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Archive for September 2012

Sky AM Agenda – 27 September 2012

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host David Lipson and Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer. We discussed budget measures (including Labor’s focus on efficiencies over the Coalition’s job cuts), the resurgence of closed-economy thinking in the Coalition, and Labor’s important achievements over the past five years.

Who Cares About Inequality?

In today’s AFR, I have a column on why inequality matters.

Take the test, which society do you prefer? Australian Financial Review, 26 September 2012

To see whether you care about inequality, take this simple test. Suppose you had an equal chance of being born into any of the five wealth quintiles in Australia. Would you prefer to be born into a society where the share of wealth held by each of the quintiles was 1%, 6%, 12%, 20% and 62%? Or a society where the shares were 15%, 17%, 20% 24% and 24%?

Actually, I’m cheating, because I already know the answer. The first set of numbers is the actual distribution of wealth in Australia: 1% for the poor and 62% for the rich. But when surveyed about their ideal distribution of wealth, respondents almost universally want a more egalitarian distribution. Indeed, the figures I’ve shown are the wealth distribution preferences of the most affluent, who thought that the poor should have 15% of wealth, and the rich 24%.

Continue reading ‘Who Cares About Inequality?’ »

Welcoming Zachary Keith Leigh

I’ve had some queries over the last day about why I didn’t vote on gay marriage yesterday afternoon.

I was absent from Parliament because my wife gave birth to our third son yesterday afternoon. To avoid any confusion on this issue, I put out the below statement this morning. Gweneth and I, as well as Zachary’s two elder brothers, are all very excited about the new addition to our family.


Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser

20 September 2012


Andrew and Gweneth Leigh’s third son, Zachary Keith Leigh, was born on the afternoon of 19 September.

Andrew is on parental leave from Parliament on 19-20 September.

Pairing arrangements did not apply to the conscience vote on same-sex marriage. Andrew has spoken in support of same-sex marriage on multiple occasions, and would have voted in favour of yesterday’s motion.

A One-Stop Charities Regulator

I spoke in parliament tonight about the proposed Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill, 17 September 2012

It is my pleasure to speak on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012. Strengthening Australian community life is a great passion of mine but it is an area which, in recent decades, we have sadly seen go backwards. I am going to do a little auto-citation, for which I apologise. In a book called Disconnected that I wrote a couple of years ago, I said that pretty much whichever way you cut it Australians are less involved in formal organisations than they were a generation ago. If you ask individuals whether they are active members of an organisation, you find that in 1967 33 per cent said yes but by 2004 just 18 per cent said yes.

Continue reading ‘A One-Stop Charities Regulator’ »

Mitochondrial Disease & Advance Market Commitments

I spoke in parliament today about Mitochondrial disease, and the potential of advance market commitments to encourage research on new vaccines.

Mitochondrial Disease, 17 September 2012

I join the member for Flinders in strongly supporting the member for Cook staying in bed; I think there is bipartisan consensus on that point! More seriously, I commend the member for Cook for bringing this motion before the House. Too often, discussions about health care operate at the very high level—the millions of dollars that are spent, the institutions, the hospitals, the doctors, the researchers—and sometimes there is value in a particular motion that focuses on a single disease, highlights the plight of sufferers and allows us in this place to focus briefly on their stories and what we can do to alleviate their suffering.

I must confess that, of all the diseases that scare me, a fatigue related disease is perhaps my greatest fear. In common with many in this place, I quite enjoy doing too many things, so the description of mitochondrial disease as feeling like you are hitting the wall strikes me very much. That is why Stay in Bed Day, on Sunday, 23 September, is an appropriate way to recognise sufferers of mitochondrial disease.

Continue reading ‘Mitochondrial Disease & Advance Market Commitments’ »

Doorstop 17 September

I did a doorstop interview this morning covering a range of current events leading into another Parliamentary sitting week. Among other things, I pointed out that the weekend violence does not represent the mainstream of peaceful Muslims in Australia, and argued that horserace polls are the fairy floss of modern politics – they’re rotting the teeth of the body politic.

