Too little, too late on phoenixing - Transcript, The Business





SUBJECTS: The Turnbull Government adopting Labor’s plans to tackle dodgy directors, power prices and a clean energy target.

ELYSSE MORGAN: Andrew Leigh, you've been pushing for a crackdown on businesses phoenixing. You must be pleased with the Turnbull Government’s announcement today?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well, I am pleased that they’re finally acting, Elysse. But it’s taken a long time. Brendan O’Connor, Katy Gallagher and I announced Labor’s policy on tackling dodgy phoenix directors back in May – four months ago – based off the recommendations of Monash and Melbourne Universities’ studies on this. Since then, we’ve had the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the ACTU and a host of expert bodies come on board and call for the Turnbull Government to act. But all the Government has said on the director identification number is still at the announceable stage. We had the Minister today talking about maybe doing biometric checks – clearly they haven’t though this through very well. And they still haven’t adopted Labor’s policies of ramping up the penalties and improving the test for depriving employees of their entitlements.

MORGAN: Just to break it down a bit, the Government has adopted the recommendation that every company director should have an identification number. But we don’t know yet if that will include a 100 point identity check. Any reason do you think why they haven’t gone down that path?

LEIGH: I think they’ve just been sitting on their hands, frankly. This has been a recommendation that’s been absolutely clear from a range of expert bodies. The 100 point ID check is in place, it’s how we check people’s identity when they open a bank account and using a 100 point ID check here would ensure that it is as tough to become a company director as it is to open a bank account.

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Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan No. 2) Bill 2017



Today, I want to deal with three arguments that the coalition have made for cutting the company tax rate. They've claimed that Labor once supported cuts to the company tax, they've claimed that other countries have lower corporate tax rates and that ours are comparatively high and they've claimed that cutting the company tax rate for big business will boost growth. I will explain to the House, in turn, the problems with each of these arguments.

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Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017



 In the Senate inquiry into this bill, Sharon Pellas from Volunteering Australia, reported:

I have actually found that in the volunteering role I have had a lot more value in terms of the input that I give into where I've been volunteering in both services. I've actually had an opportunity to also increase my skill set and learn to use different IT systems that I wasn't aware of before. I've also been able to share my knowledge in terms of good customer service skills and looking at customer service models. I've also been able to foster self-esteem in people under Job Network and also with people who are working for the dole. I've been able to be involved in bringing a community together.

She says:

I'm still looking for work. I'm doing that myself anyway. So I think I keep a much more positive approach than what I would have if I wasn't volunteering.

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Labor policy leading the way on dodgy directors - Media Release


The Turnbull Government has been dragged kicking and screaming to finally take action on phoenix activity, almost four months after Labor unveiled its policy.

We've been calling for the introduction of director ID numbers since May, with support from the Productivity Commission, Australian Institute of Company Directors and  Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

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Boosting philanthropy fundamental for stronger Australia - Keynote address, Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit



Thank you for that very generous introduction. I acknowledge we are meeting on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay my respects to elders past and present. I want to acknowledge Joe Skrzynski, Sarah Davies and Krystian Seibert, and in a building known for its give-and-take, the fact that here we have here one of the largest collection of givers assembled in the history of the parliament.

My first significant venture into philanthropy came in 1991 when I was working for Community Aid Abroad, now known as Oxfam. As a teenager, I decided that I would set about raising money for Community Aid Abroad in the local shopping centre using the only method that then occurred to me which was to dress up in a clown suit on a summer’s day and attempt to persuade young children to buy juggling balls from me. Over the course of a very hot morning I think I managed to make about $100 for Community Aid Abroad, but the next year they took me on to the New South Wales board where I got involved on working on their philanthropy strategies. I learned from that the power of story-telling; the value of going to those who’d been generous in the past and telling them in clear language the stories of the impoverished people around the world that their donations had assisted.

That sparked a lifelong interest in community engagement, also known as social capital. Sarah Davies mentioned I did my PhD at Harvard and one of the people I worked with was Robert Putnam who had then just brought out a book called Bowling Alone. Working with Putnam I got interested in what the trends were in Australia and began collecting statistics on how community life had fared in Australia over the last few generations. It turned into a 2010 book, Disconnected, which mapped many of the same trends that Putnam had laid out in Bowling Alone.

