MONDAY, 23 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government’s lack of budget strategy; Lee Kuan Yew; Homelessness funding; Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Today the Parliament will be honouring Malcolm Fraser, a prime minister whose record on multiculturalism and on issues like apartheid is certainly to be admired. He was somebody who helped thousands of Vietnamese refugees settle in Australia and when other countries were fragile on questions of race, he took a very clear stance on the moral issue of apartheid. We'll also be now just a few days away from the next budget coming down. Extraordinarily, Australia is still talking about the unfairness of the last budget. We've got Tony Abbott, who when debt was one-seventh of national income, thought it was appropriate to drive debt trucks around, now thinks it's ok when debt is heading to half of national income. To my mind, that would require a debt aircraft carrier rather than a debt truck. This is a government which has lost the confidence of the Australian people because rather than being focused on the long-term future of 24 million Australians, it is obsessed by the short-term political prospects of 20 Cabinet ministers. Happy to take questions.
LABOR’S TAX EXCHANGES NET $730 MILLION
Labor welcomes word from Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan that bilateral information exchanges signed under the previous Labor Government have added $730 million to multinational tax revenue over the past two years.
Commissioner Jordan will today tell the Tax Institute’s annual conference that information sharing with other countries about the tax affairs of big multinationals netted $480 million in 2012-13. A further $250 million was collected in 2013-14.
COALITION TO HELP BIGGEST COMPANIES HIDE FROM TAX SCRUTINY
Leaks out of today’s Liberal party room confirm the Abbott Government is gearing up to dump transparency laws which would let Australians seen how much tax big multinationals pay.
Because of reforms introduced by Labor in 2013, the Australian Tax Office is getting ready to release information about the taxable income and tax paid for companies earning over $100 million.
But in today’s party room meeting, Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg reportedly announced he is working on plans to roll back the transparency laws.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 16 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s attacks on pensions; higher education cuts; Asian Infrastructure Development Bank
CHRIS HAMMER: We're joined by Andrew Leigh, Labor Member for Fraser and also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and Andrew Laming, Liberal Member for Bowman in Queensland. Good morning gentlemen. Now I really have to start, Andrew Laming, with you after your comments on this program last week where you raised objections to the Government's policy on indexing pensions. You said that there were missiles, Exocets and torpedoes lined up at the policy from within the Government itself. Now, on the weekend Scott Morrison has suggested some sort of compromise with a review body to be set up. What's your reaction to that?
ANDREW LAMING, MEMBER FOR BOWMAN: Well the military ordinance is still there but it has not moved. There’s positive signs, we are seeing movement and I think that's what was wanted – not just by backbenchers. The nation wants to see a reasonable compromise supported by the crossbench in a way that pensioners can support. So what we've seen in the last week is an indication that pensions will be looked after by a separate and more apolitical body, and secondly reviewed according to economic circumstances. Both of them seem fairly reasonable but for the moment, pensioners will be asking the question: have our pensions been cut already? The answer is no. Are they automatically going to go from a high to a low level of indexation? Not necessarily. But that's about as far as we've got in the last week.
SUNDAY, 8 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: Intergenerational Report
BARRIE CASSIDY: With the Intergenerational Report released this week, we are joined by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh from the Canberra studios. Good morning, welcome.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Barrie.
CASSIDY: When you look at that report, the most sobering thought is the prospect of budget deficits for another 40 years. That should inspire not just governments but oppositions to start thinking about some tough decisions.
LEIGH: Barrie, it is absolutely right we need to be looking at measures which are going to ensure the Budget returns to a sustainable surplus. In government, Labor put in place over $100 billion worth of savings. After the Global Financial Crisis, when we used stimulus to save jobs, we put in place a two per cent real spending cap and stuck to it. Doing things like means testing the private health insurance rebate – one of the fastest growing areas of the budget – and curtailing the baby bonus. Both were opposed by the Coalition. So we have got the track record on making sustainable decisions.Read more
Capital forges civic renaissance, The Chronicle, 3 March
First, the bad news. Since the 1960s, many measures of ‘social capital’ in Australia have waned. On average, we have fewer friends and know fewer neighbours. We are less likely to join organisations, attend church or be part of a union.
Now, the good news. Across Australia, the nation’s capital is also its social capital. Compared with other parts of Australia, Canberrans are more likely to join, volunteer and give. We play more social sport, are more likely to pick up our litter, and are more engaged in community life.
In forging a civic renaissance, Canberra has a lot to teach the rest of Australia.
One of the ways that we foster community life is through our festivals. Festivals showcase many of the latent talents in our community – from dextrous dancers to clever chefs, melodious musicians to stimulating speakers.
The race between human productivity and machines, Business Spectator, 11 March
As US economist Paul Krugman once put it, “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”
Alas, too often, people who should know better have tended to make ‘productivity’ synonymous with longer hours and less job security.
As an economist, I love hearing real-world examples of how firms are raising productivity. Last year, I visited a manufacturing firm that makes mining machines. So baroque had the production line become that when they revamped the layout, the firm found that it was able to get the same work done on a line just one-thirteenth the length. The result was a one-third improvement in productivity for the company.
Visiting Fortescue’s operation in the Pilbara, I heard about its company-wide competition called ‘Have a Crack’, with the prize being $50,000 for the best productivity-boosting suggestion. The winning idea increased the efficiency of the machines that load iron ore onto bulk carriers, saving the company tens of millions of dollars each year. Not a bad return on investment.
TUESDAY, 10 MARCH 2015
SUBJECT/S: support for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission; federal Budget; Intergenerational Report
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's great to be here today to talk about a critically important issue: the sustainability of charities. Alannah MacTiernan and I have just held a terrific roundtable with a group of charities here in Western Australia. Across the medical sector, the community sector, the musical sector, these are charities which are out there helping the vulnerable. We want the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to be able to do its great work of helping taxpayers, donors and charities. We've heard many stories today about the important work the charities commission is doing, the ease with which not-for-profits are able to engage with the charities commission, and the potential for further work in the future to unify charities regulation across Australia. I'm calling today on the Social Services Minister Scott Morrison to stop his opposition to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, and to clearly guarantee the commission's future, supported as it is by four out of five charities. I'll hand over now to Alannah to make a couple of comments.
ALANNAH MACTIERNAN, MEMBER FOR PERTH: It's great to have Andrew over here and talking to a real range of charities across all the sectors. As Andrew said, we've had cultural, social, environmental and medical groups represented here today. Their very clear message has been that this charities commission has been a great benefit to their organisations and they really want to see bipartisan support develop for that. They want the charities commission to stay because they've found it a very positive experience. They also want us to go one step further and they want national laws around fundraising. With the internet and fundraising on the internet today, it's impossible to have the current situation where you've got all of these eight different jurisdictions that you have to be registered in. So there was a really clear message coming out today from charities: they want the charities commission to be supported by the Abbott Government and they want it extended so that we also have uniform fundraising laws around Australia.
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
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.