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Archive for August 2012

Education survey

I’ve appreciated hearing from hundreds of Canberrans about your views on childcare and migration. Since education is a passion of mine, I’m now running a survey on schooling. It should take about 3 minutes if you don’t have schoolchildren, or 5 minutes if you do. I look forward to hearing your views. For those on a mobile device, you can find the survey here

Sky AM Agenda 30 August

Ashleigh Gillon hosted Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer and me on the AM Agenda program this morning. We discussed the dreadful news of recent asylum seeker deaths at sea and how to prevent further drownings, as well as Labor’s important new policy in providing Government-subsidised dental assistance for low-income, rural and remote Australians.

A Life in Public Service

Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave a wonderful speech last night to the Community and Public Sector Union National Leaders’ Conference. I thought it was a lovely statement of the important role of unions and also the work done by public servants to assist the Australian community. As an Australian Labor Party politician from the ACT, these are two areas that are important to me and I thought I’d share the Prime Minister’s words here.

28 AUGUST 2011

Yours is the model of a modern labour union.

Committed to the oldest union principles.

Sharing, sticking together, the strong in the workplace protecting the weak.
Continue reading ‘A Life in Public Service’ »

Egalitarianism & Liberalism

In the Global Mail today, I have an article that expands on the argument kicked off in my first speech: that Labor is the natural party of both egalitarianism and liberalism. I’m an economist, not an historian, so thanks to a raft of people, including Dennis Glover, Emily Murray, Tim Soutphommasane, Macgregor Duncan, Louise Crossman, Troy Bramston, Dennis Altman, Damien Hickman, Nick Terrell, John Hirst, Nick Dyrenfurth, Judith Brett, David Lowe, Michael Jones, Barbara Leigh and Michael Leigh for valuable comments on earlier drafts. Note that several of these people strongly disagreed with my conclusions, so responsibility for errors of fact and argument are mine alone.

And yes, I haven’t missed the irony of praising the Global Mail for not raising the opinion/news ratio, and then writing a essay for them. In my defence, editor Lauren Martin does an excellent line in arm-twisting.

(Comments on the Global Mail website, please.)

Labor’s Best Strategy: Become A Party For True Liberals

By Andrew Leigh

The Global Mail, August 27, 2012

In December 2007, there were 445 Labor representatives in lower houses across federal, state and territory parliaments. Before the August 23 NT election, there were 305. In less than five years, 140 Labor parliamentarians — one in three — have lost office.

At the same time, Labor is shedding members. In the 1950s, more than one in 100 adults were ALP members — now it is less than one in 300. The trend is common to other Australian political parties, and to political parties around the globe. Across the developed world, mass parties are under threat.

Continue reading ‘Egalitarianism & Liberalism’ »

Labor’s Best Strategy: Become A Party For True Liberals

In the Global Mail, I argue that Labor should combine both egalitarianism and social liberalism.

Labor’s Best Strategy: Become A Party For True Liberals
The Global Mail
, August 27, 2012

The Liberal Party under John Howard and Tony Abbott has abandoned the mantle of social liberalism — and Labor should grasp it with both hands.

In December 2007, there were 445 Labor representatives in lower houses across federal, state and territory parliaments. Before the August 23 NT election, there were 305. In less than five years, 140 Labor parliamentarians — one in three — have lost office.

At the same time, Labor is shedding members. In the 1950s, more than one in 100 adults were ALP members — now it is less than one in 300. The trend is common to other Australian political parties, and to political parties around the globe. Across the developed world, mass parties are under threat.

Liberalism, Deakin said, meant a government that acted in the interests of the majority, with particular regard to the poorest in the community.

Continue reading ‘Labor’s Best Strategy: Become A Party For True Liberals’ »

Privacy Reform & Identity Theft

I spoke in parliament about privacy reforms, and their tie-in with Labor’s tradition of consumer protection.

Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill, 23 August 2012

Personal information is becoming more sensitive and valuable in the expanding online world. Protecting the privacy of personal information is a real concern for consumers and business. On one estimate, identity theft and fraud affects half a million Australians every year. In 2007, my friend Joshua Gans wrote in his blog about his own experience of identity theft. He wrote that somebody had obtained his details using his birthdate, which was available on his CV. They then obtained a Medicare card and began to open bank accounts in his name. He discovered later that he was among the victims of a large scamming operation which has since been shut down by the authorities. He was pretty shocked by the experience. Joshua’s experience shows the importance of privacy protection and why we need strong legislative protection of personal information.

Continue reading ‘Privacy Reform & Identity Theft’ »

Electoral Reform

I spoke in parliament this week about electoral reform.

Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill, 22 August 2012

When I last spoke in the parliament supporting electoral reform, I noted my genuine delight in welcoming new Fraser residents onto the electoral roll. I spoke of how each month it is my pleasure to send enrolment forms and letters to potential and newly enrolled electors. But if we are to ensure we increase democratic participation we must also make it easier to vote. For the Labor Party, franchise and participation have always been important. Having as many votes as possible count in the next federal election matters to me and that is why this bill is important.

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MySuper & Behavioural Economics

I spoke in parliament this week about the MySuper reforms, using the insights of behavioural economics to make defaults better.

Superannuation Legislation Amendment (MySuper Core Provisions) Bill, 22 August 2012

Retiring with dignity after a lifetime’s effort and contribution should not be a luxury for a few. Thanks to successive Labor governments and their vision for the future to introduce, enhance and defend the Superannuation Guarantee for all Australian workers, retiring with dignity is a right for Australians. Addressing the Australian Graduate School of Management in 1991, Paul Keating said of the Superannuation Guarantee:

‘It will make Australia a more equal place, a more egalitarian place and hence a more cohesive and happier place.’

Prime Minister Keating said it was the safety net most Australians would need when they retire.

Continue reading ‘MySuper & Behavioural Economics’ »

Local NDIS Forum with Jan McLucas and Gai Brodtmann

Today, Gai Brodtmann and I held an NDIS forum at the Griffin Centre with Parliamentary Secretary Jan McLucas. Jan had three ‘asks’ of attendees: sign up at, join the conversation at, and talk with your friends about the NDIS.

Pollie Panel with Gary Humphries

On ABC 666 Pollie Panel, I spoke with presenter Ross Solly and Liberal Senator Gary Humphries about muckraking in politics and the half-billion of planned investment in the resource sector. Podcast here.

Increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake

I recently did a survey on increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake. The response was overwhelmingly in favour of Australia lifting the number of refugees we take, with 82% supporting an increase.

For responses from my electorate of Fraser (taken from postcodes supplied), this was even more encouraging with 86% in favour.
Continue reading ‘Increasing Australia’s humanitarian intake’ »

Forum to discuss a National Disability Insurance Scheme

My colleague, Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann, and I are hosting Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disability and Carers, tomorrow afternoon to talk about a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The forum is at the Griffin Centre in Canberra City between 2pm and 4pm. Tea and coffee will be provided.

The forum is open to the general public, so if you wanted to find out more about what a National Disability Insurance Scheme might look like, I encourage you to come along.

Please RSVP to me by 12 noon tomorrow on Andrew.Leigh.MP {at}

Indigenous Jobs in the Public Service

I spoke today about Indigenous jobs in the public service.

Indigenous Public Service Jobs, 22 August 2012

As a member representing an electorate with a large number of public servants, I rise to speak about the employment of Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service. The government has set a target to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment in the APS from 2.2 per cent in 2010 to 2.7 per cent by 2015. We are working through COAG to make sure similar goals are met in the states and territories. Disturbingly, the State of the Service Report 2010-11 noted a decrease in Indigenous employees from 3,383 to 3,236 in that financial year—a four per cent drop. That was the first fall in the number of Indigenous public servants since 2008.

Continue reading ‘Indigenous Jobs in the Public Service’ »

Homeless Connect Day

I spoke in parliament today about Homeless Connect Day.

Homeless Connect Day, 9 August 2012

On 9 August it was my pleasure to attend Homeless Connect Day at Pilgrim House on Northbourne Avenue. Homeless Connect Day is a one-day event for homeless people, or those at risk of homelessness, to access services, support and essentials. On the day there was a range of services available to people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness: free food, clothing, haircuts, massage, personal care packs, health advice and even entertainment. I was grateful to see the folks from Canberra FM there as well, drawing public attention to one of the real challenges that Australia faces.

Continue reading ‘Homeless Connect Day’ »

More talk of Canberra job cuts from the Coalition

It was disappointing yet unsurprising to see the Liberals talking about job cuts in Canberra again today. My Federal Labor colleagues and I put out the below media statement about this.

22 August 2012

Gai Brodtmann MP
Federal Member for Canberra

Andrew Leigh MP
Federal Member for Fraser

Senator Kate Lundy
Senator for the Australian Capital Territory


In an article in today’s Australian Financial Review, Shadow Finance Minister Andrew Robb revealed Coalition plans to “outsource” key programs to state bureaucracies.

The Coalition announced 12,000 local job cuts at the last election. Since then, we’ve seen that number rise to 20,000 job cuts.
Continue reading ‘More talk of Canberra job cuts from the Coalition’ »

Talking with Alan Jones about Peter Norman

Peter Norman

Sometimes you get to do something in parliament that puts a lump in your throat. Seeing the smile on the face of 91 year-old Thelma Norman after parliament debated my motion about her late son was one of those moments. The other speakers were Melissa Parke, John Alexander, Graham Perrett, Dan Tehan, Rob Oakeshott and Steve Irons. All spoke poignantly about different aspects of Peter Norman’s extraordinary life (click on their names to read their speeches). Here’s mine.

