Archive for March 2013
On ABC702 yesterday, I enjoyed a conversation with host Richard Glover and guests Dick Smith and Malcolm Turnbull, ranging from carbon pricing to urban congestion, parliamentary roles to economic growth, helicopter travel to books that make you cry. Here’s a podcast.
Andrew Leigh Honoured to be Appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh, today said he was honoured to be appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
“I am humbled at the chance to contribute further to the Australian Government’s reform agenda,” Dr Leigh said.
“I come from a family that believes a life of community service is a life well-lived. It’s a privilege to serve in the federal parliament, and to work every day for a better, fairer, more prosperous and more just future.
“At street stalls and community events, I am constantly reminded of how important a Labor Government is to improving the lives of my constituents.
“Whether it’s the person with a disability who will finally get the care they deserve, or the child in a disadvantaged neighbourhood whose school has received the investment they need, our Labor Government has helped change lives for the better.
“Over the next six months, I will be fighting alongside the Prime Minister and the Labor team to make sure these achievements endure.”
Andrew Leigh will be sworn in at a ceremony at Government House today, at 3.30pm
On ABC RN Drive yesterday, I spoke with Waleed Aly about the Labor leadership, and the importance of now focusing on Labor’s many reforms. Here’s a podcast.
I spoke in parliament today about some terrific Canberrans who’ve spent their time volunteering in developing countries.
International Volunteering, 21 March 2013
On 19 February I held a morning tea for volunteers in my electorate who have worked with various international development programs. They shared their experiences and stories of the rewards, frustrations and challenges of volunteering in a developing country.
Roger Butler worked with the National Narcotics Board in Indonesia and was involved with the health and drug therapeutic community division. An important aspect of the division was to support those undergoing drug rehabilitation programs, including many in and recently released from Indonesian gaols. He worked to reduce the prevalence of HIV and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis with this population.
To mark ‘World Happiness Day’, Sky News invited me to talk about the economic evidence on happiness with presenter Stan Grant. We discussed how you measure happiness, where it can be a useful tool, and why new evidence shows that the “Easterlin Paradox” doesn’t hold up.
On ABC666 yesterday, I spoke with host Adam Shirley about the government’s investment in early childhood, and why good policy is good politics too. Here’s a podcast.
I spoke in parliament about changes in the media, information inequality, and the government’s proposed changes to media laws.
Media Law Reform, 20 March 2013
Great journalism really can change the world. Emile Zola’s ‘J’accuse’ letter did not just win Alfred Dreyfus his freedom; it helped to change the political character of modern France. When Woodward and Bernstein reported on Watergate, they brought down a president. In Australia, reporting by the Courier-Mail and Four Corners ended the Bjelke-Petersen government and led to the jailing of three ministers. In 2005, a newspaper article brought down New South Wales opposition leader John Brogden and probably changed the outcome of the 2007 New South Wales election.
Antarctica, 20 March 2013
On 12 and 13 December 2012, it was my pleasure to fulfil a lifelong dream and travel to Antarctica. With me as part of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories were Senators Crossin, Humphries and Parry and the member for Maranoa. We were accompanied by the environment committee and by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke. We were also accompanied by a range of expert scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division including Tony Fleming, Nick Gales, Rob Wooding and Tas van Ommen.
I spoke on the adjournment debate about how to have less crime and less punishment.
Crime and Punishment, 19 March 2013
The issue of reducing crime and incarceration is one that is close to my heart. Shayne Neumann, the member for Blair, and I moved a motion in 2011 in this House aimed at reducing crime and incarceration. The motion pointed out that over recent decades Australia has invested in prison building at an astonishing rate. The national imprisonment rate in 1991 was 117 prisoners per 100,000 adults. By 2007 it had risen to 167 prisoners per 100,000 adults. Over the same period, a period which began with the royal commission into black deaths in custody in 1991, the level of Indigenous incarceration went up from 1,739 prisoners per 100,000 adults to 2,248 prisoners out of every 100,000 Indigenous adults. In Western Australia, four per cent of all Indigenous adults are currently in jail. Even adjusting for the age structure of the Indigenous population, Indigenous Australians are still 14 times more likely to be jailed than non-Indigenous people. By their mid-20s, 40 per cent of Indigenous men have been charged by police with a crime.