Construction contract awarded for Majura Parkway

Yesterday, Anthony Albanese, Katy Gallagher and I announced that Fulton Hogan won the contract to build the Majura Parkway. It’s the largest road investment in the Australian Capital Territory and I am delighted the Gillard Government invested $144 million to match the ACT Government contribution in recognition of the necessity of the Parkway for families and businesses. It’s something I’d been pushing for since before I entered Parliament.

You can even view three digital flyovers of the road on the Territory and Municipal Services YouTube channel.

The media release is below.

Anthony Albanese
Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport

Katy Gallagher
Chief Minister
Minister for Territory and Municipal Services

Andrew Leigh MP
Member for Fraser


With the awarding today of the construction contract to Fulton Hogan, work on the $288 million Majura Parkway project will soon commence. Tenders for the construction of Majura Parkway were called on 26 May 2012 and closed 31 July 2012.

“I’m pleased to announce Fulton Hogan as the successful company to undertake the construction of the Majura Parkway,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, said today. “This signifies the next step in this critical road infrastructure project which will deliver 11.5 kilometres of dual carriageway connecting the Federal Highway through to the Monaro Highway.

Continue reading ‘Construction contract awarded for Majura Parkway’ »

Government Borrowing

I spoke yesterday on a Matter of Public Importance debate, on the topic of Australian government debt (and drawing upon the new Fairfax database of members’ interests).

MPI on Debt, 13 September 2012

If you want to know what the member for North Sydney thinks about debt, don’t listen to what he says in this House. You know what those opposite say in this House is not to be taken as gospel truth. Listen to what he said on 17 April, when he travelled to London to give a speech and talked about the debt that Hong Kong held. He said that the debt that Hong Kong held was ‘moderate’. How much debt does Hong Kong hold? It holds debt that is 34 per cent of GDP in gross terms. That is about twice Australia’s gross debt, which will peak at 18 per cent. So the only reasonable way the member for North Sydney could characterise Australia’s debt would be ‘low’. Australia’s net debt will peak at 9.6 per cent. So, if you want to find what those opposite really think about the economy, look at what they say when they go to London. When the member for North Sydney went to London, he noted that Hong Kong’s debt was moderate; therefore, ours would be low. When the Leader of the Opposition went to London last year, he said:

Continue reading ‘Government Borrowing’ »

Richard Kingsland

I spoke in parliament today about the late war hero and public servant, Sir Richard Kingsland.

Sir Richard Kingsland, 13 September 2012

Sir Richard Kingsland passed away at Calvary John James Hospital after a short illness on Monday, the 27th. Like many of my constituents, his was a life of public service. His wartime service was marked by the bravery and ingenuity he displayed in the 1940 retrieval of Field Marshal Viscount Gort VC from a Moroccan hotel. It is a tale of derring-do that befits 007, perhaps with a hint of the Pink Panther.

Continue reading ‘Richard Kingsland’ »

Super Trawler

I spoke in parliament today on a government bill to restrict the impact of the super-trawler FV Abel Tasman (formerly the MV Margiris, among its previous five names).

Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Declared Fishing Activities) Bill, 13 September 2012

Balancing the economics of fishing is no easy task. Quentin Grafton, one of Australia’s leading economists of fisheries has argued that the massive expansion in fishing over the past 50 years has brought the industry to what seems like a paradox, where an immediate reduction in world-wide catch would actually increase future profits of the industry—he estimates it maybe by as much as much as $50 billion a year. There has been overfishing throughout the world and that has led to stock declines so severe that about 15 per cent of all exploited capture fisheries have collapsed or are at less than 10 per cent of their unexploited levels.

Continue reading ‘Super Trawler’ »

Sky News AM Agenda 13 September

On Sky AM Agenda this morning, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer about the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya, why profits-based taxes are more efficient than mining royalties, and what the savage cuts in Liberal-run states tell us about Tony Abbott’s secret plans.

