HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 8 APRIL 2020
When parliament met 16 days ago, Britain, New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden were among the countries that had implemented significant wage subsidies to save jobs. Labor said at the time that Australia should do the same, and we're very pleased that, as a result of significant pressure from Labor, the business community and the union movement, the government has announced a $130 billion wage subsidy scheme.
This reflects Labor's fundamental view—like it says on the tin—we're Labor: we believe in the dignity and the purpose that comes with the job. We believe that it is important to minimise the unemployment tragedy that flows from the coronavirus crisis. One private-sector forecaster estimated that without this package unemployment would have gone to 17 per cent and that with it, it will peak at nine per cent. An eight per cent reduction in unemployment is worth the significant debt that the government will accrue as a result of this package. Total support will now be more in the order of 10 per cent of GDP than the three per cent of GDP it was beforehand.Read more
WEDNESDAY, 8 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: Charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; coronavirus restrictions and the economy.
ALAN JONES, HOST: Andrew Leigh is a very highly credentialed Labor member of the Federal Parliament for the ACT seat of Fenner. He happens to be the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury. He's most probably smarter than the people who've got the big gig, but that's another story. He's also though the Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities, and the in Parliament sitting today. He's written to me expressing some concern about this JobKeeper legislation bill to be introduced into Parliament. I might add that Andrew Leigh is a James Ruse old boy, so he comes from his fairly smart intellectual stable. Labor and the Government are on the one side, Labor will support the bill. Now this fellow is not oppositional, Andrew Leigh. He's capable of evaluating things on merit. He has written to me to say that even though the Government made a minor tweak to the JobKeeper bill, allowing charities to claim if they had a revenue drop of 15 per cent rather than 30 per cent they'd qualify, Andrew Leigh is saying that major charities including Anglicare, UnitingCare and Oxfam have said that the solution won't work. I just thought we'd have a word with him. This is really important, because I know that there is a bit of disillusionment – and I was going to raise this with Andrew - a bit of disillusionment about charities because people gave generously in drought and bushfires and no one knows where that money has gone. But nonetheless, in this environment which is very, very difficult, charitable work - there is tremendous demands on these charities. Andrew, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Alan. Great to be on with you.
JONES: Thank you. Can I just preface things by saying that point, that charities are a little bit on the nose with the public because they feel that hundreds of thousands of dollars were given somewhere for drought and bushfire relief and no one seems to know where it is. Is that something that is often raised with you?
LEIGH: Certainly from time to time. I think it's absolutely critical that charities account to their members properly for every dollar they spend. They've got a public trust to spend given the money wisely, but I think in bushfire relief it was charities we turned to-Read more
ABC RADIO CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 7 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: The need for Parliament to keep sitting; JobKeeper payments for casuals and migrant workers; charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; coronavirus modelling.
ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: And it's the federal government's response for weeks now that you've probably been hanging on. What immediate financial relief is available to you? Where can you go? Where can't you? How clear is that advice from the federal government? Dr Andrew Leigh is a former professor of economics at the ANU. He's also the Federal Member for Fenner, a Labor member, and he's with us now on ABC Radio Canberra. Dr Leigh, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Adam. Great to be with you and your listeners.
SHIRLEY: How well are the economic measures taken by the Government working, in your view?
LEIGH: I think they'll have a significant effect. The estimate from Westpac is that if we hadn't had the wage subsidy the Parliament will pass tomorrow, unemployment would have hit 17 per cent. Westpac is now forecasting it'll hit 9 per cent. Now 9 per cent is still awful, but it's almost a halving of the unemployment rate as a result of this package. With stimulus 1 and 2, Labor said we welcomed them but they didn't go far enough, and that we needed to do what other countries have done and provide significant wage subsidies. And I'm pleased that Parliament will be passing those tomorrow.Read more
2CC CANBERRA DRIVE
MONDAY, 6 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper payments for casuals; charities unable to access JobKeeper payments; the importance of maintaining community.
LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now the Federal 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.
DELANEY: Good to have you along again. I'll tell you what, that's a bit of a mouthful, all of this nonsense about changing the Fair Work Act and fiddling about with the different awards and enterprise agreements and so forth. I know we're here to talk about the changes for registered charities, but can we touch upon the JobKeeper package more generally to begin with, and which way you think the government should be addressing this question of implementing the changes. Changing the Fair Work Act or individually going through all the awards?
LEIGH: Leon, there's lots of twists and turns with this but I don't think it's hard to imagine the Fair Work Commission, which deals with a national wage case and with many awards every year, can't deal with an issue like this. What's important is to make sure that as many workers as possible are supported at a time when they might otherwise lose their jobs. There's debate in the US as to whether the unemployment rate there now is 13 per cent or 16 per cent, but either way it's clear that much of the world is in a recession already and it's just critical that as many employees as possible maintain that connection to their workplace. Once a firm goes insolvent, once a worker loses their job, those relationships are really hard to rebuild Leon and it means that the recovery becomes a whole lot slower. We want a V-shaped recovery, and that means doing what we can now. It also means looking after those casuals who've been employed for less than 12 months. The Government’s set this-Read more
FRIDAY, 3 APRIL 2020
SUBJECTS: The impact of coronavirus on Australian airlines; competition; US unemployment figures; Australian unemployment figures; stimulus measures and the wage subsidy package; government debt.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: My next guest on the program is Andrew Leigh, a shadow minister for the Labor party. Andrew, thanks very much for your time. Why don’t we start on Virgin Australia, I know you’ve had some comments to make on this. Labor’s been saying that the government might be acting in haste here, denying the assistance that Virgin is after, which might be a $1.4 billion or so loan. What is Labor saying exactly, that should be considered or that should just be given to Virgin to make sure they stay?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Tom, the bottom line is Australia needs two full service airlines. Much as we love the budget carriers, it's important that there is competition in the business end of the market. No market is well served by a monopoly. We saw from 2001 to 2008, after Ansett exited the market, the impact that that had on the choice of routes and on the fares themselves. So it's vital that the Government recognises that consumers are well served by competition. Whether that's done through an equity stake or through a loan - I'm actually pretty relaxed about that, Tom. But the Government should be engaging constructively. You know, they seem to be behaving towards Virgin no more constructively they behaved towards Holden when they goaded them to leave the country. This isn't a sensible approach for Australian flyers.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more