Talking Climate Change

Over recent months, I've enjoyed engaging with local voters about the issue of climate change. I've held two community forums* specifically on the issue of climate change. My regular mobile offices bring the conversation to you - whether you're in Dickson or Belconnen, Civic or Charnwood. This week, I sent a postcard out to all the whole electorate asking for people's views, and am enjoying reading through the first batch of responses. Today, I was out with my team doorknocking the suburbs of Gungahlin, discussing the issue face-to-face with local residents.

Overall, the message has been positive. In a soundbite era, my sense is that many people are looking for a style of politics that allows us to get past fear-mongering and slogans, dismiss the common myths about carbon pricing, and talk about the optimistic low-carbon future that is the goal of the package.

If you've got views on climate change and putting a price on carbon pollution, I'd love to hear from you. Give me a call (6247 4396), drop me an email (andrew.leigh.mp at aph.gov.au), or come along to one of my community events. For example, on Saturday 27 August, I'll be holding my third community forum that's specifically focused on climate change. The venue is Majura Hall, Rosevear St, Dickson, and it'll run from 10-11.30am.

I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Update: Here's a video wrapping up the forum.

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Canberrans Feel the Result of Abbott's Fear Campaign

A convoy of trucks is due to arrive in Canberra over the next few days, and to choke traffic on major roads like Northbourne Avenue. Everyone has the right to peaceful protest, but it's pretty clear that Tony Abbott's mobile scare campaign over recent months has whipped up plenty of fear. Greg Combet has been running a series of releases titled 'Abbott absurdities on climate change', which include:
Claim: “Pensioners who can’t afford to turn on their heater or in summer their air-conditioner are going to be very, very badly impacted by the carbon tax.” (Tony Abbott, Super Radio Network, 27 July 2011).

Fact: The Government will provide pensioners with assistance that at least offsets their average price impacts from a carbon price. Pensioners will receive the equivalent of a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum rate of the pension: an extra $338 a year for singles and $255 a year for each member of a couple.

Claim: “There will be 45,000 jobs lost in energy-intensive industries. There will be 126,000 jobs lost mainly in regional Australia.” (Tony Abbott, Hansard, 21 June 2011).

Fact: Modelling by Treasury and other sources has consistently shown the economy will continue to grow strongly under a carbon price, with new jobs being created in low pollution sectors more than high pollution sectors.

Claim: “A carbon tax ultimately means death to the coal industry.” (Tony Abbott, 9 June 2011, Peabody Energy’s Metropolitan Mine, Helensburgh, NSW).

Fact: Treasury modelling of the CPRS showed the Australian coal mining industry’s output would grow by 66 per cent from 2008 to 2050 with a carbon price.

Claim: “One of the things that people haven’t quite twigged to is that carbon dioxide is invisible, it’s weightless and it’s odourless, how are we going to police these emissions?” (Tony Abbott, 2SM, 7 July 2011)

Fact: Australian corporations have been reporting their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases since July 2008 under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007. When Mr Abbott’s colleague Malcolm Turnbull introduced this legislation to Parliament he said: “The bill I am introducing today lays the foundation for Australia’s emissions trading scheme. Robust data reported under this bill will form the basis of emissions liabilities under emissions trading ...”

Claim: “Look, there are many economists who prefer our plan to the Government’s plan.” (Tony Abbott, Doorstop Interview, 6 July 2011).

Fact: Mr Abbott was asked which economists prefer his Direct Action policy to a market mechanism like a carbon price. He was unable to name one.

So if Canberrans find themselves stuck in traffic on Monday morning, they should think of Tony Abbott's fear-mongering. After months of misleading statements from the Liberal Party, we shouldn't be surprised when people mistakenly think that pricing carbon will hurt Australia.

For anyone looking for the facts on climate change, and why putting a price on carbon pollution is the most efficient solution, it's worth checking out the Clean Energy Future website.
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Cadel Evans



I spoke in parliament yesterday about Cadel Evans' victory in the Tour de France.
Cadel Evans
18 August 2011


I rise to speak of a truly Australian story, of a man whose courage, strength and pure determination embodies the Australian spirit. Through Cadel Evans and his spectacular win in the Tour de France, the world's toughest endurance race, all Australians can be truly proud. Cadel Lee Evans was born in Katherine in the Northern Territory, and he spent the first four years of his life in the tiny Arnhem Land Aboriginal community of Barunga, 80 kilometres outside Katherine. When the locals saw him pedalling around town on his BMX, none of them probably foresaw his triumphant rise to the top of the cycling world and his elevation to the pantheon of Australia's great sporting heroes. Evans has lived all across this great land, from the dusty outback to the urban metropolis of Melbourne. He is an everyman, someone whom all Australians can aspire to be.

