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Archive for October 2012

Energy efficiency grants now open

More grants are available to improve energy efficiency for community groups. These grants are offered as a part of the Gillard Government’s Clean Energy Future package and are a great chance for community organisations to reduce energy use and save money. More information is below.

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser

Gai Brodtmann MP

Member for Canberra

31 October 2012

ENERGY EFFICIENCY GRANTS TO CUT COSTS STRENGTHEN OUR LOCAL ECONOMY

Dr Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser, and Gai Brodtmann, Federal Member for Canberra, today opened a new round of national funding for three energy efficiency programs designed to drive smarter energy use across the community.

“These grants will help the ACT Government, businesses and community organisations save money and cut pollution by improving energy efficiency in buildings, homes and streetscapes,” said Dr Leigh.

Continue reading ‘Energy efficiency grants now open’ »

The Effects of Household Stimulus Payments

In 2008-09, I was seconded to Treasury. It was an extraordinary time to be there, seeing how a good response to fiscal stimulus gets crafted. And while I was an SES officer, my short stint meant that I did much more listening than talking.

But one thing I can claim credit for is the suggestion that when the $900 tax payments were being delivered in 2009, that the timing should be randomised by postcode, so as to allow the possibility of a subsequent randomised evaluation.

I’m pleased to report that such an evaluation has now been done, with my former ANU colleagues Emma Aisbett and Ralf Steinhauser (along with Markus Brueckner and Rhett Wilcox) combining a list of random postcodes with household spending data from AC Nielsen’s Homescan survey.

While their research finds little impact on some types of spending, it’s not hard to see why this is at odds with other studies  – including mine-  which find a large impact of the Australian fiscal stimulus on expenditure.

The problem is that while the Homescan dataset is the only one that lets you measure week-to-week spending patterns, it only captures groceries. So if someone spends their cheque on a washing machine, bicycle or restaurant meal, it gets missed.

The other factor is that this new study is very short-term. So if groceries spending went up after a two-month delay, it wouldn’t be captured.

So it’s perfectly consistent to note that the stimulus had a big overall effect, while also observing more limited impacts on narrow categories of spending. And I think the totality of the evidence is useful  – unlike some evidence from the US, Australian households are typically not so badly off that their initial response to receiving a $900 payment is to stock up the fridge.

Paternity Leave until 1 Nov

I’m on paternity leave from parliament from Mon-Thu this week (thanks to the Opposition granting me a rare pair).

In between helping Gweneth wrangle our 5 year-old, 3 year-old and 1 month-old boys, I’ll be checking email sporadically. But I may be a little slower in responding than usual. And while 16-hour parlimentary days are tiring, I have a feeling that I’ll be working harder still at home this week!

Incidentally, two-week dad and partner pay starts on 1 January 2013.

Meet the Press – 28 October 2012

For a 20th anniversary segment, I appeared on Meet the Press with Liberal MP Joshua Frydenberg, and interviewers Hugh Riminton and Misha Schubert. Topics included why I’m in the ALP, what the Asian Century White Paper means for Australia, and the importance of education and entrepreneurship to our nation’s future.

Working Credit Works

When I was an economics professor at the Australian National University, I wrote an evaluation with Roger Wilkins of the ‘Working Credit’ program, which allows people who are long-term unemployed to get some earnings without losing any of their income support.

We found that the program was surprisingly effective, given how little it costs. Our results are published in the latest issue of Fiscal Studies, and were written up in The Weekend Australian by Patricia Karvelas.

Free financial information seminar in Belconnen

Some of the terrific work undertaken by the Department of Human Services includes free financial information sessions. There’s one coming up next week in Belconnen.

MEDIA RELEASE

Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser

INFORMATION TO SECURE YOUR FUTURE

People of Canberra are encouraged to learn how to secure their future by attending free financial information sessions this month.

Dr Andrew Leigh, Member for Fraser, said the Financial Information Service seminars are a regular, local, practical avenue for people of all ages to gain information on a range of important topics.

“The Australian Government has offered the Financial Information Service for over 20 years, educating millions of people by providing information to help them plan for their future security,” Dr Leigh said.

Continue reading ‘Free financial information seminar in Belconnen’ »

Lex Luther strikes again

Yet more misleading information from Joe Hockey today on economics. I’ve done a substantial amount of work helping my constituents find their lost super using the SuperSeeker website and it’s a shame that Hockey is engaging in misleading statements on this important topic. My media release on the changes is below.

MEDIA RELEASE

Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser

HOCKEY GETS THE FACTS WRONG AGAIN – THIS TIME ON LOST SUPER

Joe Hockey’s statements over the past 24 hours show that either he hasn’t read any of the MYEFO documents explaining the Government’s changes to lost superannuation – or he is deliberately misrepresenting the facts. Continue reading ‘Lex Luther strikes again’ »

Opening of one-stop-shop in Braddon

Today, Minister for Human Services Kim Carr and I opened the one-stop-shop for Medicare and Centrelink in Braddon. The co-location of these facilities means that the Braddon office is now able to offer additional services, such as Case Coordination which brings services together for vulnerable people.   It helps link people with services such as housing, health, crisis support, education and training, and family and financial support. The launch event also gave me a terrific chance to talk to some of the local staff about their work.

