Why the NRA has Australia in its sights, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 2015
In 1995-96, I worked as a summer clerk at the Sydney office of law firm Minter Ellison. Each of us was assigned a mentor. Mine was 28-year-old Zoe Hall. Whip-smart, generous and perpetually smiling, Zoe was the perfect mentor. Surrounded by egos and timesheets, I felt like Zoe always had time to chat, and wanted to help me feel welcome in the firm.
That autumn, Zoe took a holiday to Port Arthur. She was filling the car at a petrol station when she was shot by Martin Bryant – the second-last of his 35 victims.
In the decade leading up to the Port Arthur massacre, mass shootings (in which five or more people are killed) had been a regular feature of Australian life. Between 1987 and 1996, a total of 94 victims were killed in mass shootings. Australia averaged a mass shooting every year, with places such as Strathfield, Hoddle Street and Canley Vale becoming synonymous with gun violence.
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 13 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government gutting clean energy investment; Barnaby’s Law; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission.
KIERAN GILBERT: This morning I’m joined by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Steve Ciobo. Steve Ciobo first to you, you heard a bit about what Tim Flannery had to say. This debate about clean energy, you've copped a fair bit of flack – the Government – for excluding windfarms, and now the most popular form of alternative energy, rooftop solar. Is the Government trying to get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation by stealth?
STEVEN CIOBO, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Well, no, not by stealth. We have said all along, Kieran, that we are opposed to the CEFC. But let's be clear about what's taking place here because there seems to be, and I do intend the pun, a lot of hot air around this for no particular reason. What the CEFC is focused on doing, what its mandate to do, is to invest in new, emerging technologies. Solar and wind are not new, emerging technologies. These are commercial-level investments. We see massive increases predicted for both solar and wind over the next five years. Now, for anybody to suggest for one moment that because of the mandate that we have given, or the directive I should say, to the CEFC, that that is somehow going to jeopardise wind or jeopardise solar is absolute rubbish. I mean frankly, from an alarmist like Tim Flannery, I am not surprised to hear it. But the fact is there is absolutely no basis in fact at all, nor, more importantly, is there a financial basis for making that statement because it is completely false.
GILBERT: So you believe that these industries, these sectors, can stand on their own two feet, basically, Steve Ciobo?
CIOBO: We've got something like 1.4 million solar panels rolled out across Australia on rooftops. More importantly, the renewable energy target – the RET – will drive continued investment both in terms of wind and in solar. I think, frankly, some people need to calm down. Tim Flannery should calm down, some of the journalists should calm down because there is absolutely no way at all that the directive that has been given to the CEFC is going to have a detrimental or in fact a negative impact, in terms of both wind and solar, over the next five years. So, you know, people just need to be focused on what the reality is.
GILBERT: Ok, let's hear Andrew Leigh, your response to that? I guess the argument that the Government is making through Greg Hunt and Steve Ciobo this morning is that it's better to be investing taxpayer money in emerging technologies and in the large-scale solar projects which the Government is still committed to.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well Kieran, let's be clear about what the CEFC mandate is. It is not, as Steve has suggested, just to invest in new technologies. It is very clear that if you look at its act, if you look at the CEFC mandate published on its website, it has a mandate to deal with the market failure, that there is not sufficient investment for both proven technologies and for new technologies. So, you have seen the CEFC make a return that is three per cent over the bond rate, by investing in things such as wind farms in Victoria, solar in Alice Springs, energy efficiency in other contexts. The problem is this Government has never seen an expert panel it doesn't want to nobble – just ask the curriculum authority, just ask the Australia Council if you want evidence of that. They're trying to narrow down what the CEFC can invest in, and at the same time they want it to produce a higher return.
ABC NEWSRADIO BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 8 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Failures with myTax online systems; Greek economic crisis; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission.
STEVE CHASE: Andrew Leigh, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Steve, how are you?
CHASE: Good. I looked at the ATO website this morning and they're still looking to resolve the problems. They've urged patience – is that good enough?
LEIGH: I think it's pretty disappointing for many people who are looking to file a tax return early. We have the tried and tested eTax system which is being phased out and the poor ATO staff - after 4,700 job cuts - are now being asked to deliver this new myTax system. They've got an IT system that really seems to be struggling to keep up. I don't blame the tax office; I blame a Government which expects agencies to roll out new systems while slashing the public service.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY NEEDS URGENT REVIEW BEFORE TPP IS AGREED
Joint media release with Shadow Minister for Trade Penny Wong
With intellectual property set to be an important issue in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Abbott Government should urgently complete a Productivity Commission inquiry on this before any deal is signed.
Reports suggest the Government is preparing to task the Productivity Commission with reviewing intellectual property holders’ rights and user conditions.
This was a key recommendation of the Harper Competition Review which delivered its report to the Government many months ago. The Harper panel called for a review both of Australia’s current IP laws and the process for negotiating IP clauses in international trade deals.
We won't beat homelessness without tackling inequality, joint op-ed with Jan McLucas, Homelessness Australia Magazine
Glenn Tibbitts was born at 26 weeks in the back of an ambulance because his mother had endured yet another beating. Glenn’s first recollection of abuse he suffered was between the ages of one and two.
Around the age of seven his parents broke up and as Glenn describes it: ‘the door of the cage was left open and that was my opportunity to go’.