Evans describes himself as having been 'completely unsuitable for almost all Australian school sports' while at school, but, despite his small stature and lack of speed, he persevered with cycling. He was originally a rising star of the mountain-biking world, having competed at the junior world championships and finished second. Assisted by his coach, Aldo Sassi, Evans then switched to road racing and continued to excel.

When I was in high school I competed in some triathlons, but it is my brother, Tim Leigh, who is the avid cyclist of the family. He has followed Cadel Evans's journey from the beginning. He is the kind of person from whose bleary eyes you can always tell when the Tour de France is on. I know Tim celebrates the fact that an Australian has finally won his favourite race, the Tour de France, as does Josh Orchard, a sports fan who interned in my office this week and assisted with this speech. I use this chance to pay tribute to the many local cyclists in my electorate who have been inspired by Cadel Evans's win, including Dan Ashcroft, Damien Hickman and Tony Shields, and to the work locally of Pedal Power ACT, an organisation which is campaigning for better bike paths for all Canberra cyclists.

Cadel Evans first tasted success in the tour of Austria in 2001 and again in 2004 as well as in a Commonwealth Games time trial victory in 2002. He followed this up with impressive performances in other road races, including our very own Tour Down Under in the Adelaide Hills. I think that pretty much everyone expected he would go on to compete for cycling's greatest and most challenging prize, the Tour de France.

In 2006, Evans rode his first tour. While noted by many cycling enthusiasts as Australia's greatest hope, his first tour did not garner the media attention now showered upon him. His strong performance ensured that his 2007 campaign was watched by millions of Australians willing him along the road. We experienced the highs and lows of the day's stages and the eventual heartbreak that Evans must have felt after racing for over 90 hours to fall just 23 seconds short of Alberto Contador. After a disappointing race in 2008, Evans regrouped for the next year. However, in 2009, Evans again fell painfully short of the grand prize, finishing second in a strong performance. In 2010, Evans suffered a hairline fracture in his elbow and had to halt his campaign.

This year millions of Australians tuned in to the characteristically excellent tour coverage provided by SBS. We watched Evans battle through the tour as he constantly chased down breakaways, especially on the 19th stage in the French Alps, where Evans launched a stunning fightback after mechanical problems caused him to fall more than two minutes behind. We cheered and we cried when Evans demolished the penultimate stage—a time trial—and took the lead, and we cheered and cried even more as he cycled into Paris. We watched as the man pulled on that yellow jersey and took his place on the podium. For the first time, an Australian had won the Tour de France.

At 34, Cadel Evans is the oldest tour winner in the post-war era. In his acceptance speech, Evans dedicated his win to his late mentor, Aldo Sassi, who died of cancer in 2010 and was the very man who had helped convert Evans to road racing. Evans is a champion of sport, not only because of his success but also because of his perseverance and determination. Even when he has fallen behind, he has refused to give up. In a sport sometimes tainted by doping, Evans refused to accept anything less than a clean win in the greatest tour of them all. He defied age and he defied expectations. He embodies the Australian spirit: a spirit to win, to play fair and to be a proud yet gracious winner.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/J3RVoDKOEiw?hl=en&fs=1
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Belco Bowl



I spoke in parliament yesterday about the opening of the revamped Belco Bowl.
Belconnen Skate Park
18 August 2011


On 6 August, I was delighted to join my friend Chris Bourke MLA in opening the revamped Belconnen Skate Park, known as the Belco Bowl, a BMX and skate park that was partly funded by federal money under the stimulus program. It is located on the edge of Lake Ginninderra, which could remind skateboarders that their sport started when Californian surfers looked out on flat waves and decided they had to invent another sport. The original Belco Bowl was opened in 1990, just 14 years after the invention of the ollie. I am told that this revamp makes the Belco Bowl the largest skate park in the Southern Hemisphere.

At its best, skateboarding is a sport that does not care about your age, race, sex or religion—just what tricks you can do. The new facility combines some seriously steep walls with areas for first-timers, and I hope that more experienced skaters will use the chance to teach newbies some new tricks. Most Canberrans may not be up to doing kickflips, wheelies and pivots, but I know my two young sons watched with big eyes as they saw the skateboarders and BMX riders using the new facility.

