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Race with the machine or race against the machine? Laying the foundations for an innovative, productive and equitable Australia

Race against the machine or race with the machine?

Laying the foundations for an innovative, productive and equitable Australia

Speech - Corrs Chambers Westgarth
Perth

10 March 2015

Nearly five years ago, I made the switch from professor to politician. I’ve never regretted the transition, but it continues to surprise me how different the two occupations are.

In academia, specialisation is valued – you want to pick an area so narrow that you can know more about it than anyone else in the world.

Politics is a generalist occupation – in a typical day, I’d go from talking superannuation to local jobs, from family counselling programs to Free Trade Agreements.

University economics departments value sharp distinctions, and blunt critiques. Politics is a team sport, so you need to build consensus to bring about reform.

One of the really noticeable things about politics is how the language of economics gets used. Terms like human capital, comparative advantage and public goods might be fine for the lecture theatre, but they have a tendency to leave people cold.

When we fail to engage, to explain, and to connect, there is a risk that people go along with economic changes not because they understand them, but because they feel they have no other choice.

Nowhere is this truer than in the case of productivity.

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Matter of Public Importance - The Abbott Government's Intergenerational Report

Matter of Public Importance debate

The Abbott Government's politicisation of the Intergenerational Report

5 March, 2015

Egalitarianism is a great Australian value and over the last generation inequality in Australia has been rising. The 2010 Intergenerational Report had an in-depth section on disadvantage and on the rising gap between rich and poor, but this Intergenerational Report does not contain the word 'inequality.'

Now why would that be? Perhaps it is because this is a government that has cut the wages of the cleaners who clean their offices while it is sending a billion dollars offshore. Since coming to office, this government has given a billion-dollar handout to multibillion dollar firms who need a tax break like Prince Phillip needs a knighthood. This is a government that likes channelling Robert Menzies to split Australia into 'leaners' and 'lifters.' In Britain the Tories are doing the same—they are talking about 'strivers' and 'skivers'. But it is all of a piece. It is the idea of 'us and them'. This is a government that wants us to be split into two Australias. This government's idea of fairness is sending the under-9s up against the Hawks.

This Treasurer is a Treasurer of, by and for the top one per cent. The figures in table A3 of this Intergenerational Report show that age and service pensions, as a share of GDP, are going to be down and that education spending will be halved. This is a government that is raising superannuation taxes on the poor and cutting superannuation taxes on the rich. This is government is so unfair that the Sheriff of Nottingham would be voting Palmer in the Senate.

These are insecure times and Australia needs a Treasurer who will instill confidence, not the sort of Treasurer who is likely to tweet: 'Hey gang, what do you think the deficit should be?' before the next ERC. This is a Treasurer who has run a million-dollar advertising campaign to sell his Intergenerational Report. That is enough to make you fall off your chair.

Why has this Treasurer been late in delivering his Intergenerational Report? Why has he, as the Shadow Treasurer has pointed out, broken the Charter of Budget Honesty? Why is he in breach of the law? Maybe it is because he has been doing his own numbers rather than the budget numbers. Maybe he has been a little bit too busy updating his LinkedIn profile to put together the Intergenerational Report.

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Fair gone? How governments can guard against growing inequality

ANZSOG/VPSC Victoria Lecture Series

Melbourne

19 February 2015 

In late 2001, at the age of fifty-five, the Australian journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen decided to take leave from her job and try life as a low-wage worker. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Wynhausen’s Dirt Cheap documents her year living in budget accommodation and working at entry-level jobs.

In one job, Wynhausen moved to a country town and worked packing eggs. She earned $14 an hour in a job that started at 6 a.m., left her body aching at the end of the day, and where the smell from the nearby chook sheds was constant. Three weeks in, the manager, a millionaire several times over, came to speak to the workers. He announced that the company was selling its egg division. ‘It’s not all doom and gloom,’ he told them – but they knew their jobs were going. Wynhausen was struck by the fact that none of the workers challenged the manager: ‘seeing them standing mute in front of the boss was like seeing them stripped of all defences’.

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40th Anniversary of the Australian Honours System

The Australian Honours System has been acknowledging the contribution of amazing Australians for 40 years now. I was proud to join a great many of them for the anniversary celebrations at Government House this week.

40th ANNIVERSARY OF THE AUSTRALIAN HONOURS SYSTEM

Government House, Canberra

Your Excellencies Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today representing the Leader of the Opposition the Honourable Bill Shorten on this special anniversary.

One of the great privileges of being a parliamentarian is that you get to meet so many remarkable people. Over the past week, I’ve spoken with a woman who runs a technology start-up, a teacher who works with newly arrived migrant children, the head of an international aid organisation, and a mental health campaigner. In a job like this, it’s impossible not to be an optimist about Australia’s future.

