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Carving with the Grain - Essay, Evatt Journal Vol. 19

CARVING WITH THE GRAIN

Evatt Journal Vol. 19 - After the lockdown: Essays on a Post-COVID World – July 29, 2020

Carvers asked to make a bowl from a piece of timber don’t simply pull out their favourite blueprint, says philosopher Peter Singer. Instead, they examine the timber and adapt the design to suit the wood. Likewise, anyone looking to reshape society cannot simply begin with abstract ideas.  Reformers must understand the values, aspirations and needs of the community if we are to make change that does not run against the grain.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected millions, and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The International Monetary Fund expects it to cause the sharpest drop in global GDP since the Great Depression. In Australia, unemployment spiked, with hospitality workers, arts employees, women and young people the hardest hit. The promised Morrison ‘snap back’ seems unlikely. Rather than a V-shaped recession, the best we can hope for at this stage is a recovery that looks like a Nike swoosh.

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Government needs to spend smarter to support more - Transcript, ABC Melbourne Drive

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC MELBOURNE DRIVE

THURSDAY, 23 JULY 2020 

SUBJECTS: Budget deficit; Morrison Government failing charities; HomeBuilder failing to address economic inequalities. 

RAF EPSTEIN, HOST: Andrew Leigh joins us. He is one of the MPs in Canberra. He's a Labor MP, he is part of the parliamentary committee called the Standing Committee on Economics. More importantly for this conversation, he is part of Anthony Albanese's finance team - he’s the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. Andrew Leigh, good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Raf, and thoughts from Canberra to you and your listeners. I know many Canberrans have been thinking of Victorian friends at the moment and all that you're going through there in Melbourne.

EPSTEIN: What number stood out for you today?

LEIGH: I think the real thing that stood out for me Raf was the lack of the long term plan. I mean, certainly we've got a lot of numbers around - we’ve got the figures on the the impact of the budget, the unprecedented - since the Great Depression - hit on the economy. But it was the lack of a long term vision for how we build back better, how we create those jobs that ensure we get to a full employment economy-

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Frydenberg owes Australians a plan - Transcript, 2CC Radio

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
2CC CANBERRA DRIVE
THURSDAY, 23 JULY 2020

SUBJECTS: Budget deficit; deferred Parliamentary sitting.

LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now the Shadow Assistant Minister for the Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon.

DELANEY: Thanks for joining me once again. We're making a habit of this, but of course this is the biggest story of the day, isn't it? So we really do need to look at this in some detail. As I said, it could have been worse, couldn’t it?

LEIGH: It certainly could have been more comprehensive, and what we've got from the Government is barely a plan. It's just really a press release. We don't have the usual forecasts that you would expect to be getting, this year and the three following years. We've just got next year's figures being reported by the Government. And I don't get a sense from reading through this document as to what the Government plans to do to bring unemployment down, which has got to be the top policy priority in Australia right now. There's a lot of talk about where the figures are, both in economic terms and in fiscal terms, but there's very little in the way of a road map to get us out.

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The ugly truth is that the numbers matter — and we are not getting them right - Op Ed, Crikey

THE UGLY TRUTH IS THAT THE NUMBERS MATTER — AND WE ARE NOT GETTING THEM RIGHT

Crikey, 22 July 2020

Numbers, said mathematician Paul Erdős, are beautiful. But when it comes to coronavirus, they’ve also been downright ugly. That’s true whether we’re talking about the rate of infection of the virus, or the size of the economic slump, which has literally required economists to redraw their graphs to accommodate the drop. Getting the right numbers to the right people at the right time is critical. Yet amidst the first recession in a generation, Australia is fighting blindfolded, because we’re not measuring and publishing the things that matter most.

Let’s start with JobKeeper. When it was first announced in March, the federal government anticipated that the wage subsidy program would cost $130 billion and support 6 million jobs. In May, they continued to say that the program was on track in terms of both cost and jobs. Then the $60 billion penny dropped. Suddenly the Treasurer admitted that the program would in fact cost just $70 billion and support only 3.5 million jobs.

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Some sectors still waiting on support they deserve - Transcript, 2CC Radio

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
2CC CANBERRA DRIVE
TUESDAY, 21 JULY 2020

SUBJECTS: Changes to JobKeeper and JobSeeker; arts and charities sectors left behind.

LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now the Shadow Assistant Minister for the Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you.

DELANEY: Thanks for joining us today. Well, what's your take on the JobKeeper announcement today?

LEIGH: It's clear that JobKeeper couldn't continue forever, and I think many people will be glad to finally know what's going to happen after September. The Prime Minister should have announced this well in advance the Eden-Monaro by-election but decided to hold off until now, which I know has created a lot of angst among firms and employees in my electorate. So we'll go through the details. It seems to make sense - we've always said that there was something strange about providing $750 a week to a long term casual who'd only been working a day a week but providing nothing to a short term casual who was working full time. So there's a little bit more targeting going on here. I frankly would have liked to see the government do even more to make sure the money goes exactly where it's most needed.

