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Archive for February 2013

Size of the ACT Legislative Assembly

I’ve just put in a submission to the inquiry into the size of the ACT Legislative Assembly. Full text below.

Submission to the ACT Electoral Commission’s Expert Reference Group

Andrew Leigh MP
Federal Member for Fraser

28 February 2013

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Do you have a Boer War ancestor?

The folks behind the proposed Boer War Memorial are looking for support from descendents of people who served in the war. If you think a family member might have fought for Australia in that conflict, you can look them up using this handy search engine (which thoughtfully also lets you download the entire database).

Wealth Inequality

On 6 March, I’ll be giving the Inaugural NATSEM Annual Lecture, entitled “Estimating Top Wealth Shares in Australia Over the Past Century” (based upon some analysis I’ve been doing with Pamela Katic).

It’ll be held at the University of Canberra from 5-7pm. Event & RSVP details here.

Sky AM Agenda – 25 February 2013

On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield about the choice between economic debt of 10% of GDP and a social debt of 200,000 unemployed; about the government’s plans for better schools; and about the passing of former House Speaker Joan Child.

Welcoming the Babies Cancelled

With rain forecast all morning, we’ve decided to cancel today’s Welcoming the Babies. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Let Many Shoulders Take Some of the Burden

I have an article in today’s Canberra Times about the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Let Many Shoulders Take Some of the Burden, Canberra Times, 20 February 2013

Disability touches the lives of millions of Australians. Almost one in five Australians either have a disability, have a family member with a disability or are a carer for someone with a disability.

Yet our response to disability has not reflected the scale or severity of its impact. In a prosperous nation like ours, it is profoundly wrong that heart-breaking, often shocking, stories of life with disability are not exceptional.

Continue reading ‘Let Many Shoulders Take Some of the Burden’ »

Welcoming the Babies

I am inviting locals to come along and celebrate the newest members of our community at the third annual “Welcoming the Babies” event on Sunday 24 February 2013 (10.30am to 12.30pm) Glebe Park, Canberra City.

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Teach for Australia


I spoke in parliament today about Teach for Australia (Joe Hockey, speaking before me, had wrongly suggested that my electorate was named after Malcolm Fraser, so I had to set him straight).

Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 6) Bill 2012, 14 February 2013

It is my great pleasure to serve as the member for Fraser, a seat named after Jim Fraser, who was the ACT’s sole representative in this House from 1951 through to 1970. It is true that he did serve alongside Malcolm Fraser for much of that period, but there are significant differences in outlook between them. Jim Fraser was a proud Labor member, committed to social justice, committed to the rights of workers and a true reforming member of this House. While the shadow Treasurer may seek to model his politics on those of Malcolm Fraser, that is not my role model here in this place.

I rise today to speak about one of the schedules in the Tax Laws Amendment (2012 Measures No. 6) Bill 2012, which provides tax deductible gift-recipient status to an organisation known as Teach For Australia. Teach For Australia is modelled on Teach For America, which is now in its third decade. Teach For America bases its success on two vital truths: firstly, that there is no more important job that teaching disadvantaged children and, secondly, that there is a reservoir of idealism among talented university students. More than one in 10 US Ivy League graduates now applies to Teach For America. Its recruiting is so selective that it is able to take just the top 20 per cent of applicants.

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Canberra Cavalry

I spoke in parliament today about the Canberra Cavalry, and argued that mine is the sportiest electorate in Australia.

Canberra Cavalry, 14 February 2013

On Saturday night the Canberra Cavalry blasted Perth Heat out of the park to win the title of Australian Baseball League champions. Baseball may be a game that is played on the southside, but it is a game close to my heart. As somebody who enjoys numbers and sport and also the enthusiasm with which the sport is played, it is great to see a Canberra team coming out on top. In particular I pay tribute to Canberra’s first baseman, Aaron Sloan, who was named MVP of the season, hitting .625 and scoring three runs of the weekend. Canberra Cavalry are building a local fan base.

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GP Super Clinic

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the ACT’s new GP Super Clinic.

GP Super Clinic, 13 February 2013

On Monday I had the pleasure of turning the first sod for a GP Super Clinic in my electorate of Fraser. Located at the University of Canberra campus in Bruce, the Super Clinic is one of 48 such clinics that have either begun operations or are under construction as part of the government’s healthcare agenda. This GP Super Clinic will form part of a hub-and-spoke system in the ACT, with future facilities in my electorate in Casey and in Calwell in South Canberra.