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Economic development on the Far South Coast

Economic Development on the Far South Coast

Campaign Event for Leanne Atkinson, NSW Labor Candidate for BegaSaturday,

31 January 2015 

I acknowledge the traditional owners, on whose lands we meet today. Thanks to Leanne for inviting me here this afternoon, and to Doug for his very moderate moderating. It’s great to share the stage with a policy thinker of the calibre of David Hetherington. It’s good to be here with all of you as well, although I am slightly worried about who’s minding Canberra since it seems as though we’re all here at the coast.

In politics we spend a lot of time dealing with the things that are most urgent, but not necessarily the most important. Events like today’s provide an opportunity to raise our eyes to the horizon and think about the big picture challenges we need to address for this community’s future. I think it’s a great indication of the approach Leanne would bring as this region’s local member, and I commend her for facing up to the challenges ahead with energy and optimism.  

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No country ever tax dodged its way to prosperity - Address to the McKell Institute

No country ever tax dodged its way to prosperity

Address to the McKell Institute, Sydney

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Thank you for that very kind introduction. It’s an absolute delight to have the McKell Institute as host tonight.

There’s been a lot of talk over the years about the need for more investment in progressive think tanks, and a lot less action. You are an exception. In just four years, McKell has established itself as perhaps the leading voice for practical public policy in this city and state.

Taking Bill McKell as your inspiration is a particularly, well a particularly inspired choice. My mum’s dad was a boilermaker, so I almost feel like I’m among family here. And McKell’s name is a constant reminder that Australian Labor’s practical, progressive, pro-growth tradition dates back a lot further than thirty years.

Your team’s efforts are quite remarkable and the evidence of that is right here in this terrific group of people gathered for an important discussion – so once again, thanks.

Friends.

As Shadow Assistant Treasurer in the Shorten Opposition, I’ve got a lot of fascinating responsibilities.

CGT, DGR, FBT. 

I get to dabble in EMTRs and the IGOT, and if all the work is done for the week by Friday lunchtime, then we break out MTAWE and MAWTO – five letter acronyms we reserve for a very special tax nerd afternoon.

But the four-letter word I’m spouting the most at the moment is ‘BEPS’.

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McKell Institute Address - No country ever tax dodged its way to prosperity

On 27 January I'll be speaking at the McKell Institute on multinational tax and inclusive growth. If you'd like to come along, you can RSVP to francis@mckellinstitute.org.au

McKell_Institute_invite.jpg

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Who owns the Eureka legend?

Which side of politics owns the Eureka legend?

An after-dinner debate for the conference on “Eureka’s significance, then and now”

Australian National University

3 December 2014

My thanks to John Moloney for his introduction, Dave Headon for organising tonight’s debate, and the gathered historians for being here on this, the 160th anniversary of Eureka. Let me pay my respects to the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land and their elders past and present.

I want to particularly thank my three parliamentary colleagues: Nick Champion, Michael McCormack and Lucy Wicks. We don't do enough in parliament that is bipartisan. These three parliamentary colleagues are people who enjoy talking about the role of history in our national conversation, and recognise that history isn't just the stories gone by, it is part of the golden threads that link the past to what we do in the future. 

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Matter of Public Importance Debate - the Budget

Matter of Public Importance: The Budget

In this annus horribilis for the Abbott government: they have given Australia back knights and dames; they have taught us that the name of our North American friend is pronounced 'Canadia'; they have suggested that the US is at risk of default—and I am sure the member for Riverina would not have made a mistake like that. They have shown their common touch by smoking cigars just before handing down the most unfair budget in living memory; enlightened us about the link between breast cancer and abortion; taken to the barricades to defend the rights of bigots; told us that poor people do not drive cars; said that the Australian Submarine Corporation, despite being headed by Sophie Mirabella, still cannot build a canoe; and shown us that demon dialling is the way to every crossbenchers heart.

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Don't abolish the charities commission

Yesterday the government finally brought the bill to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission forward for debate. I kicked things off for the Opposition by explaining exactly why we need to keep this important, effective agency.

Speech: Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Repeal Bill (No.1) 2014

House of Representatives

I move:

That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that the Government’s plan to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is an insult to the good work of the charitable sector, and to all Australians who want accountability and transparency when it comes to their generous donations.”

What the charities commission does

Let me start with a story of great concern. It is about some scammers who set up charities with names such as Friends of the Disabled Children's Task Force, Friends of the Underprivileged Children's Task Force, and Chronic Constructive Pulmonary Disease of Australia Incorporated. Australians, inspired by a deep sense of generosity, donated more than $1 million to them. It turned out that there was not much evidence of the money going to the disadvantaged or needy, and those charities have now been shut down.

All scammers are dodgy, but I have always regarded charity scammers as a particular form of low-life. Other scammers exploit greed or lust or ignorance, but charity scammers prey on our goodwill; they take that great Aussie tradition of wanting to help the vulnerable, and they use it to line their own pockets.

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8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon ACT 2612 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au