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Let’s take this chance to rebuild our solidarity - Op Ed. Herald-Sun

LET’S TAKE THIS CHANCE TO REBUILD OUR SOLIDARITY 

Herald Sun, 30 March 2020

A century ago, the Spanish Flu hit Australia. Quarantine measures were only partially effective, so in 1919, authorities turned to social distancing. Public gatherings were cancelled. Masks were distributed. Schools were closed. People stayed home when they could. One analysis of the response found that it prevented 22 percent of Australians from catching the potentially deadly disease. In the end, 15,000 Australians died. It was a huge toll, but smaller than you might expect from a disease that claimed over 50 million lives globally.

Social distancing measures work, but they are especially tough on those with fewer social connections. In a recent survey on social connections, Nick Terrell and I found that Australians report having only about half as many close friends as they did in the mid-1980s. We are also less likely to know our neighbours. Remarkably, half of all Australians report feeling lonely at least once a week.

Social capital is the idea that the bonds of trust and reciprocity that bind us together have inherent value. Those with stronger social networks tend to be healthier, to do better in business, and to report being happier with their lives. Yet over the past generation, Australians have become disconnected. We are less likely to attend church, less likely to join clubs, less likely to be part of a union, and less active in politics.

Sometimes, a crisis can build social capital. We have seen this at times of war, and at moments when communities put aside their differences to battle bushfires or fight floods. But disasters can also be emotionally scarring. As Lifeline warns, ‘The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to “burnout” and physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.’

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Charities need support now more than ever - Transcript, Volunteer Voices

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

RADIO NORTHERN BEACHES

WEDNESDAY, 25 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Reconnected, the impact of coronavirus on charities.

MICHAEL LESTER, HOST: Welcome to Radio Northern Beaches, 88.7 and 90.3. I'm Michael Lester with our weekly Volunteer Voices show here on Radio Northern Beaches. And I'm delighted to welcome to our program today Andrew Leigh, who is the Member of Parliament for the ACT seat of Fenner and he has been a member of parliament since 2010. Andrew is an academic, a former professor of economics at ANU, a great author and commentator on social and policy issues. Andrew, I'm very pleased to welcome you here to Volunteer Voices.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Thanks, Michael. A real pleasure to be with you.

LESTER: Now this is a difficult time Andrew, but in many ways I think an interesting time to talk to you as we as a society face the challenges to our social interconnectedness if you like, as a community, when we confront a lot of the social distancing, self isolation and other very drastic measures that are being undertaken. Perhaps as a bit of a background to that discussion Andrew, perhaps you could take us through the work you did in 2010 when you actually looked at some of the statistics and facts around social participation, volunteering and engagement in Australia against the backdrop of the figures from America that were showing significant declines in community participation and organisations in the last 20 years.

LEIGH: Thanks very much, Michael. When I was a doctoral student at Harvard in the early 2000s, I worked with Robert Putnam on his research team. Putnam had just produced Bowling Alone, which was a magnificent study looking at the contours of social capital in America - how the networks of trust and reciprocity in that country had first waxed and then waned over the course of the 20th century. He documented that for the first half of the 20th century, there was quite a significant increase in the strength of community and associational life, and then from the 1960s, 1970s onwards that there had been a decline. In Disconnected, I looked at the same patterns for Australia and found much the same trends. Churchgoing, union membership, member of the Scouts, Guides, Rotary, Lions - all of that seemed to have declined since the 1970s. Australians tend to have fewer organisations per person and a smaller share of the population actively engaged in civic organisation.

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Government needs to help the helpers - Transcript, ABC News Radio

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS RADIO

TUESDAY, 24 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: The impact of coronavirus on charities, stimulus packages.

GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: We have Andrew Leigh back on the line for us now. Andrew, good afternoon, and as I saying a pretty welcome move to extend this aid to the charity sector.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: It was, Glen, although it's still the major charities that are being left out, and that means that around half the workers in the sector won't be covered because they work for some of the big charities who are being asked to do the heavy lifting. So as we're seeing these lines outside Centrelink offices across the country, people being turned away - one woman said she was turned away with $10 in a bank account - who will she turn to? She’ll turn to a charity, and likely the charity she'll turn to is one that hasn't been supported by the government.