I moved a private member’s motion in parliament today about the importance of properly costed policies.
Parliamentary Budget Office, 18 March 2013
(a) That a bipartisan parliamentary report recommended the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Office, which is now operational having passed Parliament;
(b) That the Australian people deserve a proper policy debate in 2013, with all parties presenting properly costed policies;
(c) That the updated information contained in the Pre-Election Economic & Fiscal Outlook (PEFO) will not affect the cost of most policies, and therefore release of fully costed policies should not be delayed until then; and
2. Calls on all parties to have their policies costed consistent with the Charter of Budget Honesty, and release them to the Australian people in enough time to have a well-informed debate.
Transparent, costed policies are fundamental to trust, to honesty and good public debate. The Parliamentary Budget Office was created in this spirit. It was created following a bipartisan parliamentary report agreed to by members from both sides of the House, including the member for Higgins, who is here in the chamber, and Senator Joyce.
The coalition support for the Parliamentary Budget Office however did not extend beyond that bipartisan report. By the time that the Parliamentary Budget Office came to be considered by parliament it had become apparent that the coalition’s costings hole was far bigger than had been thought at the time the report was written. The coalition then stepped back from their support for the Parliamentary Budget Office.
I spoke in parliament about the Prime Minister’s statement on Closing the Gap.
Prime Minister’s Statement on Closing the Gap, 12 March 2013
It is a pleasure to follow the member for Hasluck in this important debate on closing the gap. He is the only Indigenous member of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which is an indication of one gap that we need to work to close. Were Indigenous Australians to be represented in this place in proportion to the number in the Australian population there would be at least five Indigenous members in parliament and many debates, this one included, would be richer for that. I hope we will see Nova Peris joining the next Senate, but we still will have further to go. It is an indicator of how many of these gaps take too long to close.
I am proud to represent an electorate which is the home of the Ngunnawal people. Often when I am looking for stories of Indigenous Australia I turn to Stories of the Ngunnawal, an excellent book which discusses some of the stories of the Ngunnawal elders. One story by Dorothy Brown Dickson reminds us of how tough it was for some of the Ngunnawal people. Ms Dickson grew up in an Aboriginal reserve in Yass. She refers to how tough life was for the young men. She says:
I spoke in parliament today about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 14 March 2013
I rise to speak on a petition scheduled to be tabled by the chair of the Petitions Committee on Monday. The principal petitioner is Ms Ariette Singer, a constituent of mine, who is concerned about funding for Myalgic-Encephalitis and its accompanying illness Multi-Chemical Sensitivities. The petition notes that ME/CFS has been classified as a neurological disorder by the World Health Organisation since 1969, but there are not currently universally recognised treatment protocols. Many sufferers are still undiagnosed or, as the petition argues, misdiagnosed. I was fortunate to meet in my electorate office with Ms Singer, who spoke with me about the challenges that ME/CFS and MCS presents her. She spoke to me about her hyper sensitivities to the extremes of temperature, chemicals, light, noise and smells, frequent migraines and the fact that other sufferers have even attempted suicide. I draw the House’s attention to her concerns and those of other sufferers.
I spoke in parliament today about a bill that will help counter tax avoidance and multinational profit-shifting.
Tax Laws Amendment (Countering Tax Avoidance and Multinational Profit Shifting) Bill, 14 March 2013
A strong tax system is fundamental to driving innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth, because it is only through a strong tax system that we are able to provide the infrastructure that business needs to thrive; it is only through a strong tax system that we are able to fund high-quality education and the research and development we know business depend on. So, making sure that we have a strong tax system with good anti-avoidance provisions is a pro-business measure. Those who oppose it—those who say that we ought to have a tax system with loopholes in it—are not pro-business; they are pro-loopholes. They are standing up for those who believe that there ought to be loopholes that those with cunning lawyers can use to avoid paying tax.
This bill puts in place measures that will counter tax avoidance and multinational profit-shifting. It will, as the speaker before me reluctantly acknowledged, protect significant amounts of revenue. Over $1 billion of revenue will be protected by these measures. That is what these measures are about. They are about ensuring that our tax system follows the values that Australians hold dear: the values of equality and fairness; the value of opportunity; the values that say that, just because you can hire the best lawyer in town, you should not be able to get an unfair advantage with our tax code. That is all this bill is about.
