The Turnbull Government needs to get serious on household debt - Transcript, Sky News Agenda




MONDAY, 26 JUNE 2017

Subjects: Record household debt, curtailing hate speech, fair school funding.

KIERAN GILBERT: With me now is Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh. The debt Bomb puts Nation in Danger", the front page of The Australian today and it refers to Australia and Canada as nations where personal debt is a risk. What do you make of that when there has been talk of a risk to the economy, there has been a property bubble that people have referred to this BIS report released suggested it is personal debt more broadly. What are your thoughts on those findings, is it a worry?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: They are two sides of the same coin. The rapid run up in house prices has meant Australians are more indebted than ever before. That has big implications for the economy. When you've got a lot of debt you don't feel like spending. Philip Lowe, the Reserve Bank Governor has highlighted this as one of the factors that might be dragging back the economy at the moment. The thing is, Kieran, we have these tax settings right now that encourage people to take on too much debt. The negative gearing and capital gains tax discount together act to encourage Australians to take on debt because they can deduct investment losses against wage income. You can't do that in Britain, you can't do that in the United States and that's why Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen have announced that we would restrict negative gearing to new built homes. It's important for financial stability as well as for housing affordability because if we allow this debt run up to continue then we are putting strains - 

GILBERT: So what is the risk then that Philip Lowe and those referred to these elevated levels of personal debt recently but what's the risk; that rates go up, property prices go down or both at the same time?

LEIGH: Both of those. Certainly a house price correction would pose significant risk to the Australian economy. The more debt you've got the more fragile your circumstances are to a shock. I think it's vital that the Federal Government starts taking this seriously. Those who have called for a reform of negative gearing include economists across the political spectrum. Organisations like the Grattan Institute, the Government's own Financial Systems Inquiry, the Reserve Bank has called for this, prominent Liberals: Mike Baird, Jeff Kennett, Joe Hockey in his outgoing speech to Parliament. It's not a radical idea, it's important in terms of making sure that we don't see the home ownership rate to continue to decline - it's now the lowest it has been in 60 years. 

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Beyond the Echo Chamber - Comment, University of Canberra's Digital News Report


University of Canberra’s Digital News Report: Australia 2017

When I was first elected to the Parliament of Australia in 2010, my team regularly sent a glossy flyer to everyone in the electorate bearing the eponymous title ‘The Leigh Report’. In addition, most electors in my northside Canberra seat would get a letter from me once or twice a year, discussing a specific issue or a local forum.

Over the past seven years we’ve steadily shifted away from the letterbox and towards the inbox, the browser and the app. My website is updated with new material several times a day and I maintain an active Facebook page. I have an Instagram account. Twitter tells me I’ve written nearly 9000 tweets. When I deliver a major speech, it goes up on an ‘Andrew Leigh – Speeches and Conversations’ podcast, available through iTunes and other podcast apps. Last year I started a second podcast: ‘The Good Life’, which interviews experts about living a happier, healthier and more ethical life. Each month I send out an email about what’s going on in national politics. It used to be called ‘The Leigh eReport’ to distinguish it from the physical version. Three years after sending out the last physical newsletter, we realised it wasn’t ever coming back and we changed the email update to ‘The Leigh Report’.

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Book launch - Regulating Charities: The Inside Story



Thank you for inviting me to launch this important book. This work delves into the history as to how the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission came to be. You can see from Susan Pascoe’s chapter a discussion of the many reviews that led into the charities commission.  You can see the extensive use of data, the careful analysis of the numbers of charities we have, the weight of charities, the important role they play in the community.

You can also see the forward looking approach to thinking about where charities regulation needs to go next. Too often we can be overly focussed on what’s going to be sorted out by the end of the week. But it is vital that we have an eye to the long game. What this volume helps us do is to think about what a ten or a twenty year charity agenda looks like.

