Let’s take this chance to rebuild our solidarity - Op Ed. Herald-Sun

LET’S TAKE THIS CHANCE TO REBUILD OUR SOLIDARITY 

Herald Sun, 30 March 2020

A century ago, the Spanish Flu hit Australia. Quarantine measures were only partially effective, so in 1919, authorities turned to social distancing. Public gatherings were cancelled. Masks were distributed. Schools were closed. People stayed home when they could. One analysis of the response found that it prevented 22 percent of Australians from catching the potentially deadly disease. In the end, 15,000 Australians died. It was a huge toll, but smaller than you might expect from a disease that claimed over 50 million lives globally.

Social distancing measures work, but they are especially tough on those with fewer social connections. In a recent survey on social connections, Nick Terrell and I found that Australians report having only about half as many close friends as they did in the mid-1980s. We are also less likely to know our neighbours. Remarkably, half of all Australians report feeling lonely at least once a week.

Social capital is the idea that the bonds of trust and reciprocity that bind us together have inherent value. Those with stronger social networks tend to be healthier, to do better in business, and to report being happier with their lives. Yet over the past generation, Australians have become disconnected. We are less likely to attend church, less likely to join clubs, less likely to be part of a union, and less active in politics.

Sometimes, a crisis can build social capital. We have seen this at times of war, and at moments when communities put aside their differences to battle bushfires or fight floods. But disasters can also be emotionally scarring. As Lifeline warns, ‘The stress caused following a natural disaster can lead to “burnout” and physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.’

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Emergency relief boost welcome, but payments still needed sooner - Media Release

HON LINDA BURNEY MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR BARTON

ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER

EMERGENCY RELIEF BOOST WELCOME BUT PAYMENTS STILL NEEDED SOONER

The boost in emergency relief funding for food banks and financial counselling services announced today is important and welcome step, which Labor has been calling for.

But many families facing the loss of a job or being stood down will still be waiting at least a month to get the $550 per fortnight Coronavirus supplement.

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Homelessness charities in real trouble when they are needed most - Media Release

JASON CLARE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND TERRITORIES
MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND

HON LINDA BURNEY MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR BARTON

ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER

HOMELESSNESS CHARITIES IN REAL TROUBLE WHEN THEY ARE NEEDED MOST

Food Bank is running out of food.

They have suffered a 27% drop in food donations, at the same time there is a 50% increase in demand.

As winter approaches and the Centrelink lines get longer, the charities that help the homeless and most vulnerable are suffering the perfect storm.

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Charities need support now more than ever - Transcript, Volunteer Voices

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

RADIO NORTHERN BEACHES

WEDNESDAY, 25 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Reconnected, the impact of coronavirus on charities.

MICHAEL LESTER, HOST: Welcome to Radio Northern Beaches, 88.7 and 90.3. I'm Michael Lester with our weekly Volunteer Voices show here on Radio Northern Beaches. And I'm delighted to welcome to our program today Andrew Leigh, who is the Member of Parliament for the ACT seat of Fenner and he has been a member of parliament since 2010. Andrew is an academic, a former professor of economics at ANU, a great author and commentator on social and policy issues. Andrew, I'm very pleased to welcome you here to Volunteer Voices.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Thanks, Michael. A real pleasure to be with you.

LESTER: Now this is a difficult time Andrew, but in many ways I think an interesting time to talk to you as we as a society face the challenges to our social interconnectedness if you like, as a community, when we confront a lot of the social distancing, self isolation and other very drastic measures that are being undertaken. Perhaps as a bit of a background to that discussion Andrew, perhaps you could take us through the work you did in 2010 when you actually looked at some of the statistics and facts around social participation, volunteering and engagement in Australia against the backdrop of the figures from America that were showing significant declines in community participation and organisations in the last 20 years.

LEIGH: Thanks very much, Michael. When I was a doctoral student at Harvard in the early 2000s, I worked with Robert Putnam on his research team. Putnam had just produced Bowling Alone, which was a magnificent study looking at the contours of social capital in America - how the networks of trust and reciprocity in that country had first waxed and then waned over the course of the 20th century. He documented that for the first half of the 20th century, there was quite a significant increase in the strength of community and associational life, and then from the 1960s, 1970s onwards that there had been a decline. In Disconnected, I looked at the same patterns for Australia and found much the same trends. Churchgoing, union membership, member of the Scouts, Guides, Rotary, Lions - all of that seemed to have declined since the 1970s. Australians tend to have fewer organisations per person and a smaller share of the population actively engaged in civic organisation.

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Government needs to help the helpers - Transcript, ABC News Radio

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS RADIO

TUESDAY, 24 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: The impact of coronavirus on charities, stimulus packages.

GLEN BARTHOLOMEW, HOST: We have Andrew Leigh back on the line for us now. Andrew, good afternoon, and as I saying a pretty welcome move to extend this aid to the charity sector.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: It was, Glen, although it's still the major charities that are being left out, and that means that around half the workers in the sector won't be covered because they work for some of the big charities who are being asked to do the heavy lifting. So as we're seeing these lines outside Centrelink offices across the country, people being turned away - one woman said she was turned away with $10 in a bank account - who will she turn to? She’ll turn to a charity, and likely the charity she'll turn to is one that hasn't been supported by the government.

BARTHOLOMEW: What were the criteria to determine who was supported and who wasn't?