Early Childhood Education & Big Steps Campaign

I spoke in parliament today about the importance of early childhood education and the United Voice Big Steps campaign.

Early Childhood Education and the Big Steps Campaign, 13 September 2012

As a parent of two young boys, I am a heavy user of early childhood centres. I remember with great fondness taking my then one-year-old to daycare on the back of a bike. These days I tend to drop them off in the car but it is always a pleasure to see their great enthusiasm when arriving at the Acton Early Childhood Centre. It is a place where they not only have friends but are also learning. One of the great changes over the last couple of decades has been the broad recognition that early childhood is not babysitting; it is education. And high-quality childhood education is fundamental to the future of those individual children and collectively to the productivity and the social wellbeing of our society. I pay tribute to the hard working staff at the Acton Early Childhood Centre.

Continue reading ‘Early Childhood Education & Big Steps Campaign’ »

Celebrity Suburbs – Updated

With last week’s launch of the 2013 Centenary of Canberra program, I’m particularly keen on the local angle. Portrait of a Nation, of which I’m a patron, will encourage Canberrans to use 2012-13 to learn more about the people after whom their streets and suburbs are named.

Of course, no history is complete without a counterfactual history, and that’s where celebtrity suburb names come in. This is the game where you see who can come up with the silliest suggestions of celebrities after whom your suburb could have been named.

Earlier this year, I posted a list of suggestions from Maryann Mussared, and then called Twitter for more. Here are some of those that came back:

  • @ArabellaSL – Pearce must be named after Guy Pearce & Russell after Russell Crowe
  • Nicholas Ellis ‏ – Weetangera after hip-hop band The Wu-Tang Clan
  • Karen Hardy ‏ – real housewives of the OC – o’connor.
  • Policy Australia ‏ – Had Bruce Hawker double dipped?*
  • Karin – Lyneham after Paul Lyneham (the late ABC journalist)
  • @TinyTheCabbie – Theodore after the chipmunk
  • David Mathews – Hughes after Merv Hughes

* This suggests another game. Who are the celebrities named after two suburbs? The only other I can think of is ANU economist Bruce Chapman.

Update: They keep coming.

  • @MarciaKKeegan – Harrison Forde
  • Ian Warden alerts me to this 2011 Canberra Times article, featuring adult film actress Paige Turner, Test cricketer Phillip Hughes, ABC journalist Russell Barton and retired English soccer goalkeeper Gordon Banks.

Talking about the National Disability Insurance Scheme

I spoke in parliament this morning about the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

NDIS, 12 September 2012

On 24 August it was my pleasure to join with parliamentary secretary Jan McLucas and member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, at the Griffin Centre in Canberra to hold a forum on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is the second forum in my electorate on the NDIS that I have helped organise. A previous forum in Belconnen was well attended by a range of carers, people with disabilities and people of goodwill who are committed to building a national disability insurance scheme. I also met in my electorate office with a range of people with disabilities and their carers to discuss what an NDIS will mean for them.

Continue reading ‘Talking about the National Disability Insurance Scheme’ »

Talking child care on Ten News

I spoke on Ten News yesterday about my Child Care Survey results and the Gillard Government’s work to improve the quality and affordability of child care.

Why Don’t Some Countries Sign the Refugee Convention?

I spoke in parliament last night about one of the central questions in the refugee debate – why have many countries in our region chosen not to sign the refugee convention?

Dealing with Non-Signatories to the Refugee Convention, 11 September 2012

In recent months much of the debate in Australia over refugees has centred around whether countries with which we deal have signed the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol. For the coalition I think this is largely just another excuse to say no. Let us face it, refugee policy in the Howard years was hardly characterised by a great deference to international law. But there are many people of goodwill who I meet at my community forums and mobile offices who ask me, quite reasonably, why the government wants to deal with a non-signatory country. I wish to use the chance this evening to answer that question.

