Putting fairness first means protecting tax transparency, Business Spectator, 24 July 2015
What do the Watergate affair, Project Wickenby and Jeffrey Wigand’s revelations about Big Tobacco have in common? They are all instances where increased transparency identified dodgy dealings and put an end to practices that weren’t in the public interest.
Transparency can also keep people on the straight and narrow by letting them know in advance that their actions will be scrutinised. That’s why companies must register the names of their directors with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and why politicians like me have to provide public reports on our financial interests.
The last Labor Government saw that transparency empowered citizens, so we created the MyChild, MyHospitals and MySchool websites. For the same reason, we also introduced laws requiring the Australian Tax Office to publish information about the income and tax paid by companies earning more than $100 million. There has been growing concern in the past few years that some big firms aren’t paying their fair share of tax; improving transparency is one way to tackle this.
There are only around 2,000 companies in Australia that currently earn enough to be included in this reporting when the tax office releases the data later this year. But right now the Abbott Government is trying to exclude over 800 of them from the rules so that they can continue keeping their tax affairs secret.
SPEECH TO THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY’S NATIONAL CONFERENCE
MELBOURNE EXHIBITION AND CONVENTION CENTRE, MELBOURNE
SUNDAY, 26 JULY 2015
Friends, in the past year we have seen the strongest possible demonstration of Labor’s enduring values in action.
In their first Budget, the Abbott Liberals attempted to cut pensions by $23 billion over the coming decade. They attempted a cut that would have left 3.2 million Australian pensioners worse off. They attempted to shut older Australians out from sharing in the growing prosperity of this country in the years ahead.
What did we do? We stood as one and said no. We stood as one to protect the pension, just as we have since the Fisher Labor Government first wove this enduring safety net for our old in 1909.
Labor people – men and women – joined with communities across Australia to say no to these cuts and no the Abbott Government’s mean and meagre vision for retirement.
RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
MONDAY, 20 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s plan to raise the GST; Bronwyn Bishop.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Andrew Leigh is Labor's Shadow Assistant Treasurer and he's with me now. Andrew, welcome to the program.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks Patricia, good to be with you.
KARVELAS: State Labor leaders are not all singing from the same song sheet: you've got Jay Wetherill not ruling anything out, the ACT Chief Minister saying he'd accept a broadening of the GST base now, and Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten now saying no. Why won't you engage in a discussion at the federal level?
LEIGH: Patricia, we're happy to engage in a conversation, but it's really important that we do that based on the evidence we have on the equity and efficiency of the GST. Normally when you're looking at tax reform, you look at things like simplicity, equity and efficiency. If you look at the efficiency of the GST – in other words, the amount of economic activity that is destroyed for every dollar you raise – the Government's latest tax discussion paper says it is just as inefficient a tax as the income tax. It's much less equitable though. The income tax is paid disproportionately by those further up the distribution and the GST hits those down the bottom.
936 ABC HOBART
MONDAY, 20 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Point to Pinnacle run for World Vision
RICK GODDARD: Here's another invitation for you and it's quite a chilling one in itself. A bloke whose grandfather died doing something and he'd like you to come and do the same thing in his name, it's quite an amazing Tasmanian story actually. Andrew Leigh is Labor Member for Fraser for the ACT but his grandad was a Methodist Minister in Tasmania. Hello Andrew.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER, ANDREW LEIGH: G'day, Rick. How are you?
GODDARD: What was your grandad doing running up the mountain in the ‘70s?
LEIGH: Well the Methodist Church got together for the first time in Hobart in 1970 and my grandfather was a very enthusiastic runner. He ran 50 miles on his 50th birthday and organised 24-hour runathons. So he thought a lovely way of recognising the Methodist Church getting together in Hobart would be to do a run to raise money for overseas aid and run up Mount Wellington. Cascade Brewery were one of the sponsors, nicely ironic considering the Methodists’ view on alcohol, but he unfortunately didn't make it to the top. There was one of those freak snow storms and he passed away in October 1970.
666 ABC CANBERRA
FRIDAY, 17 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Greek economic situation; Chinese stock market; ANZUS treaty; ALP National Conference; climate change; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission.
