DIGITAL CANBERRA iAWARDS
SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE WE CAN’T PREDICT
Thank you to Suzanne Campbell from the Australian Information Industry Association for inviting me to be with you tonight, and to iAwards team for putting together such a great event. I’ve just come from a day up on the Hill with my parliamentary friends and foes, trying to find solutions to the very concrete and prosaic challenges that are right in front of us. Because of that, it’s very exciting and energising to be amongst a group of people who have their eyes lifted instead to the digital and technological horizon.
Predicting what lies ahead in that future is a notoriously risky business. William Preece from the British Post Office proved that back in 1876 when he confidently asserted: ‘the Americans have need of the telephone, but in England we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” I might try telling my sons that when they get to the age where they start asking for iPhones.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s secret school cuts plans; Citizenship; People smuggling; Economic situation in Greece
CHRIS HAMMER: Andrew Leigh is Labor’s member for Fraser here in the ACT and he’s also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer – good morning.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDRW LEIGH: Good morning, Chris.
HAMMER: Now, suddenly out there this morning is a Government discussion paper on schools and education – your observations?
LEIGH: It’s a secret plan for cuts to Australian schools that I think ought to be deeply disturbing for all parents. One of the great things about our public education system is that it recognises that everybody can send their child to a local public school without needing to pay. That gives you a greater diversity of backgrounds and local schools, and reflects the fact that when a child gets more education there’s a public good component to that. One of the whacky things about this paper is it seems to suggest that the Commonwealth has a natural role for funding non-government schools, but no natural role for funding government schools. I can’t see any economic logic in that.
MORE HOLES SHOWING IN JOE’S FLIMSY TAX PACKAGE
The Abbott Government’s rushed and flimsy multinational tax package continues to unravel, with the Law Council of Australia warning Treasurer Joe Hockey not to go ahead with his draft bill.
In a submission on the Exposure Draft of the Government’s proposed changes to Part VI A of the Tax Act, the council has cautioned that the Treasurer’s plan:
“does not accord with, and in many respects derogates from, key design principles for a fair and effective tax and transfer system."
The Council has highlighted a range of problems with the proposal, including that it will create different levels of taxation for companies carrying out similar business activities, and risks breaching Australia’s existing Double Taxation Agreements.
LABOR READY TO MAKE TASMANIA THE INNOVATION ISLE
Joint release with Senator Lisa Singh
Federal Labor will encourage more Tasmanian school students to learn coding, entice more Tasmanian university students into studying science, and create the incentives for more people to start up their own firms in an effort to reduce the state’s unemployment.
“New firms generate a disproportionately large share of the jobs in any modern economy, so part of the answer to reducing unemployment in Tasmania has to be building its culture of science and research to generate start-ups,” said Dr Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer.
“Labor’s vision is to take advantage of Tasmania’s intellectual and infrastructure capacity and make it one of the first choices in Australia for science, research and new innovation industries.
ABBOTT GOVERNMENT FIDDLES AS CANBERRA OFFICES EMPTY
The release of BIS Shrapnel data on empty office space across Canberra has added to concern about the future of the Belconnen Town Centre if the Department of Immigration is moved elsewhere.
As another week passes without news on the potential move, the BIS Shrapnel data shows Canberra now has one of the highest commercial property vacancy rates in the country.
More than 100,000 square metres of space – enough for over 7,000 workers – is vacant in Commonwealth-leased buildings alone.
Our right to know if big firms pay their fair share, Daily Telegraph, 19 June
Here’s a question for you: who pays for your nearest hospital? Whose money fixed the road you use to get to work? Who shells out for the books and computers that keep kids learning at the local school?
You do, of course. We all contribute to funding these things through the tax that comes out of our fortnightly pay. Recently though, it has become clear that some of us are contributing more than others.
Someone earning the average Australian income pays about 21 per cent in tax; a small business pays the corporate rate of 30 per cent on their profits. But in the past few years there have been increasingly regular reports about huge companies paying just a fraction of that.
For instance, in a recent Senate inquiry we heard evidence that one big multinational firm may have paid as little as 2 per cent tax on billions of dollars in revenue. If the average Australian wage earner paid tax at that rate instead of their standard 21 per cent, they’d be paying almost $15,000 less a year.
Here's to a sharing economy, joint op-ed with Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon, Newcastle Herald, 17 June
On the second floor of an unassuming building on Beaumont Street in Hamilton, Justin Hales and his team (he’s the one inside the caravan in the photograph) are trying to shape the future of self-drive holidays. Their start-up, Camplify.com.au, lets owners of caravans and campervans rent them directly to other users.
Justin’s family used to take camping holidays when he was a child, and he fondly recalls their annual trips to the Breakers Caravan Park in Port Macquarie, where his family would park their blue and white Viscount caravan amid their neighbours, and enjoy the sense of community and freedom. His favourite part of it, Justin says, was knowing he was sleeping on the kitchen table every night.
Silence on the agenda at environment inquiry, Pro Bono, 16 June
For the past few years, the Australian Marine Conservation Society has been fighting hard to stop millions of tonnes of dredge spoil being dumped onto the natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Sometimes their fight has taken them out in the community – collecting signatures on petitions and making phone calls to let Australians know what’s happening. Other times it has taken them into courtrooms, where they’ve stood with other environment groups in seeking injunctions against the harmful dumping.
From time to time, it has also brought the Society into conflict with big resource companies and state and federal Liberal governments via the media and other public forums.
Today in the federal Parliament, the House of Representatives Environment Committee will meet to hear evidence on whether groups like the Society should continue to have Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status under Australia’s tax law. There are almost 600 environmental groups that currently qualify for this status; it allows them to offer tax breaks when accepting donations from the Australian community.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 16 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Tax transparency; Budget; Housing affordability.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Today we've heard very clearly from the Government why they want to wind back tax transparency. Previously they'd suggested it was about kidnapping, until it became clear they'd sought no advice from the Australian Federal Police. Now we have Josh Frydenberg arguing that we can't report on the tax affairs of companies earning over $100 million because it might lead to envy. Australians might be envious of how little tax big firms pay. It's pretty extraordinary that when they cut the wages of cleaners, this Government doesn't think at all about the feelings of the people they're affecting.
But when it comes to tax transparency for large firms, suddenly they go all Dr Phil. They want to offer a space on the couch and a foot rub; they're worried about the hurt feelings of the companies that are revealed to be paying too little tax. Let's be clear: tax transparency is about fairness. Small businesses in Australia need to know they're competing on a level playing field. They need to know that large multinationals aren't exploiting debt shifting loopholes that are unavailable to Australian small businesses. If you're pro-small business in Australia, you have to be in favour of Labor's multinational tax package and you have to be in favour of tax transparency laws that make it absolutely clear who is paying their fair share of tax, and who isn't. Happy to take questions.
FAIRFAX BREAKING POLITICS
MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Government paying people smugglers; Citizenship changes; Marriage equality; Tony Abbott’s Royal Commission
CHRIS HAMMER: Andrew Leigh is the federal MP from Fraser here in the ACT and he's also the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Good morning, Andrew.
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning Chris, how are you?
HAMMER: Now what answers do you want to hear from the Government about what has been happening with people smugglers?
LEIGH: Chris, we really need to know whether or not Australia has been paying people smugglers. This goes to the very heart of the Government's competence on asylum seeker policy and their willingness to be honest with the Australian people. What more important issues could there be in public policy than whether you're doing your job well and whether you're being honest about it?