Peter Norman, 20 August 2012

Iconic images emerge from every Olympic Games.

‘Golden girl’ Betty Cuthbert taking home three gold medals in Melbourne.

Kieren Perkins’ stunning performance from lane 8 in Atlanta.

Cathy Freeman carrying Australian and Aboriginal flags after winning the 400m in Sydney.

But perhaps the most powerful image of the modern Olympics is this one.

Life magazine and Le Monde have declared it one of the most influential images of the 20th century.

An image of three brave athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Games making a statement on racial equality.

One of them was Australia’s Peter Norman.

Continue reading ‘Peter Norman’ »

ABC News Breakfast – Peter Norman

On ABC News Breakfast, I spoke about the motion I’m moving tonight apologising to the late Olympian Peter Norman. The video is below.

Big Bang Ballers

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the ‘Big Bang Ballers’ program, working with disadvantaged youth in Australia and overseas.

Big Bang Ballers, 16 August 2012

Last Saturday night it was my pleasure to attend the Gunners versus Bandits game at the ACT Basketball Centre, part of the South East Australian Basketball League competition. I was invited there as a guest of Tony Jackson, the CEO of Basketball ACT, because it was a special evening with all proceeds going to the Big Bang Ballers campaign to use basketball to fight youth poverty and social disadvantage around the world. In Afghanistan the Big Bang Ballers are currently providing basketball courts to young Afghani girls who until recently could not even consider sport, let alone play it.

Continue reading ‘Big Bang Ballers’ »

Sky AM Agenda 16 August

Keiran Gilbert hosted Josh Frydenberg and me on the Sky AM Agenda program this morning. We discussed the Gillard Government’s approach to asylum seekers and preventing further tragic drownings.

Robert Hughes

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the late Robert Hughes. Others had refelcted on his life more broadly, so I focused particularly on his contribution to art criticism. (Delayed by another event, I nearly didn’t make it into the chamber on time, since I was running with American Visions in one hand.)

Robert Hughes, 15 August 2012

Robert Hughes’s life is a difficult one to sum up: 74 years, 15 books, multiple TV series, three wives. The member for Wentworth yesterday in the chamber spoke on Robert Hughes’s passing with wonderful eloquence, as he so often does. I suggested to him afterwards we should create a post of parliamentary eulogist and make it his in permanence.

So many aspects of Robert Hughes’s life could attract mention today: The Fatal Shore, inspired by EP Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, or his tome on Barcelona, which was an extraordinary piece of work. But I want to focus today on his role as an art critic—I think the leading art critic of a generation—because it was in that capacity that he so much inspired me. It has been noted that Robert Hughes became an art critic by accident. In 1958 he was working as a cartoonist in Sydney for the fortnightly magazine the Observer, then edited by Donald Horne. He recounted that Horne had sacked the magazine’s art critic and snapped at Hughes, ‘You’re the cartoonist—you ought to know something about art.’ And so a career began.

Continue reading ‘Robert Hughes’ »

Putting Facts Before Fear in Economic Debates

I was astounded today when the opposition voted against my motion recognising the strong Australian economy and requesting we put facts before fear in economic debates.

My media release on it is as follows:

Dr Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser


16 August 2012

Tony Abbott opposed to using facts in economic debates

The House of Representatives today passed a Private Member’s Motion moved by Member for Fraser, Dr Andrew Leigh. The Private Member’s Motion recognised the strength of the Australian economy and called upon all Members to approach economic debates with facts rather than fear.

Tony Abbott and the opposition voted against the motion.
Continue reading ‘Putting Facts Before Fear in Economic Debates’ »

Apology to Peter Norman

Next Monday, parliament will be debating my motion to apologise to the late Peter Norman, whose courageous stance for racial equality got him blocked from competing in subsequent Olympics. Here’s the motion:

DR LEIGH: To move—That this House:

(1) recognises the extraordinary athletic achievements of the late Peter Norman, who won the silver medal in the 200 metres sprint running event at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in a time of 20.06 seconds, which still stands as the Australian record;

(2) acknowledges the bravery of Peter Norman in donning an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium, in solidarity with African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who gave the ‘black power’ salute;

(3) apologises to Peter Norman for the wrong done by Australia in failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics, despite repeatedly qualifying; and

(4) belatedly recognises the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.

Supporting Consumers

I spoke in parliament yesterday about supermarket competition, the importance of standing on the side of consumers, and why I’m proud to be a practitioner of the ‘dismal science’.