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New Thinking in the Age of COVID-19 - Op Ed, The Canberra Times

POLICY MAKING NEEDS TO CHANGE POST-COVID

The Canberra Times, 15 July 2020

If a policymaker doesn’t think differently after coronavirus, they’re probably not thinking at all. Would any conservative now dare to quote Ronald Reagan’s claim that ‘government is the problem’, or Margaret Thatcher’s suggestion that ‘there is no such thing as society’? Imagine the outcry if Scott Morrison was to present the budget proposals he supported in 2014, including a Medicare co-payment, reduced CSIRO funding, cutting pension indexation, and abolishing unemployment benefits for under-25s.

The same is true for progressives. After World War II, Labor didn’t yearn for a return to the 1930s. Instead, Curtin and Chifley made the case for full employment, and democratising home ownership.

What’s the equivalent today? In health care, we’ve seen the benefits of a universal system over that of the United States, which spends nearly twice as large a share of GDP on health, yet provides patchier care. Coming out of the crisis, there will be a strong demand for telehealth, particularly in regional Australia. Preventive health will become a greater priority. The vulnerability of nursing homes has given new urgency to calls for serious reform in the way we manage aged care.

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Robodebt scheme has done massive harm to Australian people - Transcript, 2CC Radio

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

2CC CANBERRA DRIVE

TUESDAY, 23 JUNE 2020

SUBJECTS: Federal Labor’s calls for a Royal Commission into Robodebt; Liberals Undermining Superannuation (Again)

LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now Member for Fenner and Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and Treasury Dr Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Leon. Great to be with you and your listeners.

DELANEY: Well thanks for joining us once again. First of all, why do we need a royal commission on this issue? Don't we already know what went wrong?

LEIGH: I think we need to get to the absolute bottom of what's happened with this significant scheme. I mean, this is a scheme designed to extract one and a half billion dollars of unlawful debts from the Australian people. Hundreds of thousands of people are having their debts repaid, and indeed pretty much everybody who came to my office has had their debts repaid. A whole lot of Canberrans have been affected by this. I've had constituents who had the debt collectors sicced onto them as a result of a process in which the Morrison Government took the humans out of Human Services and just allowed computer algorithms to run amok, ruining people's lives.

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Protest an essential part of a democracy - Transcript, Sky News

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
TELEVISION INTERVIEW
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
WEDNESDAY, 3 JUNE 2020
 
SUBJECTS: US protests and the importance of protests in democracies; Indigenous incarceration; Australian economy; charities.
 
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me now to discuss this is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities, Andrew Leigh. Andrew, good morning to you. Thanks for joining us. Before we get to the situation in Australia, you've spent so much time in the US, done a lot of work there. Just want to get your view on what you've seen over the past eight days now as we're continuing to watch live pictures of an eighth straight day of protests in the United States.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: They’re shocking scenes and they really do remind you of 1968 and the riots that tore through the country then. The spark seems to have ignited a huge level of anger and frustration among so many Americans, not just at the treatment of African-Americans but at the huge level of inequality in America. And I worry too that it undermines America's ability to encourage other countries in the world to pursue a peaceful path to democracy, to ensure that they create opportunities for protesters to speak their mind – because protest is after all an essential part of a democracy.

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How Fire Hurt Our Firms - Op Ed, The Canberra Times

HOW FIRE HURT OUR FIRMS

The Canberra Times, 3 June 2020

When coronavirus hit, one thing many Canberra households didn’t have to rush out and buy were N95 masks.

That’s because we already had plenty in the cupboard from summer, when Canberra’s air quality was 22 times the hazardous rating. On some days in December and January, air quality in the bush capital was the worst in the world. People debated how many cigarettes you would have to smoke to do as much lung damage as just breathing our air. Was it half a pack, one pack or two?

The effect of the summer bushfires on Canberra was brutal. For weeks, outdoor activity was almost impossible. Restaurants, hotels, arts events, and the sporting sector were hit hard.

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As Australia bounces back, let’s make sure we’re not leaving people behind - Op Ed, The Canberra Times

AS AUSTRALIA BOUNCES BACK, LET’S MAKE SURE WE’RE NOT LEAVING PEOPLE BEHIND

The Canberra Times, 18 May 2020

Recently I heard from a Canberra woman who had changed employers last November. Her new employer told her she’d start off as a casual and then transition to permanency. When coronavirus hit, and the government announced its JobKeeper wage subsidy program, she hoped that it would apply to her. But as a casual who had been with her employer for less than year, she was excluded. As she wrote to me ‘This will have a long and lasting financial impact on our family’.

In another family, I heard the story of two children, aged 18 and 21, who had each been in casual jobs for 11 months. They’re ineligible too. A local Turkish restaurant told me that half their staff were international students. Because those workers are on temporary visas, they are ineligible for JobKeeper. The restaurant owners are worried they’ll have to close permanently. They pleaded ‘Save us from folding up.’

Labor supports the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme. More than that, we called for it. Early in the crisis when other countries had announced wage subsidy schemes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it wouldn’t work in Australia. It was only under pressure from business, unions and the Labor Party that Mr Morrison changed his mind, recalled parliament and enacted the JobKeeper package. It’s the most important thing the government has done.

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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.