Last week I joined NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney in announcing that a future Foley Labor Government would sign New South Wales up to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. In this piece for Pro Bono Australia, I've looked at why that's exactly the kind of practical red-tape reform Australian charities will benefit from.
Keeping the ACNC opens the door to real reform, Pro Bono Australia, 24 February
Do you run a not-for-profit in Victoria or Queensland? What about a charity in Western Australia or Tasmania? If so, you’ll know that qualifying for state and federal charitable status means jumping through a lot of hoops. With two sets of paperwork to fill in and two bureaucracies to navigate, it can take a lot of time just to get to the point where you can actually start helping your community.
That’s why I was pleased to join the NSW Opposition last week in announcing that a future Foley Labor Government would sign that state up to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. By aligning the New South Wales state rules with the national scheme, this decision would make life much easier for over 18,000 charities across the state.
On a day when the Prime Minister laid out his government's approach on national security, I joined Fairfax Breaking Politics to talk about the importance of keeping Australians safe while maintaining a balance between freedoms and protections. Here's the transcript:
MONDAY, 23 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: National security
HAMMER: Andrew Laming is the Liberal MP for Bowman in Queensland and Andrew Leigh is the Labor Member for Fraser here in the ACT. Gentlemen, good morning. Ok, national security is clearly the topic of the day. Andrew Laming to you first, the prominent lawyer Julian Burnside has more or less accused the Prime Minister of playing the terror card because of his political standing. He wants to bolster his standing so he's trying to impart fear into the community about terrorism. Now, there will be an element of society that is sceptical about the Prime Minister's motives on this. So how do you convince them that he's doing this for genuine reasons rather than pure political ones?
ANDREW LAMING, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BOWMAN: I don't believe I have to convince anyone. Australians in the main concede that we've faced a period of heightened and long term terror alert and they'd expect any government, both sides of politics, to respond accordingly. That's why he's saying bipartisan support is important, certainly around these increased efforts and increased resourcing. It's a very complex issue, there are no easy solutions and so the Prime Minister's address today really sets the stage for what I think will be a series of small but significant changes to keep Australia a more secure nation and one that is able to respond quickly, early and pre-emptively to these sort of threats.
HAMMER: Andrew Leigh, I want to ask you essentially the same question. There is scepticism in the community about Labor's stance on national security, that for political reasons Labor will simply stick like glue to whatever the government announces because that's not the area you want to fight the next election on. How do you convince people that Labor has their best interest at heart rather than your own political interests?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Chris, there's clearly a risk of an upsurge in terrorism – resulting in large part from returning foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq. People who have been both radicalised but also learned dangerous new skills. That's why President Obama convened a high level international summit at the White House last week on the topic. The question for us is how we manage to adapt our laws to deal with the threat. I'm guided by something Justice Hope, whose 1977 Royal Commission laid the ground work for the modern ASIO, said. He said that individual liberty and public safety work together rather than in tension. We need to realise that there is a right to freedom of speech just as there is a right to get a coffee and walk about in safety. These are fundamental rights. One of the best weapons we have against extremism is our values, our status as a modern pluralist democracy.
There are worrying signs from the Abbott Government that it will use the Productivity Commission's industrial relations inquiry to undermine penalty rates for casual workers. In this piece for the Hobart Mercury, Brendan O'Connor and I explain why protecting penalty rates protects more than just the wages of low-paid workers.
Penalty rates based on family values, Hobart Mercury, 23 February
When was the last time you planned your child’s birthday party for a Monday morning? Went to a christening on Tuesday? Invited friends to your house for a BBQ lunch on a Wednesday?
If the answer is ‘hardly ever’, then you’re a beneficiary of one of the greatest social inventions of humankind: the weekend.
In economic jargon, weekends help solve a coordination problem. If you’re planning to invite fifty guests to your wedding, it helps if there’s a common time that they’re unlikely to be working.