For me, that’s very much about looking at what ASIC has been able to do in the corporate regulatory space. There are great benefits to having a nation made up of states and territories that do different things. But in the area of regulation, that overlap can often just be burdensome. We took those burdens of state corporate regulations  away from our business sector in 1989-1990 and I don’t think anyone’s argued for them to come back. Looking at how we can encourage states and territories to play better with the ACNC is clearly a long-run reform. 

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Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Fees Imposition Amendment (Fee Streamlining and Other Measures) Bill 2017

Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Fees Imposition Amendment (Fee Streamlining and Other Measures) Bill 2017

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Foreign investment over the last two centuries has been important to Australia's economic prosperity. In the 19th century, foreign investment helped to build our wool industry. In 1855, CSR's investment helped to build the sugar industry. In 1877, we saw the United States firm Schweppes set up in Australia, followed by Kraft and Kellogg's. Indeed, Kraft's purchase of Vegemite in 1935 probably helped make that product the success story that it is.

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Parliament accepts Labor's position on the GST low value threshold - Media Release


In a win for common sense, the Government has backed down and accepted Labor’s amendments to its GST Low Value Threshold legislation.

Labor’s amendments will see a delay the commencement of the legislation by 12 months and require the Productivity Commission conduct a short inquiry on implementation and other GST collection models, giving the Government and Parliament the opportunity to consider legislative amendments well before the new 1 July 2018 start date.

How did we get here? Scott Morrison’s sheer incompetence.

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee report into the GST Low Value Threshold legislation served as documentary proof of this incompetence, with stakeholder evidence almost reaching a consensus over problems with implementation, the vendor-based model and calls for a 12 month delay.

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Vale Mark Colvin

Vale Mark Colvin 

Tuesday 21 June 2017

Mark Colvin was born in London to an Australian-born mother, Anne, and a British father—the naval officer, diplomat, secret agent and historian, John Colvin. His father's work took him overseas, so the young Mark Colvin was sent to boarding schools, including Summer Fields prep, near Oxford, and Westminster School, in London. He did not enjoy his time at boarding school, which he later described as barbaric. After his parents divorced, when he was 11, Mark and his younger sister lived with their mother, while their father moved into a nearby flat. But even then Mark did not find out his father was a high-ranking member of MI6, and could not ascertain from his father the full details, even when his father passed away in 2003. In his memoir, Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy's Son, he goes into some of those details. He reflected, too, in an interview with his son, William Colvin, about the impact that his upbringing had on him. He said to his son: 'I always tried to be a good dad to you and take you to lots of places.' He was determined not to send his own children to boarding school, despite being a foreign correspondent, but was determined to go to the theatre and to cook meals and to be what he called 'as much of a present dad as possible.' Words that I am sure all of us in this place who are struggling to combine work and parenting feel most acutely.

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The Women's Budget Statement - OpEd, The Chronicle


The Chronicle, 20 June 2017

Many things have been said about federal budgets, but ‘page-turner’, ‘must-read’ and ‘unforgettable’ are not among them. Full of tables, charts and acronyms, even the most dedicated public servants would only keep the budget by the bedside if they suffered from insomnia. 

But budgets matter. They tell us about the government’s priorities. How they choose to tax and spend is a marker of the values of those in charge.

Starting in 1983, Australian Governments of both political stripes produced a women’s budget. Unfortunately, this ceased in 2013. Since then, the Labor Opposition has produced the annual statement.

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Clean coal isn’t a plan, it’s a scam - Transcript, ABC Canberra




MONDAY, 19 JUNE 2017

SUBJECT/S: School funding; Finkel Review; Adani; Gungahlin.

DAN BOURCHIER: Here to discuss federal politics is Canberra Liberal, Zed Seselja and Labor MP for Fenner, Andrew Leigh. Good morning to you both.



BOURCHIER: If we can just start on school funding, I want to get both of your views on these reports that One Nation is set to back the Liberals in this schools fight as the headline says this morning. We'll start with you, Senator Seselja.