I spoke in parliament today about some optimistic and inspiring stories of youth social entrepreneurship and volunteering.
Youth Activism, 14 March 2013
I rise to speak about three examples of inspiring youth activism. This morning it was my pleasure to meet some of the Oaktree Roadtrip youth ambassadors. These are a group of young Australians who are travelling the country aiming to gather 100,000 names of Australians who support the movement to end poverty, a movement that will show public support for increased foreign aid—as this government has been delivering. I particularly enjoyed spending time with the Canberra Roadtrippers, having farewelled them from Canberra only on Saturday at the Australian National University. Since then, they have travelled to Western Sydney, to Eden and to Cooma and they are back hitting the road again tomorrow. They will be part of a great movement to bring an end to extreme poverty.
I spoke in parliament today about the late Channel 9 journalist Peter Harvey.
Peter Harvey, 13 March 2013
There is no better known sign-off in the Australian media than ‘Peter Harvey, Canberra’. It has resonated down through the ages. It has shaped so many Australians’ knowledge of politics and of this city, Canberra. Canberrans, or people who have recently moved to Canberra, will often choose to use Peter Harvey’s unique pronunciation of Canberra to define our city. It is just one mark of the man, just one mark that he left in a decades-long career covering Australian politics in journalism.
I spoke in parliament today on a bill enabling the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Royal Commissions Amendment Bill, 13 March 2013
As previous speakers on the Royal Commissions Amendment Bill 2013 have noted, child sexual abuse is one of the hardest topics to speak about, particularly for those of us in this place who are parents. An account by Patricia Feenan titled Holy Hell gives some sense of the scale of the trauma. Ms Feenan writes about the abuse which occurred to her son Daniel which was perpetrated by their local parish priest, Father Fletcher. She writes:
‘Father Fletcher visited our family a lot and we were very active in his church. John’ — her husband— ‘did his accounts and I did everything from sewing the buttons onto his black shirts to taking communion to the elderly. He took a particular interest in Daniel, recruiting him as an altar server. People were always drawn to Daniel. He had a sweet nature, an angelic face and shining eyes.’
On the Sky Showdown program, I spoke with presenter Chris Kenny and Liberal MP Jamie Briggs. Topics included why media laws needs to keep pace with changing technologies and the Coalition’s attempts to keep their cuts secret from voters.
On Breaking Politics yesterday, I spoke with Tim Lester about the Canberra Centenary, the Western Australian election result, and the Australian economy. You can watch it here.
I spoke in parliament today on a bill to help ensure that all Australians have their say in the democratic process.
Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Administration) Bill, 12 March 2013
This is the third bill on which I have spoken regarding reforms to the administration of our electoral system. I have a great passion for expanding our democracy. That passion is shared by a great number of electors in Fraser. At last count, we had 131,000 electors in Fraser. That compares to an average of 94,000 electors per electorate at the last election. Mine is either the largest or the second largest electorate in Australia, and I welcome more people onto the roll in the ACT.
Before this bill, the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Bill introduced important amendments to enhance voter participation and update the electoral roll. We have introduced this suite of changes because, unlike our conservative counterparts, we understand how crucial inclusion and participation are to our system of democracy. That passion for expanding access to democracy is centuries old. It goes back to the times when William Wentworth, a conservative, campaigned to maintain the property qualification for voting. It goes back to those conservatives who stood against expanding the suffrage to women in Australia. It goes also today, in Queensland, to those members of the Queensland LNP who are campaigning to get rid of compulsory voting. At every turn you see progressives wanting to expand the franchise and conservatives opposing the expansion and wanting the shrinkage of the franchise.
I spoke today on a bill to give the ACT Assembly the power to set its own size.
Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill, 12 March 2013
It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2013 today, the 100th birthday of Canberra. This morning we had a re-enactment out the front of Parliament House of the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone. I have here the program for that ceremony, which was held on 12 March 1913. Today’s ceremony aimed to shadow that historic ceremony of 1913, when sheep greatly outnumbered the residents of Canberra. The ceremony this morning acknowledged the rich history of Canberra—not only the political heritage but also the social tapestry of the city. I was very pleased today to hear the member for Stirling speak so warmly of the city that I have the honour to represent in the federal parliament.