These investments in high-quality, comprehensive, convenient health services have significant benefits for the people of Fraser. As well as being convenient — grouping services such as occupational therapy and physiotherapy under the same roof as the local GP — Super Clinics allow for team work among health professionals, promising better quality health care.

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The Argument for a Profit-Based Mining Tax


I spoke in parliament yesterday about the argument for a profit-based mining tax.

Mining Taxation, 13 February 2013

There is a lot of overheated rhetoric and debate around the mining tax, so I thought it might be useful to the House to return to the origins of the mining tax that is being discussed today: the Henry review’s extensive report into the Australian taxation system. It discussed the principles behind a profit-based mining tax. It said:

‘The finite supply of non-renewable resources allows their owners to earn above-normal profits (economic rents) from exploitation. Rents exist where the proceeds from the sale of resources exceed the cost of exploration and extraction.’

It goes on to say:

‘In most other sectors of the economy, the existence of economic rents would attract new firms … However, economic rents can persist in the resource sector because of the finite supply of non-renewable resources.’

That is the underlying reason a profit-based tax is a more efficient tax in the mining sector.

Continue reading ‘The Argument for a Profit-Based Mining Tax’ »

#ElectionValentines

With Valentine’s Day 2013 marking precisely seven months to the federal election, I thought it’d be fun to come up with a few #ElectionValentines (in the spirit of the #AuspolValentines tag that I ran on twitter last year).

Just put your message on Twitter with #ElectionValentines, and I’ll post the best ones here. Or if you’re not on Twitter, put your Election Valentine in the comments below.

And because Valentine’s Day is a time of love, no scratchy ones please.

A couple to get you started:

  • You’ve got my first preference. #ElectionValentines
  • Roses are red, violets are blue. You’ll always do better than my number two. #ElectionValentines
  • At the end of the day, you’re the only soul that counts. #ElectionValentines

Others have joined in:

Improving Australia’s Schooling System

I spoke in parliament today about the government’s schools reforms, flowing out of the Gonski Review.

Australian Education Bill, 12 February 2013

Each of us comes to this place with the perspective of the work we did before we got here. So it is not surprising when we hear former business people calling for less regulation, former union organisers calling for better protection for workers, farmers calling for more assistance to agriculture or, in my case, a former professor arguing for more investment in education. But I think there is some fairly strong evidence to back up the notion that great investment in education not only pays off in a more affluent society but also in a more equitable society. In my first speech I described education as being the best antipoverty vaccine we have yet developed, because a great education gives you opportunities in life which are greater than you can achieve without that opportunity.

Continue reading ‘Improving Australia’s Schooling System’ »

Making a Difference in Fraser


I spoke today about the federal government actions that have made a positive difference in my electorate of Fraser.

Appropriations Bills, 12 February 2013

There are several old chestnuts the Liberals can be relied on to trot out every election year, and one of those that we hear so often in the ACT is the line, ‘Labor ignores Canberra’—the suggestion that somehow Labor governments take Canberra for granted. But, unfortunately for the Liberals, the people of Fraser are a clever bunch. They are able to see through this line easily, because it is so demonstrably false. The investments that this Labor government has made in Fraser are visible everywhere, from the Majura Parkway to the National Broadband Network rolling out and the many schools enjoying new facilities thanks to the Building the Education Revolution program.

In fact, if you were to take the time to visit all of the sites where Labor has invested in my electorate of Fraser, you would be taking a pretty comprehensive tour of Canberra’s north. I can even provide you with a loose itinerary. You can set off from the flourishing suburb of Braddon, where my electorate office is located and where Minister for Human Services Kim Carr and I opened a one-stop shop for Medicare and Centrelink in October last year. The co-location of these facilities is a core part of Labor’s service delivery reforms. It is making access to housing, health, crisis support, education and training, and family and financial support easier for Canberrans.

Continue reading ‘Making a Difference in Fraser’ »

Enterprise Migration Agreements


I spoke in parliament last night about a Greens private member’s motion that would effectively shut down Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs).

Private Member’s Bill – Enterprise Migration Agreements, 12 February 2013

The former New Zealand politician and head of the World Trade Organisation Michael Moore once had a terrific analogy to describe those who would argue for more foreign aid but also argue for less trade and less migration. He said that attitude was the like the attitude of someone who puts money in the collection plate on Sundays but then behaves badly to the disadvantaged for the rest of the week. It is with the same concern that I rise to speak on this bill today. The attitude that says that we ought to increase our foreign aid, that we ought to increase our refugee intake, but that when workers in our region want to come to Australia to improve their skills and send some remittances back we ought to slam the door in their face. That is not an attitude that is consistent with the values that I hold dear.