SESELJA: We'll see how it goes this week. There are obviously negotiations going on with all of the minor parties with the Labor Party having indicated that they are going to vote against the reforms. So Minister Birmingham is obviously working very hard and working hard to get these changes through the Senate but I wouldn't want to predict what might happen in the Senate. I've seen the Senate in action now for a few years and I think sometimes you'd be a mug to try and predict what's going to happen from one day to another but let's wait and see.

BOURCHIER: And Mr Leigh?

LEIGH: I think Zed is certainly right about the predictability of the Senate. But in terms of the substance of the policy, we're talking about a policy which rips $22 billion out of Australian schools so the Coalition can give $65 billion to big companies. No jurisdiction is worse hit than the ACT where growth over the decade according to the Government's own numbers is 1.6 per cent. That means that schools funding in the ACT will grow more slowly than the inflation rate. So ACT schools are seeing a real funding cut under the Government's plan just so they can give more money to multinationals.

BOURCHIER: Now Andrew Leigh, specifically on the One Nation plan, what do you make of that?

LEIGH: Again I'm not a commentator on what's going on in the Senate. You've got this unusual - 

BOURCHIER: You're a politician, I'm sure you'd be keen to weigh in on a significant policy debate?

LEIGH: Dan, my focus is on the policy outcomes not on being a pundit. You can see Chris Back at the moment shares those same policy concerns. He's worried about the impact on Catholic schools, you've got ACT Catholic Schools very concerned about the fact that some of these schools will be going backwards under this plan. This is a plan of cuts to schools and so we can give more to multinationals and that's not the way to build future economic prosperity in Australia.

BOURCHIER: So you've got no specific view then on the One Nation compromise plan?

LEIGH: I want to see Australian schools get more resources. Tanya Plibersek has committed that a Labor Government would see that $22 billion funding go into our schools. We place that as a high priority for Australia not just for equity terms but also for efficiency terms. If we want to lay the ground work for a strongly growing Australian economy we have got to make sure that our schools have great literacy and numeracy outcomes, you've got those specialist coaches that I've seen in local ACT schools when I've visited and all of that is at threat by the Coalition's plan to cut $22 billion out of our schools.

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Just Markets: Distributional Effects of Competition Policy (Tony Atkinson Tribute)


Click to above image to view the video

I spoke via video to the conference on "Just Markets: Distributional Effects of Competition Policy", held at the University of East Anglia, Norwich and organised by Catherine Waddams. My talk paid tribute to the late Sir Tony Atkinson, who died on 1 January 2017, and did considerable work on this topic. 

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Hipster Heaven: Competition and Innovation in Western Australia - OpEd, The West Australian


The West Australian, 15 June 2017

Hipsters play an underappreciated role in competition policy. The reason for this is simple. Hipsters don’t like the mainstream. They’re not happy unless their clothes are vintage, their bikes are fixies, and their flat whites are served in avocados. If it is mass-produced by a multinational, they won’t touch it.

Indeed, hipsters are the reason we have so many choices when it comes to which alleyway speakeasy to drink in. Across our inner cities, hipsters are the reason why mechanics and car dealers are giving way to cocktail bars and edgy restaurants. Hipsters’ desire for innovation, difference and choice boosts competition.

According to the New York Times, Perth is ‘Hipster Heaven’. So the forces of hipsters should be stronger than ever.

Yet even here, there are signs that competitive pressures aren’t as strong as they should be. On one metric, over half of Australia’s industries are overly concentrated markets. That includes plenty of industries that are important to Western Australia, among them telecommunications, credit unions, cinemas, liquor retailing, pharmacies, hardware, gyms, magazines, newsagents and international airlines.

For all the talk of start-ups and innovation, the rate of new business formation is slower now than it was in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Meanwhile, the pace of mergers continues unabated. The big firms are getting bigger, but the hungry start-ups aren’t snapping at their heels the way they should be.

Megacorps find it easier to work together – and not in a good way. A recent academic study found that big data allowed Perth’s petrol retailers to coordinate the weekly price cycle, driving up margins at the bowser. The researchers concluded that this ‘tacit collusion’ cost motorists around 10 cents a litre.

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