With that academic interest, when I came into politics it was natural I’d stay interested in the charities issue. After the last election, Bill Shorten reflected Labor‘s strong commitment to charities and not-for-profits by giving me the portfolio of Charities and Not-for-Profits. It’s the first time either of the major political parties have had a minister or a shadow minister responsible for Charities and Not-for-Profits and it marks Labor‘s strong commitment to your sector. 

Last December, we learned from the Giving Australia 2016 Report, some striking statistics on philanthropy. And for anyone who wasn’t watching the papers carefully last December, they were also helpfully reported again 10 months later in today’s press.  They show that while the amount of dollars donated rose from 2005 to 2016, the share of donors has fallen from 87 to 81 per cent. 

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Media diversity essential - Transcript, ABC Canberra Breakfast





SUBJECTS: Media reforms, a third seat for the ACT, public service cuts under the Coalition, Labor’s support for charities and not-for-profits.

DAN BOURCHIER: To discuss what is likely to be dominating discussions this week, Liberal Senator Zed Seselja and Labor MP for Fenner Andrew Leigh are both with me. Good morning.

ZED SESELJA: Good morning, Dan. Morning, Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH: Morning Dan, morning Zed.

BOURCHIER: Good to have you both along, I want to start with media reform – lots of discussion of course about this in the last couple of weeks and then the Channel Ten sale shifted directions. Is this still on the agenda, Senator?

SESELJA: Yes, it is. Obviously this is about bringing our media laws into the 21st century. Uh, these are media laws which we have in this country at the moment, which were, which were drafted or passed in the 1980s. Obviously the media landscape has changed dramatically and most importantly we’ve seen the rise of the internet and the way, particularly in the last decade, and the way that people consume media in very different ways. So, things like a two out of three rule, a 75 per cent reach rule for say TV networks and others are obviously need to be looked at in the context of Google and Facebook, Netflix, which are ubiquitous. They are all over the world, all over Australia. So these are seeking to bring our media laws into the 21st century and I think it’s really important so that we can maintain Australian content, so that our local media proprietors can continue to compete.

BOURCHIER: Andrew Leigh, where do you sit on this one?

LEIGH: Dan, one of the starting points is to recognise how concentrated our media landscape is. Let’s look at newspapers. If you go back to the start of the 20th century at the time of Federation, we had 21 daily newspapers and 17 different owners. That’s been steadily narrowing down to just ten newspapers just owned by a handful of owners. The priority for Labor is making sure that we’ve got a diversity of voices in the media landscape. Zed’s absolutely right to point to some of these technological changes, but we’ve also got a fairly concentrated sector. So Labor supports removing the reach rule, which allows regional and metropolitan networks to merge, but not the two out of three rule. If you repealed that, one person could control radio, newspaper and TV in a single market. It’s about getting the balance right in a very fast moving environment. Of course, it’s also about maintaining support for the ABC and SBS. We had that infamous promise from Tony Abbott back in 2013 that there wouldn’t be cuts to the ABC or SBS, but of course, we’ve seen that broken like so many other promises from the Government. There were significant cuts.

SESELJA: Can I respond, Dan, particularly in that issue around concentration. Um, there’s no doubt that if you look at it in the way in Andrew described that there is greater concentration than there was 100 years ago, but that’s if you ignore all of the voices that we have online and the various media outlets that are online. So, the Canberra Times, our local newspaper of course is now mainly an online publication and gets a lot of traffic on its online, but it’s competing not just – uh, well, obviously the Canberra Times is the only one in Canberra, but it’s not just competing in Canberra, it’s competing ah – if you’re a Canberran, you can access media from all over the world and Canberrans do. So we can’t look at it just in the, in the old paradigm where you know you’re the local newspaper and you dominate or here’s a couple of newspapers in town – you’re competing with media proprietors and media entities from all over the world.

BOURCHIER: On that point exactly, where does the significance of local news sit?