The media release is below. It has a great story in it about how Case Coordination helped out a local man to get assistance with housing and education.

MEDIA RELEASE

With Sue Sheridan from FirstPoint and Minister for Human Services Kim Carr

SENATOR KIM CARR

Minister for Human Services

DR ANDREW LEIGH

Member for Fraser

Monday, 22 October 2012

NEW GOVERNMENT SERVICE HUB IN BRADDON

A new Government service hub in Braddon will offer Canberrans a wider range of services in one location, including a trial initiative that provides tailored assistance to help people get back on their feet.

Minister for Human Services Senator Kim Carr and Member for Fraser Dr Andrew Leigh officially opened the one-stop shop today and announced the start of a new program to help the most marginalised in the ACT. Continue reading ‘Opening of one-stop-shop in Braddon’ »

Chatting Economics and Politics with Matt Smith

I was recently interviewed by La Trobe University’s Matt Smith, about trust in politicians, inequality, good evaluation, climate change and other topics.

You can read a transcript, download an MP3, or podcast it through iTunes.

Affordable accommodation for students

The Gillard Government continues to help make Canberra an attractive place to live and study by investing in affordable accommodation for future University of Canberra students. This is a project I lobbied for as the local Federal Member of Parliament because I know how important affordable student accommodation is for the entire community. It frees up other rental accommodation in nearby suburbs and is a key part of maintaining a good housing mix in Canberra’s north.

There are three numbers you need to know about federal investment in affordable housing through the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS). But to keep it simple, each number is 20.

  • Since 2007, NRAS and other federal programs have contributed to construction of 1 in 20 new homes.
  • NRAS homes must rent for at least 20% below market rates.
  • 1 in 20 NRAS homes have been in Canberra (despite the fact that only 1 in 60 Australians live here, we have bigger challenges of housing affordability).

It was a noisy sod-turning with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker needing to drill through the concrete so that the Chief Minister and I had something to turn.

My media release is below. Continue reading ‘Affordable accommodation for students’ »

Volunteer awards nominations now open

I was delighted to announce today that nominations for the 2012 National Volunteer Awards are now open. Head to www.notforprofit.gov.au/volunteering to nominate your favourite volunteer. More information is in the media release below.

Collecting for the Canberra Blind Society

THE HON MARK BUTLER MP

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing

Minister for Social Inclusion

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform

DR ANDREW LEIGH MP

Member for Fraser

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

16 October 2012

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER AWARDS NOW OPEN

Andrew Leigh MP, Member for Fraser, today announced applications for the 2012 National Volunteer Awards were now open.

Dr Leigh said the Awards recognise the contribution of over 6 million Australians who volunteer their time in communities across the country.

“At times of great economic prosperity, it is easy to forget just how much our economy and society relies on the generosity of its people.

Continue reading ‘Volunteer awards nominations now open’ »

Vale Coral Bell

I spoke in parliament today about the late international relations scholar Coral Bell.

Coral Bell, 11 October 2012

I rise to speak about a great constituent of mine, Coral Bell, AO, who passed away on 26 September 2012. Coral Bell was a former academic at the Australian National University and one of the great international relations scholars in Australia. Her former ANU colleague Andrew Carr said, ‘She was a landmark figure in Australia’s international relations who was often the only woman in the room yet was always well heard and respected for her intelligence and character’. My friend Michael Fullilove, who has recently taken over as executive director of the Lowy Institute—and I congratulate him on that—called Dr Bell ‘a giant of the Australian foreign policy scene’.

Continue reading ‘Vale Coral Bell’ »

Running away from public servants

Today Zed Seselja and Tony Abbott showed they don’t understand how much public service cuts hurt Canberra. My media statement with my ACT Federal colleagues is below.

Senator the Hon Kate Lundy

Senator for the Australian Capital Territory

Gai Brodtmann MP

Member for Canberra

Andrew Leigh MP

Member for Fraser

MEDIA STATEMENT

PUBLIC SECTOR JOBS

In an article in today’s Canberra Times, Tony Abbott said “I accept that Canberra did it tough for a year or so, but … Canberra did very well under the Howard Government.”

This demonstrates that Mr Abbott doesn’t understand the pain inflicted on Canberra by the Howard Government’s savage public sector cuts.

Continue reading ‘Running away from public servants’ »

Parliament Apologises to Peter Norman

Parliament today passed my motion of apology to Peter Norman (with no dissenting voices). Here’s the motion, with the third paragraph tweaked into a more general apology than originally drafted:

DR LEIGH: 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 treatment he received upon his return to Australia, and the failure to fully recognise his inspirational role before his untimely death in 2006; and

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

Here’s my speech to parliament in moving the original motion. My additional remarks on the day the motion was passed are below.