BARTHOLOMEW: What were the criteria to determine who was supported and who wasn't?

LEIGH: Well, it’s those with turnover under $50 million. But that excludes groups like the Red Cross, Fred Hollows Foundation, RSPCA, Save the Children, Mission Australia, Smith Family, Goodstart Early Learning - some of the significant charities that have been doing work, supporting people recovering from the bushfires, but are now seeing a big drop off in donations. They're seeing challenges for their volunteer base because of social distancing, and they're seeing challenges in fundraising for when activities like fundraising balls are cancelled. Philanthropic foundations are giving less because of the sharemarket collapse. 

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Helping the helpers - Op Ed, The Canberra Times

HELPING THE HELPERS

The Canberra Times, 24 March 2020

On the NSW South Coast, charities are hard at work supporting victims of this summer’s unprecedented fires. There are homes to be rebuilt and debris to be removed. Teachers are seeing signs of mental distress among children who were evacuated from their homes three or four times. When local MP Fiona Phillips and I held a roundtable with charities in Nowra earlier this month, they told us how their budgets and staff were overstretched.

And that was when there were less than 200 coronavirus cases in Australia.

In the face of Australia’s greatest post-war health emergency, there’s a risk that Australian charity workers have become the forgotten people.

Already, we’ve seen charities sidelined by the federal government’s response. In the first stimulus package, businesses were prioritised over non-profit groups. That meant a for-profit childcare centre could access support that was unavailable to a non-profit early learning centre. Although the second stimulus package contained support for small charities, the main measures are off limits to major charities such as Mission Australia, Barnados, the Smith Family, and Goodstart Early Learning.

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Semmelweis, the randomista behind hand washing - Transcript, ABC Sydney

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RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC RADIO SYDNEY
MONDAY, 23 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Randomistas and the history of hand washing.

RICHARD GLOVER, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is the Labor MP for the seat of Fenner. He's also somebody who's very interested in random studies and science and economics and all those sorts of things, and has written about the story of Dr Semmelweis in his book ‘Randomistas’, which is a book about radical researchers and how they've changed our world. Well, in his case - in Semmelweis’ case – it certainly took a while. Andrew Leigh joins us on the line. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Richard. How are you?

GLOVER: Yeah, good. As we’re all spending so much time washing our hands, I thought we'd praise the man who kind of first got onto the idea of why it was so important.

LEIGH: Semmelweis was a wonderful pioneer, a quirky man who worked in the Vienna General Hospital. He noted this significant difference between the alternate days in which the births were delivered by female midwives and the days when they were delivered by male doctors. He noted that women were about twice as likely to die if they were admitted to the clinic on a day in which the doctors were doing the delivery rather than the midwives.

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Government needs to protect invisible Australians - Transcript, ABC Sydney

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC SYDNEY BREAKFAST

THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Economic stimulus; charities affected by coronavirus; the Reserve Bank.

WENDY HARMER, HOST: This is very timely that we are speaking to Andrew Leigh. Andrew Leigh is a former economist and he’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities. And I guess that he's been keeping his eye on the bailout packages, the stimulus that's been offered, this brand new tranche of measures that are supposed to be released tomorrow that are coming from the government to try and deal with this economic crisis. We welcome him to the program. Hello, Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Wendy. Great to be with you.

HARMER: Now we are expecting something quite interesting to come tomorrow. We are, we have been told - this is the that the drop - that a central feature of the soon to be announced package will be something called a, well a survival package for those who are without jobs. A temporary wage.

LEIGH: I'm pleased that the government's recognised that last week's package wasn't enough. When you look at its scale compared to other countries, I think that becomes pretty clear. It was less than 1 per cent of GDP. The New Zealanders, for example, have just unveiled a stimulus package worth around four per cent of national income. People need to remember that this is a temporary shock and there's no reason that anyone ought to be pushed to the breadline, to be losing their job, have their business go bust because of a virus for which we'll have a vaccine within a year or two. This is exactly why we have governments, exactly why fiscal policy was developed, in order to help get us all through temporary shocks like this one.

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Rebuilding from fires will take time - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

NOWRA

TUESDAY, 10 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Charities and bushfire recovery; stimulus.