Broadly, there are three sets of countries. There are rich countries that are able to enforce their border protection—for example, OECD nations are almost entirely signatories. Then there are poor countries to which many refugees would not wish to go. Somalia is one country that comes to mind. Again, they are happy to sign the convention. Then there is a third group of countries—those poorer countries situated close to refugee sending nations. In many cases these countries are not signatories. As a branch member in the ACT, Barbara Phi, has pointed out to me, countries like India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia are non-signatories, and they are non-signatories for various reasons. Chief among those reasons is that they do not wish to attract refugees from neighbouring countries.

Continue reading ‘Why Don’t Some Countries Sign the Refugee Convention?’ »

Design in the National Capital

I spoke in parliament this evening about a bill to give the National Portrait Gallery its own piece of legislation.

National Portrait Gallery of Australia Bill, 11 September 2012

It is my pleasure to follow the member for Hinkler and to agree with so much of what he had to say in his very articulate speech. There is much that divides us in this place, but I think it is often the arts which can bring us together. I particularly appreciated the member for Hinkler’s comments about the great wisdom and prescience of the Whitlam government.

The National Portrait Gallery was something I remember first thinking about when I lived as a whippersnapper in London for a number of years. I was there on my own and loved the opportunity to visit the British National Portrait Gallery. It has that great combination of art and history you get in a portrait gallery. Wandering amidst the portraits there, I remember thinking to myself, ‘It would be great if Australia had one of these.’ As previous speakers have noted, Tom Roberts had had that idea in the early 1900s, but it was not until much later, 1999, that Australia got its National Portrait Gallery.

Continue reading ‘Design in the National Capital’ »

The Coalition’s Costings Crater

I spoke in parliament last night on an amendment calling on the Coalition to submit their costings to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office.

Coalition Costings and the Parliamentary Budget Office, 10 September 2012

The motion which we are debating this evening is moved by the member for Mayo, who is one of the self-appointed group of modest members. The term ‘modest members’ is not only a current misnomer but also a historical reference to the great Bert Kelly. In thinking about speaking to the member for Mayo’s motion I thought perhaps I would go to my bookshelves and pull down Economics Made Easy by Bert Kelly. As I listened to the member for North Sydney, I was struck by the words in Rod Carnegie’s introduction. He says, ‘When confrontation and mutual name calling are stock forms of debate it does us all a service to learn and relearn that shouting loud and long need not be as effective as gentle persuasion.’

We have just had 10 minutes of long, loud shouting from the member for North Sydney. It is not quite clear what the member for North Sydney is saying about the coalition’s position on preferencing the Greens in the electorate of Melbourne. The historical record shows that the decision by the Liberal Party to preference the Greens Party in Melbourne saw the first election at a general election of the current member for Melbourne. In his speech, the member for North Sydney said, ‘We don’t back frauds,’ and, ‘You’ll suffer,’ but it is not clear whether they are words which ought to be taken as gospel truth and carefully scripted remarks or whether they are merely off-the-cuff rhetoric to be thrown around in a debate and have no matter when it comes to the Liberal Party’s decision on preferencing at the next election.

Continue reading ‘The Coalition’s Costings Crater’ »

Private Robert Poate

I spoke in parliament yesterday about Private Robert Poate, a young Canberra man killed in Afghanistan.

Private Robert Poate, 10 September 2012

Among the fallen that we remember today is Canberra-born Private Robert Poate. This young, promising and highly qualified soldier’s life was cut short by a rogue Afghan solider in Oruzgan province last month. He was on his first tour of duty. Today we offer our deepest condolences to Private Poate’s colleagues, friends and, most of all, his family: Hugh, Janny and Nicola. As a soldier, a mate, a brother and a son, this tragic loss has been keenly felt by Canberra’s close-knit community.

Continue reading ‘Private Robert Poate’ »

Republicanism, Optimism and Demography

I opened the new national office of the Australian Republican Movement last night.

Opening the National Office of the Australian Republican Movement
10 September 2012

[Acknowledgements omitted.]