Continue reading ‘Enterprise Migration Agreements’ »

Superannuation Reforms

In parliament today, I spoke about superannuation, and about aged care.

Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Reducing Illegal Early Release and Other Measures) Bill, 11 February 2013

In 1991, the then Prime Minister 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.’

We do not often talk about happiness and superannuation in the same breath, but I think we should, because a strong superannuation system is a system that ensures dignity in retirement. It ensures that Australian retirees can enjoy that extra grey nomad trip and the comfort of being able to spend time with loved ones without worrying about paying the bills. It ensures that generations that have given much to Australia enjoy the retirement to which they are entitled.

Continue reading ‘Superannuation Reforms’ »

Welcoming the Babies is Coming Soon!

For the third year running, I am inviting locals to come along and celebrate the newest members of our community at “Welcoming the Babies” on Sunday 24 February 2013 (10.30am to 12.30pm) Glebe Park, Canberra City.

Continue reading ‘Welcoming the Babies is Coming Soon!’ »

Work Begins on Canberra’s $15m GP Super Clinic “Hub”

People in the ACT will soon enjoy a variety of health services in convenient locations, with the first sod turned on the ACT GP Super Clinic ‘hub’ in Bruce today.

Joining Minister Tanya Plibersek, and Chief Minister Katy Gallagher for the first sod-turned on the Bruce GP Super Clinic construction site

Continue reading ‘Work Begins on Canberra’s $15m GP Super Clinic “Hub”’ »

Sky AM Agenda – 11 February 2013

On Sky AM Agenda today, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield about why a profits-based mining tax has volatile revenues, why Labor is committed to seeing low-income earners pay no tax on their superannuation contributions, and the importance of politicians not meddling in criminal investigations.

Talking Politics with Mark Parton

I spoke today with Mark Parton about Labor’s investments in the ACT, including through the NBN, the Majura Parkway, and the new GP SuperClinic in Bruce. Here’s a podcast.

At the Canberra Multicultural Festival

Free Financial Information Sessions Coming Up

This month there are a series of free financial information sessions designed to help locals take control of their finances. They are a local and 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 (FIS) for over 20 years, educating hundreds of thousands of people by providing information to help them plan for their future security. The experienced FIS Officers can show you how to make informed financial decisions and help you understand the consequences of those decisions in the short, medium and long term. These seminars are regularly held across the country, educating communities on a wide range of topics from superannuation and creating wealth, right through to finance and accommodation options in retirement and they’re not just for people receiving Centrelink payments – they are open to anyone interested, and are popular so bookings are essential.

Upcoming local seminars at Belconnen Premier Inn (110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen)

Age pension and your choices, Tuesday 12 February 2013, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm;
Running your own super fund, Thursday 14 February 2013, 6:00 pm to 8:30pm

For FIS seminar bookings call 13 6357 or email fis.seminar.bookings@humanservices.gov.au
To find out more about Human Services free Financial Information Service seminars visit humanservices.gov.au/fis.

Canberra’s Pizza Pioneer

I spoke in parliament today about the passing of James Savoulidis, who emigrated to Australia from Greece in the 1930s.

James Savoulidis, 7 February 2013

I rise to pay tribute to James Savoulidis, known as ‘Gentleman Jim’, who passed away on 20 December last year at the age of 93. Gentleman Jim was Canberra’s pizza pioneer. He was born in Greece, grew up during the Great Depression and was sent to Australia in 1938 by parents who wanted a better life for him. In 1959 he settled here in Canberra and opened a number of businesses, including the Mondial Night Club in East Row. He helped many Greek families who migrated to Australia get established in Canberra. In 1971 he established the Plaka restaurant in Mawson, where Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was a regular patron. As I noted in my first speech to this place, it was James Savoulidis who taught Gough Whitlam to dance the Zorba.

Continue reading ‘Canberra’s Pizza Pioneer’ »

National Disability Insurance Scheme


I spoke in parliament today in favour of a bill to create the NDIS.

National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill, 7 February 2013

Last month, I received a letter from Denise Reid, one of my constituents. Ms Reid wrote to me about her son Tim, a 21-year-old man with Down syndrome. She has given me permission to share the contents of that letter with the House today, so I want to begin by reading part of it. She writes:

‘I receive a part payment, sixty-five dollars and fourteen cents per fortnight, with the remainder paid to my ex-husband. We share care of our son, who is 21. He has Down syndrome. From time to time, Centrelink reviews eligibility for this payment. I find this extremely frustrating. My son has an intellectual disability. There is no cure and he will never grow out of it.’