Matter of Public Importance, 15 August 2012

I rise to speak on this matter of public importance relating to supermarket competition, with a particular focus on the importance of maintaining lower prices for consumers. Much of Australia’s economic history in the post-war decades is characterised by a somewhat unholy alliance across the major parties to protect producer interests at the expense of consumer interests. So much of the ‘protection all-round’ that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s meant that Australians paid high prices and that there was less foreign investment. We were less exposed to trade. Our firms were less competitive and our consumers suffered for that. One of the great achievements of the last generation of economic policy makers, thanks to people on both sides of the House, is that we have put the consumer first.

Continue reading ‘Supporting Consumers’ »

Labor Futures

A couple of interesting pieces in the press recently on Labor futures:

Boosting Innovation

I spoke in parliament yesterday about a valuable roundtable on boosting innovation.

Innovation Roundtable, 14 August 2012

This morning it was my pleasure to attend a roundtable discussion at Government House on the topic ‘A National Conversation on Capturing the Benefits of Basic Research in Australia’. The event was organised by recent Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt and moderated by Ken Henry. It operated under the Chatham House Rule so I will not list all 26 participants, but they included heads of research bodies, senior government officials, business leaders and the Governor-General herself. The very thoughtful Senator Arthur Sinodinos represented the coalition.

Continue reading ‘Boosting Innovation’ »

Academic Articles

The long tail of academic publishing means that two years after leaving my professorial post at ANU, I’m still having pieces appear in the journals. In case it’s of interest, here are the handful of publications that have come out in 2012.

  1. ‘Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence From a Field Experiment’ (with Alison Booth and Elena Varganova) (2012) Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics
  2. ‘Bargaining Over Labor: Do Patients Have Any Power?’ (with Joshua Gans) (2012) Economic Record
  3. How Much Did the 2009 Australian Fiscal Stimulus Boost Demand? Evidence from Household-Reported Spending Effects‘, B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics
  4. ‘How Partisan is the Press? Multiple Measures of Media Slant’ (with Joshua Gans) (2012) Economic Record
  5. ‘Teacher Pay and Teacher Aptitude’ (2012) Economics of Education Review
  6. ‘The Economics and Politics of Teacher Merit Pay’ (2012), CESifo Economic Studies (forthcoming)
  7. Intergenerational Income Mobility in Urban China’ (with Cathy Gong and Xin Meng) (2012) Review of Income and Wealth (forthcoming)
  8. Effects of Temporary In-Work Benefits for Welfare Recipients: Examination of the Australian Working Credit Programme’ (with Roger Wilkins) (2012), Fiscal Studies (forthcoming)

All my academic work – including many replication datasets – is available at

Politics, media & social media at the CIS

I talked politics and social media with Thomas Tudehope at the Centre for Independent Studies last week. The video is now up if you want to check it out.

Migration & Mining

I have an opinion piece in today’s National Times on immigration and the mining boom: two of the intersecting challenges that Australia is going to be wrestling with over coming decades.

Boom times need not be a bust, National Times, 9 August 2012

Australia’s resource boom is such a colossal shock that it can be hard to get your head around its many impacts. Try these facts, for example. In Moranbah (Qld), the average house price over the past year has risen from $459,000 to $730,000. Hundreds of Australians now work as fly-in, fly-out workers, including some who have chosen to commute from Bali. The cost of developing the Gorgon gas project will be $43 billion – about the GDP of Lebanon. Historically, Western Australia has had a similar level of inequality to other states. Now, it’s the most unequal jurisdiction in the nation.

With some of my Labor colleagues, I’ve been spending time recently working to better understand the diverse impacts of the mining boom, and thinking about how best to spread the benefits across society. We’ve spoken with mining firms and construction companies, unions and social welfare groups, discussing both the upsides and the challenges.

Continue reading ‘Migration & Mining’ »

Better Together

My Chronicle column this month is on volunteering, telling the tale of a Canberran who got active in her local community.

Volunteering can have a snowball effect, The Chronicle, August 2012

One of my passions in public life is revitalising Australia’s civic culture. Over the past generation, Australians have become more disconnected from one another. We’re less likely to be active members of a community group, and less likely to play an organised sport. Churches, unions and political parties are losing members. Surveys show that we have fewer close friends, and are less likely to know our neighbours.

That’s why it’s great to see individuals and organisations that are bucking the trend, and becoming more engaged. Recently, 27 year-old Julianne Livingston told me the story of how she had become more connected. Growing up in a relatively introverted household, Julianne wasn’t particularly civic-minded as a teenager, but she told me that in her mid-twenties, she had ‘began to long for a stronger sense of genuine connectedness and trust within my community’.

Continue reading ‘Better Together’ »