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.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 4 MARCH 2020
The problem of multinational profit-shifting is a massive one. Globally it has been estimated that some $600 billion of profits are shifted to tax havens. That is around two-fifths of all multinational profits being shifted to tax havens. Tax havens affect Australia's tax base. They siphon taxable profits away from jurisdictions like Australia, and the effect is that Australians either have to pay higher personal income taxes or else suffer from a lower quality of services.
Tax havens aren't always illegal but they're frequently immoral, and the users of tax havens include an awful lot of crooks. Tax havens are used by the North Korean regime for money laundering. They're used by extortionists. They're used by drug runners. Mexican drug cartels have been known to stash money in tax havens. So, if you're operating out of a tax haven, you're likely rubbing shoulders with some pretty unsavoury characters.Read more
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.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 3 MARCH 2020
My 85-year-old constituent Jean Carter has had it tough. Last September her granddaughter, who lived in the same Wreck Bay house, passed away. Then the fires came within five kilometres of Wreck Bay and she was forced to evacuate. Ms Carter is a member of the stolen generations. She prefers self-reliance to government handouts, but she struggles to access what little disaster assistance is available from the Morrison government.
Here in Canberra, the Belconnen Tennis Club applied for a grant to upgrade their 50-year-old lighting system. Their submission ranked 82 out of 100: it did better than hundreds of applications that were funded. As President Martin Klein said after they were knocked back, 'To play tennis, you need to be able to see the ball'.
But those opposite do their best work in the dark.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 2 MARCH 2020
I want to pay tribute to a great Australian.
David Yencken passed away on 21 September at home in Albert Park, Victoria after a 66-year career in the public service which earnt him praise and multiple awards. Before he went into the public service, David ran one of the earliest art galleries devoted to Australian painting. He opened Brummels Gallery in South Yarra in 1956. The following year he broke new ground again. He opened one of the first motels in Australia. In 1965, David co-founded Merchant Builders Pty Ltd, which went on to win three Victorian Architectural Medals and several other architectural awards, including the inaugural Robin Boyd Environmental Award for changing the face of residential Melbourne in 1972.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 2 MARCH 2020
In 2008 Ross Garnaut's climate change review said that unchecked climate change would lead to more hot days, droughts, extreme weather, hailstorms, thunderstorms and floods. Here in Australia we've witnessed a summer with much of that in abundance. It's been a brutal summer for the east coast. The city of Canberra was hit by severe smoke haze. On Thursday, after almost 40 days of continual operations by the ACT Emergency Services Agency, the Orroral Valley fire was officially out. That fire was the first fire to threaten Canberra since the 2003 bushfires. ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan, the first female commissioner of the ESA, has been honoured with the ACT Award for Excellence in Women's Leadership.
The recent bushfires have brought out the best in some, but for others it has led to the spreading of misinformation or even disinformation.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 2 MARCH 2020
Australians spend more on superannuation fees than they do on energy: over $30 billion per year. According to work by the Productivity Commission, this amounts to some 1.1 per cent of total assets, which may not sound like much until you realise that the difference between fees of one per cent and half a per cent is the difference between a nest egg which is 10 per cent bigger or 10 per cent smaller.
As the Productivity Commission noted, ‘While some may be receiving exceptional investment returns or member services, the evidence indicates that funds that charge higher fees tend to deliver lower returns once both investment and administration fees have been netted off. Higher fees also persist over time.’ The Productivity Commission further concluded that ‘Superannuation fees in Australia are higher than those observed in other OECD countries.’Read more
LAUNCH OF THE AUSTRALIAN SOCIAL PROGRESS INDEX
PARLIAMENTARY FRIENDS OF SOCIAL SCIENCE
WEDNESDAY, 26 FEBRUARY 2020
My name is Andrew Leigh, one of the three convenors of the Parliamentary Friends of Social Science, along with Dave Sharma and Adam Bandt. Thanks to my colleagues Pat Conroy and Matt Keogh for attending. I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, and thank Kristy Muir and Megan Weir for their fascinating presentations.
As you well know, the conversation we're having around better measurement of wellbeing is one that's been occurring around the globe - the OECD's Better Life Index, the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Measures of Australia's Progress publication (which came out from 2002 to 2014). There’s also New Zealand's move to wellbeing budgeting, which my colleague Jim Chalmers said last week he would pursue were he to become Treasurer, looking at a broader range of indices alongside GDP, such as environmental performance, suicide and homelessness.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 25 FEBRUARY 2020
Once again, we look at the Closing the Gap targets with some sense of dismay. Once again, Australia notes that we are not on track to meet those important targets.
Five of the seven targets are not on track: the target to halve the gap in child mortality rates, which was on track two years ago but is now off track; the target to halve the gap for Indigenous children in reading, writing and numeracy; the target to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance; the target to halve the gap in employment outcomes; and the target to close the gap in life expectancy. These are not on track.
Only two of the targets are on track: the target for 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds to be enrolled in early childhood education and the target to halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20 to 24 in year 12 attainment or equivalent. And so it is a disappointing track record. For the work that has been done, we note that much remains undone.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 24 FEBRUARY 2020
Imagine you're facing a heatwave and your city has just experienced the worst air quality in the world.
Now imagine you're facing those threats while living alone.
Now imagine that your only way of communicating is about to be cut off.
That was the situation that Canberra woman Jenelle Outhwaite faced last month when she learned the CapTel service that she relies on was going to be axed by the Morrison government. Like thousands of Australians, Ms Outhwaite has hearing difficulties and relies on this vital service for everyday communications.Read more