LEIGH: It’s absolutely critical and Zed’s right to speak about the potential for competition, but if you look at actually what people are consuming, we’re surprisingly concentrated. Michelle Rowland, our terrific Shadow Communications spokesperson’s been saying that Australia’s media landscape is among the most concentrated in the world and a recent Conversation Fact Check found that to be correct. So we do need to make sure that we have that diversity of local voices. I think there are also initiatives with public interest journalism. One of the things you see out of the United States is this rise in university journalism departments partnering with media outlets in order to produce good pattern journalism, investigative stories – Pro Publica has been very important in this. So there’s a lot of innovation going on, it’s not entirely about government, but I’d be worried about an environment in which government makes things worse by allowing a whole lot of aggregation and mergers.

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The Coalition's Very Uncharitable Move - OpEd, The Age

The Coalition's very uncharitable move

The Age, September 11 2017

What unites St John Ambulance, the Arab Council Australia, Musica Viva, Oxfam, Arthritis Australia and Christian Ministry Advancement? Why, it’s the Turnbull Government, of course. But not in a good way.

In June, heads of these charities, and more than 100 others, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In it, they expressed their frustration at his government’s shabby treatment of Susan Pascoe, who has headed the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission since its inception.

The issue came to a head when Michael Sukkar, the fifth Coalition minister in four years to have responsibility for the charities commission, refused to meet with Ms Pascoe and her fellow commissioners, and then announced that she would not be reappointed.

If this was just about getting rid of a talented public servant, Australia’s charities might not be up in arms. What prompted their open letter is the fear that the Coalition is about to resume the ‘charity war’ that prevailed from 2011 to 2016.

Some history. The charities commission was created by the Gillard Government in 2011, following more than a dozen independent inquiries that called for such a body. The charities commission provides transparency for taxpayers, efficiency for charities and accountability for donors.

Yet despite the fact that the commission was established to reduce the reporting burden on charities, the Coalition pledged to kill it. Ironically, they used their ‘Red Tape Repeal Day’ to try and demolish a body whose goal was to reduce paperwork for charities. The Coalition even introduced legislation to parliament in an attempt to scrap the charities commission.

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Communities want charities to be advocates - Speech, Federation Chamber



In 2010, a High Court case determined that the advocacy work done by Australian charities is essential to our system of representative democracy.

A sector-wide survey by Pro Bono Australia in 2015 found that nine out of 10 Australians considered recognition of this aspect of charity work to be an important factor in developing the sector.

Australians want their charities to convey their views and ideals. Work done by the Community Council for Australia revealed that, in communities where suicide and incarceration were a major issue, those issues were effectively tackled through public awareness by charities. Work of charities such as beyondblue has contributed significantly to Australian public policy development.

As David Crosbie of the Community Council for Australia puts it, "Communities want their charities to be advocates, to raise their voices, to represent those who do not have the capacity to influence policies".

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Championing Civic Canberra - Op Ed, Fairfax regional papers

Championing civic Canberra

Fairfax regional newspapers, 6 September 2017

Joe Hockey first decided to enter politics when his school visited Canberra. Watching parliamentarians from the gallery of Old Parliament House, he said to himself ‘I’m going to be one of them’.

Reasonable people might disagree over the merits of Hockey’s decision, but it’s proof that a school visit to Canberra can change a life.

Politicians aren’t all students see in our great city.

Visiting the National Gallery might be the first time that a kid from regional Australia gets to see major artworks, produced by the likes of Rover Thomas, Sidney Nolan or Emily Kngwarreye.

Standing in the Australian War Memorial at the close of the day, a young person will hear the story of one of the 102,825 people featured on the Roll of Honour. For some, witnessing the Last Post Ceremony might be their best insights into the valour of those who gave their lives for their country.

At the National Press Club, a federal minister delivering a major policy address might find that the last question is being asked by a visiting school student.

Attending Questacon, a child may suddenly decide on a career in science, as they learn about robotics, geology and space exploration.

If you didn’t grow up in Canberra, there’s a good chance that your first visit to the bush capital came while you were in school. Every year, around 160,000 school children come to Canberra. According to Garry Watson, of the National Capital Educational Tourism Project, that means that almost half of all Australian children visit Canberra at some point during their schooling.

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Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2017



It is timely for this House to be debating competition policy given the increasing concern internationally about the impact of rising market concentration on growing inequality around the world. The importance of competition policy has not always been appreciated by the economics profession. In a recent speech, Rod Sims quoted from a number of doyens of the economics profession, including Milton Friedman, who was sceptical of the role that antitrust has to play. But, as he noted, the economics profession has come around on that issue.

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