There is no more appropriate place for the ACT National Office than in Canberra, the one jurisdiction in Australia that voted for a Republic in 1999.

Of course, Canberra also voted for Waltzing Matilda as our national song.

So if the rest of Australia was like Canberra, we’d be a Republic with a national song about a sheep rustler.

Continue reading ‘Republicanism, Optimism and Demography’ »

Child Care Survey – Results

I recently surveyed the Fraser electorate on their experiences with local child care.

The headline results? Most people are happy with their child’s care, many still collect the Child Care Rebate either quarterly or annually despite fortnightly now being an option and it’s about a 50/50 split as to whether parents are prepared to pay higher fees for reduced staff turnover and higher salaries.

Continue reading ‘Child Care Survey – Results’ »

Talking Economics with Jan Libich

Last Wednesday, I spoke with La Trobe University economist Jan Libich about some of my academic findings – from teacher pay & aptitude to child gender & divorce – and possible policy implications. If you want to read more, the research is available at my academic website:

And if you’d like to watch Jan’s other interviews (including with Eric Leeper and Don Brash), they’re available on his YouTube channel.


Dr Jan Libich: Welcome to La Trobe University in Melbourne. My name is Jan Libich and I’m privileged to have Dr Andrew Leigh here. Welcome Andrew. Thanks for joining us.

Dr Andrew Leigh: It’s a pleasure.

Continue reading ‘Talking Economics with Jan Libich’ »

Government as Risk Manager

In the latest Quarterly Essay, I’ve penned a response to Laura Tingle’s discussion of the role of government, social spending, and whether Australians are congenitally cross.

Response to Laura Tingle’s Quarterly Essay ‘Great Expectations’
Published in Quarterly Essay #47 (2012)

In 2002, David Moss described the role of government as being the ultimate “risk manager.”[1] Governments, Moss believed, ought to act as a backstop for things that might go wrong in our lives. Just as we buy private insurance to pool our risk with other customers, so governments allow us to pool social risk across other citizens. You can think of your taxes partly as an insurance premium.

The notion of government as risk manager doesn’t cover the full gamut of what governments do, but it does encapsulate many of their important roles. For example, governments help guard against overseas threats and keep our streets safe. Managing risk explains why we have a social safety net to guard against the risk of poverty, a public health care system to deal with the risk of illness, and a public education system to remove the risk that a poor family might not be able to afford to educate their child.

Continue reading ‘Government as Risk Manager’ »

Local schools go solar

I wrote to all of my local schools in the Fraser electorate in May this year encouraging them to apply for grants under the National Solar Schools Program for solar energy systems, rainwater tanks and other energy efficiency measures. It must have paid off because 17 schools were successful under the final round. The media release from last week is below.

Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser


30 August 2012


Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, is pleased to announce that 17 schools from the Fraser electorate will receive grants as part of the final round of the Australian Government’s National Solar Schools Program.

Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, together with Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus, recently announced 804 schools from around Australia had been awarded grants of up to $50,000.

These grants are being used to install renewable solar energy systems, rainwater tanks and other energy efficiency measures to cut pollution and save money on electricity bills. Continue reading ‘Local schools go solar’ »

The National Plan for School Improvement

Gai Brodtmann and I today welcomed yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister about the National Plan for School Improvement. Our media release is below.

Remember to complete my education survey to let me know what issues in education matter to you most.

Gai Brodtmann MP

Member for Canberra

Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser


Tuesday 4 September 2012

Government releases plan for Better Schools

The National Plan for School Improvement

All Canberra local schools will benefit under the Gillard Government’s National Plan for School Improvement. Member for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann, and Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, said today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard released the plan yesterday in response to the first comprehensive review of schools education undertaken in 40 years.

Continue reading ‘The National Plan for School Improvement’ »

Talking Social Capital

Last week, I did the ‘Big Interview’ with James Lush from ABC Perth. We spoke about strengthening community, and the findings in my book Disconnected. You can podcast the full interview here.