Both of us have parented seven year-olds. On a good day– with a bit of cajoling – they might eat breakfast and get themselves dressed for school. There is something horrifying about such a child having to choose homelessness in order to survive.
Glenn slept in car parks and under bushes and bridges. This was interspersed with short periods in refuges and shelters. As a child he experienced the indignity of having scraps of food thrown at him by strangers. Not given. Thrown.
As he describes it: ‘You are always constantly hungry, you are always constantly cold’. Dealing with the abuse and trauma he suffered was a constant struggle that kept him on the streets.
As heart-wrenching as Glenn’s story is, it is also a story of hope.
RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 2 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Superannuation fairness.
FRAN KELLY: The Prime Minister left nobody in doubt yesterday on the Coalition's position on superannuation tax concessions.
TONY ABBOTT: We aren't ever going to increase the taxes on super. We aren't ever going to increase the restrictions on super because super belongs to the people.
KELLY: That sounds like 'never ever' to me. That emphatic response from the Prime Minister follows revelations yesterday that the Government had been looking at options to change the tax treatment of super right up until 22 April. That was the day Labor released its policy on super tax changes. Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh obtained these letters from Treasury under Freedom of Information. Andrew Leigh is speaking with our Business Editor Sheryle Bagwell, and she began by asking him what prompted his decision to go for an FOI request.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: The Government had been so unequivocal in saying that it would never make changes to superannuation that it occurred to us that it would be interesting to see what they were really talking about. What’s striking is that all the way up until Labor made our statement on superannuation – moving for superannuation concessions to be changed so that they were fairer and more sustainable – the Government's own Expenditure Review Committee were going forwards and backwards with Treasury looking at options for changing superannuation. The reason they backed off that was Labor's announcement.
RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
TUESDAY 30 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Political donations; Q&A; Greek economic crisis.
JONATHAN GREEN: Joining me now from Sydney is Senator Arthur Sinodinos and in our Canberra studio, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Welcome to you both.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: G'day Jonathan, g'day Arthur.
SENATOR ARTHUR SINODINOS: G'day gentlemen.
GREEN: Touch gloves, gentlemen.
LEIGH: I thought it was swords, isn't that what knights do? Or is it lances?
GREEN: That's sounding very fancy. To this [Hockey] ruling, Arthur Sinodonos, is it vindication for the Treasurer or a warning to editors about how to sell a story?
Confronting family violence, Canberra Times, 1 July
In the house where Emma* grew up, family violence was a regular part of life. Her father was abusive to Emma’s mother, and to the children. Emma told me that the smell of Dettol still evokes fear, as it reminds her of her mother’s injuries. Eventually, the harm that Emma’s mother sustained during her life would contribute to her early death at age 69.
When she grew up, Emma was determined not to suffer what her own mother had endured. But over the coming decades, she would find herself in two abusive relationships. In each case, she told me, there were some people – like the police officers to whom she reported the violence – who were supportive.
But then there were others who didn’t seem to understand her situation. One person suggested that perhaps it was just a ‘relationship problem’, and she needed to work harder to resolve it. Others questioned whether she had reported the violence from the very first blow, and suggested that she was a bad mother to her children if she had not sought an apprehended violence order immediately.
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 29 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Australian Climate Roundtable; Mafia infiltration of the Liberal Party; Electoral funding
KIERAN GILBERT: Gentlemen, thanks for joining me. With me I have the Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Andrew, to you first of all on this climate roundtable involving key business groups, unions, welfare groups, investors, environmental groups, all agreeing to parameters that so far the Federal Parliament and the nation's politicians haven't been able to agree to. Should this provide some impetus, do you think, for some sort of bipartisanship here?
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Kieran, it's a great initiative. I really hope that we're able to kick Australia forwards along a path that so many other countries in the world are travelling down. You know, China's emissions fell last year – possibly just a temporary drop – but people now think they're going to peak around 2025 which is much earlier than previously anticipated. But what we've got in Australia is the Government setting up a Wind Farm Commissioner, we've got them debating motions at Liberal Party Conference denying climate science, we've got the Abbott Government really backing away from where the rest of the world is going. Britain, New Zealand, the United States – all these countries are taking serious action on climate change. Meanwhile Australia is being described by Kofi Annan as a climate villain. We need to step up to the plate on accepting that the science is real and doing something about it.
Why should we care about inequality? Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June
Dutch economist Jan Pen once suggested a simple way of visualising the amount of inequality in a society. Imagine, he suggested, a parade, in which each person’s resources were represented by their height.
Suppose we were to conduct such a parade in Australia. People of average wealth would be average height. Those with half the average wealth would be half the average height. Those with twice the average wealth would be twice the average height.
Let’s suppose the parade took an hour to pass you. What would you see?
For the first half a minute, people would be literally underground. These are the people with more debts than assets. Perhaps they are homeless, but have credit card debts. Or they are a business owner about to go bankrupt.
Then would come the little people. For the first few minutes, they are no bigger than Lego figures. They might have some clothing and a television, but little else. By the ten minute mark, people are the size of a child’s doll. They might own an old car.
Twenty minutes have gone by, but still the marchers are no taller than a newborn baby. Most probably don’t have regular work. Few would dream about them – or their children – breaking into the central Sydney property market.
Forty-five minutes in, and the watcher can now look the marchers in the eye. These are homeowners with well-paying jobs – in many cases probably with two full-time workers in the household.