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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A virtual warehouse for good - OpEd, The Chronicle

GIVIT has now launched in the ACT

The Chronicle, 5 September 2017

Randy is a child who fled ISIS in Iraq with his family. He also has severe cerebral palsy. Life improved markedly when the family was given asylum by the Australian Embassy in Jordan, but they still faced challenges. Each night, Randy's father Maged would pack pillows around the young boy's body to stop him falling out of bed.

One time I forgot to surround him with the pillows and in the morning when I came to get him, I found him on the floor,’ Maged said. ‘I was crushed and my heart broken and started crying.’ Then an organisation called GIVIT arranged for 15 year-old Randy to receive a donated hospital grade electric bed, which stops him falling out. The result, says Maged, is that Randy ‘will be safe’.

Founded in 2009 by Juliette Wright, GIVIT is a national not-for-profit organisation matching people who have items, with charities that need them for the people they’re supporting. GIVIT has facilitated the donation of more than half a million items to needy individuals and charities, including children's clothing for families fleeing violence and steel-capped boots for unemployed men seeking work.

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Let’s not go down the wormhole of birtherism - Transcript, Sky News AM Agenda





SUBJECTS: Newspoll; Citizenship.

KIEREN GILBERT: Let’s go to Andrew Leigh. It’s interesting, as David said, the gap in the points – I know you don’t like to talk polls week to week, but Mr Shorten’s position initially on the statues and that drama about the history wars doesn’t seem to have hit the mark in terms of popular opinion at least.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Kieran, you’re right. We don’t want to draw significant conclusions from statistically insignificant movements in polls. But certainly on the substance of the question, Bill Shorten’s been very clear that our Indigenous history needs to be recognised. We’re not talking about taking down statues – we’re simply recognising that at the time when many of these statues were put up, we had less of a proper appreciation of what a great thing it is to share this nation with a people whose continuing link to the land-

GILBERT: 48 per cent of Labor voters believe that the statues should remain as they are.

LEIGH: We’re not talking about taking them down. This is quite different from the discussion on Confederate statues in the United States, where people are actually talking about taking them down and putting them into museums. This is about some people proposing an additional plaque be placed on the statue. I think we can be pretty relaxed about that.

GILBERT: You would have seen Tony Abbott this morning, he showed up at Parliament House with his letter where he renounced his British citizenship back in the early 1990s. He says it’s an easy thing to do, why isn’t Bill Shorten doing the same thing on this day, the start of a parliamentary week where the focus will be so much on this issue of citizenship.

LEIGH: Kieran, this is a bit like a guy who confesses to fraud and then turns around and says ‘now you’d better give a lie detector test to all of my neighbours to make sure they haven’t committed fraud too’. Barnaby Joyce, Fiona Nash have said that they weren’t sole Australian citizens, as the Constitution demands.  Now they’re going around trying to distract attention from that with their finger pointing. The idea that Barnaby Joyce-

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Competition Policy Review Bill - Media Release




This week, Parliament will debate the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Competition Policy Review) Bill 2017.

In 2014, the Government commissioned a panel led by Professor Ian Harper to review Australia’s competition laws, policies and institutions. That review reported in March 2015.

Two and a half years later, the Turnbull Government has brought to parliament a bill containing 14 schedules amending the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to implement some of the recommendations from the Harper Review.

Labor supports 13 of these 14 schedules. They are largely uncontroversial. Indeed, we would have been happy to support them in 2015, when the Harper Review finished its work.

However, schedule 6 of the bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for breaches of the secondary boycott provisions (also known as ‘sympathy strikes’) from $750,000 to $10 million.

For comparison, penalties related to unprotected industrial relations activity under the Fair Work Act 2009 are subject to far less severe penalties of a maximum of 60 penalty units, i.e. $12,600. If enacted, the maximum penalty for a secondary boycott would be nearly 800 times higher than the maximum penalty for unprotected industrial action.

The International Labor Organisation has noted the prohibition of secondary boycotts in Australian law is beyond what they regard as ‘permissible prohibitions’. Secondary boycott laws are typically used against unions that are engaged in sympathy strikes.

Under international law (International Labour Organisation Convention no.87), sympathy strikes are permitted, provided the original strike is lawful. Higher penalties would move Australia even further away from international best practice.

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