Continue reading ‘Parliament Apologises to Peter Norman’ »

Calling Coalition Costings: Come to Canberra

I spoke in parliament today about good economic management and the importance of Oppositions – ACT and Federal – producing properly costed policies.

Matter of Public Importance, 10 October 2012

It is a pleasure to rise to speak in a debate on the strength of the Australian economy and the right policy settings. Any discussion about where the Australian economy is headed needs to recognise that we are in the midst of one of the biggest terms of trade shocks in Australia’s history. In the history of the Australian economy, when a terms of trade shock has come along—whether it was in the 1930s, 1950s or the 1970s—it has blown the place up. Yet, despite a massive increase in the terms of trade—a massive increase in the ratio of export prices to import prices—the Australian economy, this time, has remained strong. Unemployment has stayed at 5-point-something and inflation has stayed low.

Continue reading ‘Calling Coalition Costings: Come to Canberra’ »

Reforms with Teeth

I spoke in parliament today about dental health, and the government’s proposal to replace an inefficient and expensive scheme with a more targeted and effective one.

Dental Benefits Amendment Bill, 10 October 2012

I rise today to speak on the Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2012. In this context it is worth noting that human beings are the only species that smile to signal happiness. It is an evolutionary quirk that is unique. It is an integral part of being human. All of us in this place, whatever our political stripes, trade on those smiles. It would be a strange-looking political website and an odd-looking corflute that did not have a picture of us beaming happily at our constituents. That smile is such an integral part of human relations. But just imagine if the sight of your teeth made people recoil from you. Imagine the isolation, the sense of embarrassment and the erosion of self-esteem.

Continue reading ‘Reforms with Teeth’ »

Benefits of the National Broadband Network

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the recent laying of National Broadband Network cables in Palmerston, and the benefits of the NBN for health, education and business.

Benefits of the National Broadband Network, 9 October 2012

Last week Senator Kate Lundy and I attended the laying of the distribution fibre cable in Palmerston, in my electorate of Fraser. NBN Co. forecast that construction should be complete in the central business district of Gungahlin and nearby suburbs by the end of the year. Homes and businesses in Gungahlin are now one step closer to connecting to the National Broadband Network and being able to access faster, more affordable and more reliable broadband. This will not only boost internet speeds but also strengthen the local community.

One example of where the NBN is strengthening community is in the lives of those suffering from a chronic health condition. In New South Wales, Hunter Nursing is using the National Broadband Network to remotely monitor the health of patients suffering from one or more chronic diseases. A trial of 50 high-risk patients using an in-patient home device with an online interface enabled them to have their health monitored in their own home by health professionals. Through high-speed broadband, patients and carers were able to use their device to access monitoring equipment and communicate with health professionals via video-conferencing and email. The benefit of this was that patients enjoyed one-to-one care in the comfort of their own homes. They could monitor their own health status and they could maintain their independence.

Continue reading ‘Benefits of the National Broadband Network’ »

Equality & Superannuation

In today’s AFR, I have a piece on inequality and superannuation.

Superannuation Inequity Needs Redressing, Australian Financial Review, 10 October 2012

Wealth in Australia is more unequally distributed than incomes. That’s largely because those of us on higher incomes are able to save more than disadvantaged Australians. This becomes a wedge over the course of a lifetime. By the time rich and poor people reach retirement, those at the top of the distribution have contributed more, and earned more returns on their contributions.

Since the Commonwealth began paying pensions in 1909, a central purpose of retirement incomes policy has been to prevent poverty among the elderly. When the Keating Government introduced universal superannuation in 1992, the boost was primarily for low and middle-income earners, since many high-wage workers already had more than 9 per cent of their wage directed into superannuation. Similarly, the Gillard Government’s decision to boost contributions to 12 per cent will have its greatest benefit for low-wage workers.

Continue reading ‘Equality & Superannuation’ »

Lateline – 5 October 2012

I appeared on Lateline on 5 October 2012, speaking about the increasingly scratchy tone of debate in Australian politics; the way that Labor policies such as paid parental leave, equal pay and superannuation have helped women; the strength of the Australian economy; and Labor’s decision to replace a badly-targeted dental policy with a better one. A transcript is here.

Laying NBN cables in Gungahlin

I was delighted today to join Senator Kate Lundy at the laying of a distribution fibre cable in Palmerston — bringing the National Broadband Network to the heart of Gungahlin.

Our joint media release is below.

Continue reading ‘Laying NBN cables in Gungahlin’ »

Progressive Frenemies

My La Trobe University chat with moderator Robert Manne and Greens MP Adam Bandt (‘The Future of the left in Australia: Labor and the Greens; friends or enemies?’) is now available as a podcast via ABC Radio National Big Ideas and a vodcast via Slow TV.