taxes rise for polluters and fall for many workers. I also mentioned the Leader of the Opposition’s pythonesque scare campaign.

Carbon Pricing
18 June 2012

A few years ago a Prime Minister of Australia said the following:

‘Implementing an emissions trading scheme and setting a long-term goal for reducing emissions will be the most momentous economic decisions Australia will take in the next decade. … This is a great economic challenge for Australia as well as a great environmental challenge. Significantly reducing emissions will mean higher costs for businesses and households, there is no escaping that and anyone who pretends otherwise is not a serious participant in this hugely important public policy debate. It will change the entire cost structure of the economy. We must get this right; if we get this wrong it will do enormous damage to our economy, to jobs and to the economic wellbeing of ordinary Australians, especially low-income households.’

Of course Prime Minister John Howard was just reflecting conventional economic wisdom when he said this in 2007. The first emissions trading scheme blueprints were produced in the 1990s.

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Same-Sex Marriage

I spoke in parliament tonight on same-sex marriage.

Marriage Amendment Bill 2012
18 June 2012

This is the fourth occasion on which I find myself speaking on same-sex marriage. I spoke in favour of same-sex marriage in this place on 13 February of this year, the day before Valentine’s Day; on 24 August last year I reported back to parliament on the views of my constituents; and on 30 July last year I spoke to the ALP ACT national conference on the issue. So I wanted to use the opportunity today to read into Hansard some of the stories of my constituents which I have received over recent months. Daniel Edmonds writes to me:

‘When I was young, I asked my grandmother what her view would be on having a gay grandchild. Her response was steadfast: “I could not support it,” she said. “It would be against God, and against everything I believe in.” Years later, I came out to my family before leaving home to move to university (an economics degree!). My grandmother was unsteady in the knowledge that she now had a gay grandchild, something that was seen as uncommon in North Queensland at the time.

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Alan Saunders

I spoke in Parliament today about the late ABC journalist Alan Saunders, a polymath of the airwaves. My radio listening will be poorer for his passing.

Alan Saunders
18 June 2012

ABC’s Radio National is one of Australia’s great public institutions, and I rise to speak about the late Alan Saunders, who died unexpectedly last Friday. Alan Saunders spent 25 years with Radio National. He moved to Australia in 1981 to pursue research at the Australian National University’s History of Ideas unit, where he received a PhD. He received the Pascall Prize for critical writing and broadcasting in 1992. He contributed to programs about food, design and philosophy. As Amanda Armstrong put it:

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Putting Facts Before Fear in Economic Debates

I moved a private member’s motion in the House of Representatives today on the strength of the Australian economy, and the need to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear (avoiding phobophobia).

A Strong Australian Economy
18 June 2012

I move: That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) by historical standards, unemployment, inflation and interest rates are at very low levels;
(b) for the first time in Australian history, Australia has a AAA rating from all three major credit rating agencies;
(c) Australia’s debt levels, despite the hit to revenues from the global financial crisis, are around one tenth the level of major advanced economies;
(d) OECD Economic Outlook 91 confirms that the Australian economy will significantly outperform OECD economies as a whole over this year and next; and
(e) the IMF has said of Australia: ‘we welcome the authorities’ commitment to return to a budget surplus by 2012-13 to rebuild fiscal buffers, putting Commonwealth government finances in a stronger position’; and
(2) calls upon all Members to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear, and to put the national interest first when discussing the strong Australian economy.

Economic reform in Australia has never been easy. In the postwar decades, the conservatives built up a tariff wall that helped make Australian industry uncompetitive and kept consumer prices high. In 1973, Gough Whitlam began the long process of breaking down Australia’s tariff walls—the 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cuts.

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Aircraft Noise

I spoke today about the issue of aircraft noise, responding to a private member’s motion moved by Judi Moylan.

Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011
18 June 2012

I rise to speak on the Air Services (Aircraft Noise) Amendment Bill 2011 to highlight a range of government initiatives significantly improving aircraft noise management around Australia’s airports. I do so as a member with the Canberra airport in my electorate. In rising, I acknowledge the hard work being done by the Canberra airport to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on the surrounding suburbs. As a father of two little boys who enjoy looking up in the sky and seeing aeroplanes flying overhead, I am aware that my views on aircraft are probably different from those of many of my constituents who, while aircraft noise is not as severe in Canberra as in other cities, do note the impact of aircraft. I am in ongoing conversations with Canberra airport to make sure the impact of aircraft noise on Canberrans is minimised.

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Checking out the NBN Truck @ Magnet Mart Gungahlin