Walter Burley Griffin said that he was designing a city for a nation of ‘bold democrats’. To borrow a phrase from Seamus Heaney, I have always thought of Canberra as being the kind of place where hope and history rhyme. In the centenary celebrations, Canberra has been given an opportunity to celebrate but also to remember much of our history. Historian David Headon has produced a series of centenary booklets and centenary director Robyn Archer has made sure that history has been interwoven into the celebrations.
I spoke in parliament today about higher education reform (thanking Michael McCormack at the outset for filibustering long enough to let me get out of the chair and over to speak!).
Higher Education Support Amendment (Further Streamlining and Other Measures) Bill, 12 March 2013
At the outset, I acknowledge the comments of the member for Riverina, who has demonstrated his passion for his constituents with his ability to speak for an appropriate length about an issue of importance to him and to the chamber.
I was pleased when I was an academic at the ANU to work alongside Bruce Chapman, one of the architects of HECS, who put in place a truly world-leading piece of policy. It is easy to forget now that HECS, now known as HELP, has become so much part of our social fabric. The notion of income-contingent loans was one in which Australia was stepping out as a world first. Milton Freeman mentioned the notion of income-contingent loans in the 1960s but it was Professor Chapman who really picked it up, put flesh on its bones and suggested it as a way of ensuring two big things.
On Sky AM Agenda, I spoke with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield about the Western Australian election, Labor’s strong record of reforms, and Canberra’s Centenary.
Andrew Leigh MP
Labor Spokesperson on Coalition Costings
Member for Fraser
12 March 2013
The Australian people have a right to see the Coalition’s costed policies, said Labor Spokesperson on Coalition Costings Andrew Leigh.
On the ABC Capital Hill program, I spoke with host Lyndal Curtis and Liberal MP Russell Broadbent about the opportunity for the new Victorian Liberal Government to reverse its savage cuts, and about the importance of treating asylum-seekers with dignity in our public debates.
On ABC 666 yesterday, host Genevieve Jacobs asked me to remove the politician’s hat temporarily, and speak about my research with Pamela Katic on wealth inequality in Australia. Here’s a podcast.
Combining data from surveys, inheritance tax records, and rich lists, we estimate top wealth shares for Australia from World War I until the present day. We find that the top 1 percent share declined by two-thirds from 1915 until the late-1960s, and rose from the late-1970s to 2010. The recent increase is sharpest at the top of the distribution, with the top 0.001 percent wealth share tripling from 1984 to 2012. The trend in top wealth shares is similar to that in Australian top income shares (though the drop in the first half of the twentieth century is larger for wealth than income shares). Since the early twentieth century, top wealth shares in Australia have been lower than in the UK and US.
Update, 6 March: Here’s the audio from a doorstop interview I did on the topic this morning.
Andrew Leigh MP
Labor Spokesperson on Coalition Costings
Member for Fraser
5 March 2013
Hockey Exposed Over Cuts
Joe Hockey has been exposed on the Coalition’s plans to lower the tax-free threshold after an embarrassing press conference this morning.
At the press conference, Joe Hockey shamelessly attempted to justify his commitment to scrap low and middle income tax cuts.
Yet, mysteriously, the transcript distributed to the parliamentary press gallery had this exchange omitted from the text.
On Sky Lunchtime Agenda, I spoke with host David Lipson and Liberal Senator Scott Ryan about the importance of treating asylum-seekers with dignity and compassion, and the value of making sure we have more and better-trained workers in the aged care sector.
Andrew Leigh MP
Labor Spokesperson on Coalition Costings
Member for Fraser
3 March 2013
Abbott’s Costings Soar With the Eagles
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has made another unfunded promise, pledging up to $70 million for the redevelopment of Brookvale Oval, home of his beloved Manly Sea-Eagles.
Mr Abbott made the pledge at a function for Manly’s season launch at Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
“Mr Abbott needs to explain where the money to redevelop Brookvale Oval would come from”, said Labor Spokesperson on Opposition Costings Andrew Leigh.