Continue reading ‘National Disability Insurance Scheme’ »

Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians

I spoke in parliament today in favour of a bill that will progress the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill, 7 February 2013

We speak a lot in this House about Indigenous gaps. Yesterday we heard the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition speak eloquently about the gaps in life expectancy, educational attainment and employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It is important to focus on those gaps, but it is also important to have a sense of optimism and pride in Australia’s Indigenous heritage. As the member for Throsby noted earlier in this debate, it is great and exciting to know that we have in this country a people whose association with the land goes back tens of thousands of years. Maintaining that sense of excitement and living alongside people with the longest continuing link to their land is a great thing. This bill in some sense recognises our pride in Australia’s Indigenous heritage. That Indigenous heritage involves maintaining a multiplicity of languages. As the member for Blair noted, there has been a decline in Indigenous language knowledge over recent years, and that is important to redress because language is culture—it maintains your links with generations gone by.

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NBN

I spoke in parliament today about the benefits of super-fast broadband for the ACT.

National Broadband Network, 7 February 2013

When I was 11 years old, in 1984, I got my first computer. It was an Aquarius. It had 3½ kilobytes of memory. I was excited when I upgraded, finally, to a VIC-20 with five kilobytes of memory. Now, that might sound tiny, but at about that time Gareth Powell, the Sydney Morning Herald computer editor, wrote that he thought no program would ever need more than 16 kilobytes. Those sorts of statements about technology remind us that the things we can do with new technology often far outpace our imagination—and those that think that superfast broadband will just mean faster Facebook and YouTube do not get the power of technology.

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Love, new and old

My Chronicle column this month is on love and related adventures.

Valentine’s Day is a time for new and old love, The Chronicle, 5 February 2013

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there’s probably no more inappropriate song to be listening to than Tim Minchin’s ‘If I didn’t have you… I’d probably have someone else’. In the song, Minchin tells us he thinks it’s mathematically pretty unlikely that he met the one girl on earth specifically designed for him while studying at a university in Perth. Life is chaos, he argues, not fate.

Continue reading ‘Love, new and old’ »

A conversation with Waleed Aly & Arthur Sinodinos

On ABC RN Drive yesterday, I spoke with presenter Waleed Aly and Senator Arthur Sinodinos about trust in politics and economic management. Here’s a podcast.

Menslink

I spoke in parliament today about Canberra charity Menslink.

Menslink, 6 February 2013

Last week I was part of a local team that helped to raise funds and awareness for Menslink at the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match at Manuka Oval. Menslink is a Canberra charity that provides counselling and mentoring services to young men. It recognises that while both young men and women suffer from anxiety and depression, the rates of young men who reach out for help are far too low. Only about half of all young men who need assistance reach out for it. There was an overwhelming response from the public to Menslink and a recognition of the important work that Menslink does. The crowd was asked to wear blue in support of Menslink and many did. As a result of more than 100 volunteers who worked the crowd at Manuka oval, six new volunteer mentors have become involved. Four young men and their families have made contact with Menslink and the charity raised almost $5,000. The main purpose of Menslink’s involvement on the day was to raise awareness, but it was pleasing that a number of corporate sponsors and individuals pledged further support for Menslink in the future.

Continue reading ‘Menslink’ »

Boosting Farm Productivity

I spoke last night on a bill that will see Australia re-engage with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and started my speech by telling the story of when I used to go along as a high school student in the 1980s to talk international development with my local MP, member for Berowra Phillip Ruddock.

International Fund for Agricultural Development Amendment Bill, 5 February 2013

It is a particular pleasure to follow the member for Berowra in this debate on the International Fund for Agricultural Development Amendment Bill 2012. My first-ever engagement with a federal parliamentarian was when I was a young volunteer for an organisation called Community Aid Abroad, now part of Oxfam. Community Aid Abroad invited us to visit our federal member of parliament, to speak about the importance of foreign aid and why it should be increased. I suspect I was to the left of the member for Berowra even as a whippersnapper but I do remember him being very good to me, giving me at least half an hour of his time, listening through what I am sure were not particularly well-informed comments about foreign aid and providing some genteel responses about his views on the issue. Those meetings do occasionally come back to me now is a federal member of parliament, thinking about the importance of giving time to somebody who has passionate feelings about an issue even if one might know more about that issue than they do. I use this opportunity to thank the member for Berowra, some two decades late, for his generosity in that regard. It made a mark and it continues to shape my dealings with my constituents.

Mr Ruddock:  Can I interject and say thank you very much.

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