HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TUESDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2017
I have spoken half a dozen times in this parliament in support of marriage equality.
As an economist, we are often faced with public -policy decisions that involve trade-offs: one group made better off while another group is made worse off. This is, to my great delight, not one of those debates. This is a moment where a group of Australians will be made better off. Australians in same-sex relationships will have the opportunity to wed, and no-one will be made worse off.
Heterosexual marriages, like my own, will not be weakened. Indeed, some may be strengthened, given that, as we know, some heterosexual couples have held off tying the knot until marriage equality becomes reality.Read more
MONDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2017
Last week, by a vote of 51 to 49, the US Senate passed a major corporate tax cut.
The bill has several similarities with the corporate tax cut being debated here. A survey by the University of Chicago found that 37 out of 38 US economists said the GOP bill would increase the deficit. The 38th later said they didn't understand the question.
In Australia, an Economic Society of Australia survey of 31 economists found two-thirds agreeing that ‘Australia will receive a bigger economic growth dividend in the long run by spending on education than by offering an equivalent amount in a tax cut to business’. Treasury's own estimates say that the government's big-business company tax cut would deliver only a 0.1 per cent increase in personal income - in the 2030s.Read more
MONDAY, 4 DECEMBER 2017
Two and half weeks ago I joined Canberrans in a park near my office as we waited for the results of the vote on marriage equality.
The results were overwhelming.
Compared with the 62 per cent vote nationally, 74 per cent of Canberrans supported same-sex marriage, making the ACT not just the OECD's most livable region, not just a Lonely Planet a must-visit destination, but also the state or territory in Australia with the highest support for same-sex marriage.
But these figures don't tell the full story.Read more
Cooperative week for Australia’s most cooperative sector - Speech to the Business Council Of Co-Operatives and Mutuals Summit Dinner
ADDRESS TO THE BUSINESS COUNCIL OF CO-OPERATIVES AND MUTUALS SUMMIT DINNER
THURSDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2017
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Thank you Annabel [Crabb] for that characteristically double-edged introduction.
It’s been a cooperative week for Australia’s most cooperative sector. Politicians are not always famous for our ability to cooperate with one another. I trust if we do nothing else that Michael and I can help to assuage the stereotype tonight.
As Michael said, he was the only Coalition MP to come to my book launch recently – although it has to be said that precisely one week after the book was launched I got a telephone call from Liberal cabinet minister, saying ‘so I’m in the room, where is this book launch of yours?’
There’s a metaphor there. I’ll come back to it.
I acknowledge Melina Morrison, your extraordinarily hard working CEO, who recently encouraged the creation of the Parliamentary Friends of Mutuals and Co-ops. I acknowledge Chris Ketter – there is no stronger champion of cooperatives or Queensland in the room. Scott Emerson. Outgoing BCCM chair, Andrew Crane.Read more
[The report is available from ANU Press]
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
MONDAY, 15 AUGUST 2016
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Thank you for that very generous introduction. Can I of course acknowledge we’re meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Let me start by thanking Peter Drysdale for inviting me to speak at this event.
As all of you know, Peter was recently awarded the Order of Australia which, among many other things, was for his ground-breaking work as the intellectual architect of APEC.Read more
I rise this evening to talk about the impact of the Abbott government's budget cuts on the electorate of Fraser. It is my sad duty to inform the House that, since the election of the Abbott government, on many occasions my constituents have found themselves deeply disappointed by broken promises that have hit their communities.
The Gungahlin Jets is a local organisation that had received budgeted funding under the Building Multicultural Communities Program. The Gungahlin Jets were receiving a grant that would have helped improve security at the club house—but, unfortunately, that funding was ripped away, with the Jets being burgled in subsequent weeks. We do not know whether or not the grant, which included funds for a security door and security cameras, would have prevented the threat, but we certainly know that that funding was taken away. Senator Zed Seselja incorrectly told the people of Canberra:
They promised something they didn't have the money for. They didn't allocate the money for it.Read more
THE ABBOTT-HOCKEY BUDGET AND THE FAIR GO
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
26 MAY 2014
Whether you ask parents, pensioners or conservative premiers, it is pretty clear that this budget is deeply unpopular—perhaps the most unpopular budget since polling began. One of the reasons for this is that it breaks so many promises: in it, pledges of no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no cuts to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and no new taxes are smashed like plates at a Greek wedding. Broken too is the pledge not to cut more than 12,000 public servants, a broken promise which falls particularly hard on my electorate, and the promise not to make further cuts to foreign aid: now Australia will see itself doing less vaccination and building fewer sanitary projects—saving fewer lives. It appears that, when Mr Abbott was sermonising for the previous three years about the need for politicians to keep their word, he was referring to everyone but himself.