A truly national scheme for charities regulation has come one step closer, as I joined Deputy NSW Opposition Leader Linda Burney and Shadow Minister for Fair Trading Tania Mihailuk to announce that a Foley Labor Government would sign New South Wales up to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Here's the transcript:
NSW PARLIAMENT, SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: NSW Labor signing up to Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
LINDA BURNEY, NSW DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you for coming. I'm joined today by Andrew Leigh, the federal Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and Tania Mihailuk, the Shadow Minister for Fair Trading here in New South Wales. Today we're announcing that a Foley-led Labor Government would sign up to the national charities commission. This commission was put in place by Labor in 2012 and its role is to make things simpler for charities across Australia. A Labor government, led by Luke Foley in New South Wales, commits itself to being part of the charities commission, and to allow charities in New South Wales to have less paperwork. This means they can concentrate more on what they should be doing, and that's being out there working in the community. I'll ask Andrew Leigh to make some more comments now.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much Linda, and it's a real pleasure to join Linda Burney and Tania Mihailuk for this important announcement. The charities commission isn't a partisan idea; it's an institution which protects donors, taxpayers and charities. The announcement that a Foley Labor Government will sign up to the charities commission is great news for the 18,000 charities in New South Wales. It means they can spend less time doing paperwork, and more time helping the vulnerable and building social capital in our community. I'd now call on the federal Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, to bring the charities commission out of the Twilight Zone. He appears to have a policy of scrapping the charities commission, but then on the other hand says that scrapping it isn't near the top of his agenda. So he ought to come on board. He ought to sign up to support the charities commission, to stand on the side of charities and against scammers, who are the only ones who have anything to fear from the charities commission. Tania, did you want to say a few words as well?
TANIA MIHAILUK, NSW SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAIR TRADING: We're delighted to be joined here by Andrew Leigh today, and to make it very clear that a Foley-led Labor Government will support charities only having to deal with one organisation through the national regulatory scheme. It is difficult for charities when they get caught up jumping through bureaucratic hoops, filling out double the paperwork when they shouldn't have to. We want charities focused on what they do best, and that is supporting people that need their help.
In great news for New South Wales charities, I joined Deputy Opposition Leader Linda Burney and Shadow Consumer Affairs Minister Tania Mihailuk to announce that a Foley Labor Government will harmonise the state's rules to match up with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. This will make life much easier for NSW not-for-profits because they'll only have to register and report to one government agency.
JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
NSW LABOR SIGNS UP TO NATIONAL CHARITIES SCHEME
A Foley Labor Government will cut red tape for New South Wales charities by allowing them to register and report just once through the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
Deputy NSW Opposition Leader Linda Burney and Shadow Minister for Fair Trading Tania Mihailuk joined the federal Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh at NSW State Parliament today to announce the new approach for local not-for-profits.
There are over 18,000 charities operating across the state, and they must currently register with NSW Government authorities if they wish to collect donations and receive state tax concessions. But to qualify as a tax deductible gift recipient, they must also register with the national charities regulator.
With the Abbott Government scoping out selling the Treasury and John Gorton buildings, I took to the op-ed page of the Canberra Times to explain why that's a bad idea on several scores.
When governments sell out, Canberra Times, 17 February 2015
Sometimes a policy announcement provides a little window into the heart of a government. Last Friday's announcement that the Abbott Government is thinking about selling off the Treasury and Finance Buildings is revealing – and not in a good way.
Let's start with the basics. A well-run government needs a strong public service. In most countries, the central agencies are located close to the parliament, to ensure that the legislature stays in touch with the executive. In Australia, departments such as Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister’s, Treasury and Finance are located within walking distance of Parliament House. Pay a visit to Ottawa, London, Paris or Washington and you’ll see a similar arrangement.
As the countdown to the Abbott Government's second budget shortens, I joined Chris Hammer on Breaking Politics to talk about Labor's alternative approach to their cuts and unfairness. Here's the transcript:
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: National security; Budget savings
CHRIS HAMMER: Andrew Leigh is the Labor MP for Fraser here in Canberra, he's also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Chris, how are you?
HAMMER: I’m well. Where are you?
LEIGH: I'm just in Braddon in the Northside of Canberra, a part of Canberra that's really turning into hipsterville. The rapid transformation of this area is fabulous, lots of new apartments, great cafes – anyone visiting Canberra should come by and have a coffee here.