FIONA PHILLIPS, MEMBER FOR GILMORE:It’s been great today to have Andrew Leigh here, who is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and also the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. The purpose of the meeting today was to meet with the charities - the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul - and to basically get an update on what's happening with the bushfire crisis and the recovery process. But most importantly, just to make sure that we capture and make sure that our vulnerable people are being looked after through the crisis and recovery. So we've had a good chat today. I was obviously also very concerned about our small businesses, and getting them the support they need, and also our tourism operators that I know we need more funding to help promote local events.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Thanks, Fiona. My name's Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities. It's been a really good opportunity this morning to speak to some of the key organisations who've been at the forefront of the bushfire response and the reconstruction efforts. We’ve spoken about the challenges of coordination, the importance of ensuring that data is shared with appropriate privacy protections, making sure that we're getting more support in cash rather than unwanted in-kind donations, and how critical it is to ensure that those who are most vulnerable are looked after. People who are homeless, people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians can sometimes be left out of disaster response and the charities we're speaking to today made it absolutely clear that those people are in the forefront of their minds as they're moving towards the reconstruction phase. We think there's important lessons out of the response here for local, state and federal governments. 

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Thomas Piketty and the roots of global inequality - Review, The Sydney Morning Herald

THOMAS PIKETTY AND THE ROOTS OF GLOBAL INEQUALITY 

The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 March 2020

Thomas Piketty isn’t scared to tell a big story. In 2013, he produced Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a 700-page tome about inequality that combined Jane Austen and Honoréde Balzac with data from tax returns and national statistics.

One idea that captivated many readers was r versus g. When the rate of return on capital (think rental yields and share dividends) exceeds the overall economic growth rate, then inequality rises. When g is bigger than r, inequality falls.

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Australia's economy weaker than should be - Transcript, ABC News Radio

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RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC NEWS RADIO
FRIDAY, 6 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Morrison Government’s lack of a plan for productivity; wages; innovation; investment and growth; debt doubling under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government.
 
MATT O’NEIL, HOST: Labor's Andrew Leigh is a former economist, now Federal Member for Fenner in the ACT, and joins us now. Good morning, Andrew. Thank you for your time.
 
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Matt. I always figure once an economist, always an economist.

O’NEIL: [laughter] Andrew, what would Labor be doing to shield the economy from the coronavirus fallout?

LEIGH: I think it's pretty clear that the economy does need appropriate stimulus. What we did during the Global Financial Crisis was to move quickly, even before the first impacts of the global downturn were apparent in Australia, with stimulus that saved around 200,000 jobs and tens of thousands of Australian businesses. The trouble is that we're entering this challenge with an the economy which is much weaker than it should be. We used to have growth sitting between 3 and 3¼ per cent, and now we're getting 2 to 2¼ quarter per cent. We've had years of wage stagnation - not by accident, but through deliberate government policy, as the Finance Minister has pointed out. Anti-union attacks, penalty rate cuts - all of that has acted to dampen down wage growth, which of course then flows through to household spending because earnings flow back into the economy. You cut pay packets, you cut household incomes, and there's a negative spiral as a result of that. Business investment is lousy and construction and retail are in a very bad way at the moment.

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Australia needs government that will take responsibility - Transcript, Doorstop

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 4 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Morrison’s ‘delivered’ surplus; Coronavirus; falling productivity; manufacturing.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. As Warren Buffett once put it, it’s only when the tide goes out you discover who's been swimming naked. Labor has been warning about problems in the Australian economy for many years now. We've been talking about the low productivity problem, the fact that growth has slowed since the government came to office. We've been pointing out that business investment is now at its lowest level since the early 1990s recession. We've noted the slowdown in the rate at which new businesses are being created. Australia has seen a motza of mergers, but a scarcity of start ups. Labor has noted the problems in innovation in the Australian economy. We've pointed out that retail spending is in a bad way, that construction faces significant challenges, that business confidence has taken a whack.

Throughout their nearly seven years in office, the government has done nothing to address these deep-seated structural problems. If anything, they've done harm. Think about the harm that was done to Australian households by the 2014 horror budget, or Scott Morrison's first plan when he became Treasurer of raising the GST to 15 per cent. Labor has been pointing out the need for greater incentives for business to invest for some time now. These were part of plans that we took to last year's election.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.