Addressing the National Press Club, I talked about a generation of rising inequality, how the Abbott Government's policies will affect inequality and the importance of maintaining Australia's egalitarian ethos (download audio; iTunes podcast):
ANDREW LEIGH MPRead more
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION
MEMBER FOR FRASER
Battlers and Billionaires: Australian Egalitarianism Under Threat*
National Press Club Address
THURSDAY, 27 MARCH 2014
In 2002, two bombs exploded in Bali nightclubs, killing and injuring hundreds of people. At the local hospital, there was a shortage of painkillers. Graeme Southwick, an Australian doctor on duty, asked patients to assess their own pain levels. He kept being told by patients in the ‘Australian’ ward that they were okay – the person next to them was suffering more.
Coming across this account, historian John Hirst was reminded of the description of injured Australians in Gallipoli nearly a century earlier. He quotes the official war historian Charles Bean, who describes the suffering and then says, ‘Yet the men never showed better than in these difficulties. The lightly hurt were full of thought for the severely wounded.’
Even in the midst of their own pain, the first instinct of many Australians was to think of those worse off than themselves.
Even the military, one of our most hierarchical institutions, is infused with the nation’s egalitarian spirit. Indeed, it has been suggested that this is one reason why our forces are such effective peacekeepers. When the United Nations intervened in Somalia in the 1990s, our troops were more inclined to go on foot patrols than the French and American forces, who tended to stay in jeeps and behind sandbags.
As a result, our troops were more likely to listen to local townspeople rather than just hearing the views of tribal leaders. This in turn made them more effective at solving local disputes. It was, as one account put it, ‘an example of the traditional Australian sympathy for the underdog being put to very good use’.
Egalitarianism goes deep in the Australian character. Most of us don’t like tipping. I’d like to think that’s our egalitarianism at work. There aren’t private areas on our beaches. Audiences don’t stand when the prime minister enters the room. We’re a country that happily dispensed with knighthoods a generation ago, and no sensible person would suggest that the land of ‘mate’ should become the kingdom of ‘sir’.
In Australia, it’s quite normal to sit in the front seat of a taxi. If the plumber drops around, we’ll offer a cuppa. One of our billionaires is ‘Twiggy’ and past Australian Reserve Bank governors include ‘Nugget’ and ‘Nobby’.
Egalitarianism is as much a part of Australia’s national identity as vegemite, Uluru and the Big Banana.
And yet that egalitarian ethos is increasingly under threat from a rise in inequality over the past generation.
Let me give you a few numbers.
I spoke in Parliament today to celebrate the arrival of the Bruce GP Super Clinic, and to ask what it is about efficient, affordable and accessible healthcare that the Government thinks is ‘nasty’?:
This week saw the opening of the GP Super Clinic in Bruce. Residents in Canberra's north now have better access to general practitioners, nurses, pathologists, dieticians, counsellors and a range of other allied health practitioners. The facility is located on the grounds of the University of Canberra, which means it can integrate teaching, training and research. There are already eight GPs treating patients in the new clinic in Bruce, and there is capacity to expand to 18 doctors and related supporting services.Read more
The super clinic will help to meet the expected demand coming from the growth in Canberra's northern suburbs. It will provide improved access for northsiders to vital health services. I celebrated the opening of the clinic; I helped turn the first sod last year with former health minister, Tanya Plibersek, who is a passionate supporter of GP super clinics, unlike the current health minister.
My speech at the Lowy Institute looks at population size, immigration flows and refugee policy.
Does Size Matter? An Economic Perspective on the Population Debate*
13 March 2014
Shadow Assistant Treasurer
Federal Member for Fraser
I’ve wanted to say something about this rather controversial topic for a long time. Now that I take to the podium, I can’t help thinking of an epitaph Dorothy Parker penned for her gravestone: ‘Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.’
A great epitaph for a writer. Perhaps not so much for a politician. Nevertheless, I hope what follows shows that my belief in evidence is stronger than my desire to avoid tough questions.
If there’s one thing that’s really big in the population size debate, it’s the size of the scare campaigns made by both sides.
A big Australia, one side tells us, is a ‘catastrophe’ that ‘risks destroying our traditions and even our common language’. Immigration has ‘undermined our higher education system, [and] put intolerable pressure on an overstretched health and transport system’. Some go further, blaming ‘limp-wristed citizenship requirements’ for ‘ethnic crime waves sweeping across our nation, where samurai swords and machetes have become part of the media lexicon’.
Not to be outdone, the other side of the debate argue that: ‘Putting caps on growth would turn Australia into a stagnant, ageing and inward-looking country – a basket case to rival the declining states of Europe.’ Some have warned that if population growth is too slow, the share market would stagnate, small businesses would be unable to fund their ventures, taxes would rise, and debt would balloon.
And just in case overheated claims didn’t make the discussion difficult enough, each side delight in building straw men. Perhaps it makes people feel better when they take a stand against ‘unchecked population growth’ or ‘zero population growth’. But in reality, hardly anyone publicly advocates uncapped immigration, and few population commentators argue for zero immigration. The serious conversation is whether we want our population to grow modestly or significantly. But it risks being derailed by those who caricature their opponents to score a cheap point.
Perhaps one reason the Australian population debate is so odd is that because – from a population standpoint – Australia is an odd country.