LEIGH: Well, it’s those with turnover under $50 million. But that excludes groups like the Red Cross, Fred Hollows Foundation, RSPCA, Save the Children, Mission Australia, Smith Family, Goodstart Early Learning - some of the significant charities that have been doing work, supporting people recovering from the bushfires, but are now seeing a big drop off in donations. They're seeing challenges for their volunteer base because of social distancing, and they're seeing challenges in fundraising for when activities like fundraising balls are cancelled. Philanthropic foundations are giving less because of the sharemarket collapse. 

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Helping the helpers - Op Ed, The Canberra Times

HELPING THE HELPERS

The Canberra Times, 24 March 2020

On the NSW South Coast, charities are hard at work supporting victims of this summer’s unprecedented fires. There are homes to be rebuilt and debris to be removed. Teachers are seeing signs of mental distress among children who were evacuated from their homes three or four times. When local MP Fiona Phillips and I held a roundtable with charities in Nowra earlier this month, they told us how their budgets and staff were overstretched.

And that was when there were less than 200 coronavirus cases in Australia.

In the face of Australia’s greatest post-war health emergency, there’s a risk that Australian charity workers have become the forgotten people.

Already, we’ve seen charities sidelined by the federal government’s response. In the first stimulus package, businesses were prioritised over non-profit groups. That meant a for-profit childcare centre could access support that was unavailable to a non-profit early learning centre. Although the second stimulus package contained support for small charities, the main measures are off limits to major charities such as Mission Australia, Barnados, the Smith Family, and Goodstart Early Learning.

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Semmelweis, the randomista behind hand washing - Transcript, ABC Sydney

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
RADIO INTERVIEW
ABC RADIO SYDNEY
MONDAY, 23 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Randomistas and the history of hand washing.

RICHARD GLOVER, HOST: Dr Andrew Leigh is the Labor MP for the seat of Fenner. He's also somebody who's very interested in random studies and science and economics and all those sorts of things, and has written about the story of Dr Semmelweis in his book ‘Randomistas’, which is a book about radical researchers and how they've changed our world. Well, in his case - in Semmelweis’ case – it certainly took a while. Andrew Leigh joins us on the line. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good afternoon, Richard. How are you?

GLOVER: Yeah, good. As we’re all spending so much time washing our hands, I thought we'd praise the man who kind of first got onto the idea of why it was so important.

LEIGH: Semmelweis was a wonderful pioneer, a quirky man who worked in the Vienna General Hospital. He noted this significant difference between the alternate days in which the births were delivered by female midwives and the days when they were delivered by male doctors. He noted that women were about twice as likely to die if they were admitted to the clinic on a day in which the doctors were doing the delivery rather than the midwives.

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Food relief services get food to the most vulnerable. Now they’re at tipping point - Media Release

LINDA BURNEY MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES

MEMBER FOR BARTON

ANDREW LEIGH MP

SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES

MEMBER FOR FENNER

FOOD RELIEF SERVICES GET FOOD TO THE MOST VULNERABLE NOW THEY’RE AT TIPPING POINT

Food banks and emergency relief services are at tipping point as the COVID-19 challenge depletes food supplies and squeezes supply chains.

Food banks provide a vital service in our community by saving excess food and getting it to vulnerable Australians.

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Government needs to protect invisible Australians - Transcript, ABC Sydney

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC SYDNEY BREAKFAST

THURSDAY, 19 MARCH 2020

SUBJECTS: Economic stimulus; charities affected by coronavirus; the Reserve Bank.

WENDY HARMER, HOST: This is very timely that we are speaking to Andrew Leigh. Andrew Leigh is a former economist and he’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities. And I guess that he's been keeping his eye on the bailout packages, the stimulus that's been offered, this brand new tranche of measures that are supposed to be released tomorrow that are coming from the government to try and deal with this economic crisis. We welcome him to the program. Hello, Andrew.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: G’day, Wendy. Great to be with you.

HARMER: Now we are expecting something quite interesting to come tomorrow. We are, we have been told - this is the that the drop - that a central feature of the soon to be announced package will be something called a, well a survival package for those who are without jobs. A temporary wage.

LEIGH: I'm pleased that the government's recognised that last week's package wasn't enough. When you look at its scale compared to other countries, I think that becomes pretty clear. It was less than 1 per cent of GDP. The New Zealanders, for example, have just unveiled a stimulus package worth around four per cent of national income. People need to remember that this is a temporary shock and there's no reason that anyone ought to be pushed to the breadline, to be losing their job, have their business go bust because of a virus for which we'll have a vaccine within a year or two. This is exactly why we have governments, exactly why fiscal policy was developed, in order to help get us all through temporary shocks like this one.

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Food banks and emergency relief need boost now - Media Release

LINDA BURNEY MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR BARTON

JASON CLARE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
MEMBER FOR BLAXLAND

ANDREW LEIGH
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER

FOOD BANKS AND EMERGENCY RELIEF NEED BOOST NOW

Labor is calling on the Government to urgently extend stimulus support to the charity and non-for-profit sector.

Food bank, emergency relief and financial counselling organisations provide vital services to those Australians doing it toughest – and they are more important now than ever.

There are already reports of local emergency relief organisations running out of essential goods, food staples and basic safety equipment for volunteers.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.