CHRIS COLEMAN: Andrew Leigh is the Member for Fraser, and he is also the official party spokesman for the ALP's National Conference next week. He's also an economist so he's a good bloke to speak to about a number of things. Let's start on the economic front, Andrew Leigh – good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Chris, it's lovely to be with you in your final half hour. I feel a bit like someone who sees a band just before they finish their tour.
COLEMAN: You're far too kind. While I've been here, one of the things we've talked about on numerous occasions, and it's been in just about every news bulletin, is Greece. Where are we at with Greece? And now there's been another attempt at resolution to the problems in Greece, how is that going to affect Australia?
LEIGH: The forecasts are still about a 50 per cent chance of Greece exiting the Eurozone. The challenge is making sure the package that was agreed earlier in the week passes the Greek parliament. It's a tough package indeed for the Greek people to swallow. I've been a little disappointed through the process of this that the IMF and the European Central Bank didn't act earlier. We know that if there's defaults, we're talking about $340 billion Euros of debt and that's going to have significant impacts on the rest of the Eurozone. That confidence contagion could flow through to Australia. So it would have been good to see the IMF and the ECB taking earlier action. Fingers crossed they manage to sort this out because a Grexit would be messy for Greece and potentially cause problems for countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain - not this year but in years to come.
Culture must foster the innovators of tomorrow, The Australian, 17 July 2015
Macgregor Duncan and Andrew Leigh
Like Jason and his famed Argonauts, the history of the Australian economy has been one long search for the Golden Fleece. Over time, we’ve successively found it in wool and gold, manufacturing and migrants, services and iron ore. But with Australian productivity growth in the doldrums, there has been much talk about the need for entrepreneurship to spawn jobs for the future. Today we’re seeking a new generation of Australian Argonauts in pursuit of a new Golden Fleece.
There are many things that Australia does well. We’ve enjoyed one of the longest spells of uninterrupted economic growth in world history, our life expectancy is among the longest in the world, and we currently hold the Ashes. But then there are the challenges. Australian innovation ranks high among those things that keep us awake at night.
What worries us is not that Australia lags behind the United States, it’s that we lag behind many other advanced countries as well.
MORETON COMMUNITY ON GUARD AGAINST RISING INEQUALITY
Joint Media Release with Graham Perrett MP
Representatives from local community centres, multicultural groups and the disability sector today joined Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh and Member for Moreton Graham Perrett at a roundtable discussion on inequality at Brisbane’s Sunnybank.
Community groups in Moreton are concerned about tackling the issue of inequality and the lack of direct services for the most vulnerable in our community.
“People in the Moreton community are really feeling Tony Abbott’s cuts to childcare, aged care and education. Along with cuts to welfare and training programs, all of these decisions will increase inequality in the Moreton community,” said Mr Perrett.
Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said that the Abbott Government’s first two budgets were full of policies that would lead to Australia becoming a more unequal country.
TRIPLE M GRILL TEAM
WEDNESDAY, 15 JULY 2015
SUBJECT/S: National Rifle Association lying about the success of Australia’s gun buyback.
MATTY JOHNS: It seems like every couple of weeks we hear about shootings in America that just leave you shaking your head. Now, the National Rifle Association laughs at Australia's gun laws. They view them as pointless and ineffective but an absolutely brilliant article in The Age newspaper showed the gun laws had been anything but in this country. Andrew Leigh worked as a summer clerk at a Sydney law firm in 1995 and his mentor was a 28-year-old woman named Zoe Hall. Zoe was Martin Bryant's second-last victim in the Port Arthur massacre. The National Rifle Association of America's constant criticism and disregard for our gun laws inspired Andrew to do a bit of digging into the stats on whether our gun buyback scheme that John Howard brought in has actually worked. Andrew joins us on the line right now – g'day Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Morning gentlemen, how are you?
JOHNS: Good thanks. Now Andrew, is it fair to say straight off the top that these laws have been a stunning success?
LEIGH: Absolutely. In the decade before Port Arthur, we had, on average, one mass shooting every year. In the two decades since, we've had just a single mass shooting in Australia. We've got the firearms homicide rate down, but interestingly we've got the firearms suicide rate down as well. It turns out that the person most likely to kill you with a gun is yourself – we have four gun suicides for every gun homicide. So we've actually saved something in the order of 200 lives a year as a result of the gun buyback, and most of those come from fewer gun suicides.
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.