HAMMER: Ok, now the issue of the day is national security and terrorism. The Prime Minister has issued a statement saying that bad people are playing Australians for "mugs", there's been too much benefit of the doubt about borders, for residency, for citizenship and Centrelink. What do you make of these comments and, if you like, moving the emphasis to national security?
LEIGH: Labor doesn't play politics with national security, these are bipartisan issues. For example, in…
HAMMER: Let me interrupt you there, you say Labor doesn't play politics with national security. Do you suspect that the Prime Minister is?
LEIGH: No, I'm just making it absolutely clear that this is a bipartisan issue. Last year on the question of the character test for the immigration system, Labor supported the Government's changes. Certainly, there are serious threats. The national security alert level is now at High. The horrific events that we've seen in Copenhagen, the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the events in Martin Place do highlight the very real concerns that exist in this area. So any proposals the Government puts forward, we will look at seriously and in good faith.
There's a great deal of uncertainty in the global economy right now. On ABC NewsRadio, I joined Marius Benson to talk about why it's important that Australia's government addresses this uncertainty, rather than adding to it. Here's the transcript:
THURSDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Economic summit proposal; Global economic outlook
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, there's been a call for a summit on Australia's economic future. That call has been backed, in part, by Tony Abbott but it came from Clive Palmer and also Rupert Murdoch. Echoes of Bob Hawke there – are you in favour of a summit?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Marius, Labor is always happy to talk economics. But you've got to worry when you hear calls for bipartisanship, because let's face it: expecting bipartisanship from Tony Abbott is like expecting humility from Malcolm Turnbull. He turned down the opportunity to be involved in the multi-party committee on climate change when Labor was in government, and he turned down the opportunity to be part of the tax forum. If this is a conversation about how we deal with the challenges of the future, including things like climate change and inequality, then we're happy to be part of that conversation. But if it's just a fig leaf to cover cuts to the most vulnerable, then Labor isn't going to support measures which harm the Australian social contract.
International tax has been in the news again with allegations a major bank has been helping wealthy individuals dodge their tax obligations. I joined Stuart Bocking to talk about what we can do to prevent this; here's the transcript:
TUESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: HSBC banking leaks; multinational profit shifting; Tony Abbott’s cuts to pensions; 2015 budget
STUART BOCKING: There's been interesting reports today about HSBC's international banking arm, which detail a whole heap of secret accounts which have been operated by all sorts of people including A-listers like Christian Slater, Joan Collins, Phil Collins, and the motorcycle ace Valentino Rossi. A number of high-profile Australians have been caught up in this as well, including Elle McPherson and also the late Kerry Packer. Now, there's no suggestion that any of them have broken the law, but the Australian tax Office is now probing the Swiss bank accounts of 261 Australians as new details emerge of what is the biggest leak in banking history. Dr Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and he's on the line. Dr Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Stuart, how are you?
BOCKING: I'm well. It isn't illegal to have an offshore bank account, is it?
LEIGH: No, that's right. It's just illegal not to notify the Australian tax office.
BOCKING: So this is quite extraordinary because they're saying there's potentially an additional $30 million which is owed to the nation's coffers.
LEIGH: That's right. Certainly this new Common Reporting Standard which developed countries around the world have agreed to implement is going to make it much harder for firms and individuals to hide information, as seems to have happened in this case. But what has concerned me is that the Abbott Government is implementing that Common Reporting Standard a year later than most other advanced countries, meaning there's an extra year that people are able to exploit loopholes like this.
The new Minister for Social Services has signaled a welcome change of tack on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. But instead of putting off plans to scrap the commission indefinitely, it would be better to just walk away from the idea altogether.
SHIFT ON ACNC WELCOME BUT CHARITIES NEED CERTAINTY
Labor welcomes Scott Morrison’s announcement that he will not make scrapping the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission a priority in his new Social Services portfolio. But if he is really listening to the charities sector, he should walk away from his predecessor’s plan to abolish it altogether.
The Abbott Government had previously committed to axing the commission, which was set up by Labor in 2012 to protect Australians from scammers and streamline charity regulation.
Under former Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, Australia’s charities endured months of uncertainty as the minister pushed through a Senate inquiry and endless consultations on what should replace the commission.