I would like to use this chance to acknowledge the work of the ACT and federal governments, the skating community, particularly Luke Brown, the designers, particularly Julia Coddington, and the builders, who have made the revamped Belco Bowl a reality.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/dk-jFM-E74c?hl=en&fs=1
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Overseas Students

I spoke in parliament yesterday about overseas students studying in Australia.
Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Amendment Bill 2011, Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Registration Charges Consequentials) Bill 2011
Second Reading - House of Reps Hansard - 18 August 2011


The opportunity to study overseas is a unique one. I was fortunate myself to have the opportunity to study in the United States as an international postgraduate student. For me it was an invaluable experience. I learned about new subjects and to look at my own country with the perspective of an outsider. To adapt the cliché, Australia and the United States really are two countries separated by a common language. Cross-cultural relationships can have their advantages too, and my own international study experience gave me the life-changing opportunity to meet my wife, Gweneth.

It is important for Australia that we encourage international students to come here to study. International students are a vital part of our universities, and increasingly they are becoming an integral part of Australia's social and civic fabric. In my former career as an economics professor at the ANU, I had the privilege of guiding and supervising international students in their postgraduate studies, both masters students and PhD students. Drawing on the experience of students born overseas is something that I have continued through an internship program in my parliamentary office today. Only recently, Ruth Tay, an ANU economics student on a scholarship from the Singaporean government, worked with me analysing mental health policy and immigration policy. Those experiences and Ruth’s background opened my eyes to new perspectives on the issues. And I am sure Ruth will take back some of those ideas to her work in Singapore.

Teaching international postgraduate students, as an ANU economics professor, gave me the privilege of spending time with people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives. I learned a great deal from them, as I hope they did from me. Some examples were Cathy Gong, a Chinese student who completed her PhD in 2008 and has gone on to publish important work on education, intergenerational disadvantage and unemployment, working with NATSEM at the University of Canberra. Cathy and I, working Xin Meng, have even written a paper on intergenerational mobility in China.

Dinuk Jayasuriya, born in Sri Lanka, completed his PhD in 2010 and his first position was with the World Bank. He now works with the monitoring and evaluation operations for the World Bank's private sector arm in the Pacific. Dinuk’s research looked into issues such as microcredit and behavioural economics. Daniel Suryadarma, an Indonesian PhD student who works on poverty and the economics of education, is now a research fellow at the Australian National University. Students such as these have given a great deal to their fellow students and to the institutions in which they study. I expect they will all, over the course of their careers, make substantial contributions to the developing countries in which they were born. The contribution that these students make informs the issues that we are grappling with in this place.

The Gillard government is committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the international education sector. We want to protect Australia's reputation as a provider of international education that continues to attract and retain overseas students. My electorate of Fraser has a particularly large community of international students. There are 4,280 international students at the Australian National University and 2,481 at the University of Canberra. On top of this, the electorate of Fraser boasts campuses of the Canberra Institute of Technology, the Australian Catholic University and UNSW@ADFA. These students make a valuable contribution to local businesses, the local economy and academic research. They provide a kaleidoscope of cultural variety that we in the Fraser electorate enjoy.

In recent times there has been a slowing of growth in the sector that is related to the strong Australian dollar. Dutch Disease affects international education, as it affects tourism and manufacturing. But the fast and decisive action that this government took during the global financial crisis and our recognition of the Dutch Disease issues that can arise from a high Australian dollar have been important.

It is true—there is no getting away from it—that Australia is no longer as cheap an international education option as it once was, and that means that our higher education providers must compete on quality. Our sector is of high quality and we need to guarantee that it continues that way. We are placing higher fees and stricter requirements on new entrants into the international education market, and rewarding low-risk providers that have a proven track record of delivering quality education for international students. This bill ensures that our international education sector maintains its high reputation.

International education is an increasingly important part of the Australian economy. It is Australia's third-largest export. The number of international students studying here almost tripled from 2003 to 2010. The sector is now worth tens of billions of dollars to the Australian economy. I have already mentioned the factors that have influenced the sector in recent years. There are a number of challenges today—the stronger Australian dollar, the global downturn and increased competition in the global education market—but we have seen international enrolments in the Australian higher education sector continue to show modest growth.

The government is very focused on strengthening the regulation and consumer protection framework for international education. The sector is as diverse as the students in it. When we talk about the international education sector many people think of the private providers established to deliver training specific to the international market, but we sometimes forget that schools, TAFEs and public universities are also included in that sector. The range of education courses offered to international students includes everything from a year 12 certificate to a PhD. International students contribute enormously to the learning experience of local students in the classroom and outside the classroom. The diverse backgrounds that come into a lecture theatre make it such a rich experience.

Problems arise in the international student market when we start allowing high-risk providers into the market with little regulation or allow them to continue to operate when we know that they have a history of not meeting their regulatory requirements. It is in no-one's interest in this sector to have a market dominated by high-risk providers. Students are not offered certainty about the ongoing existence of their provider. Parents are not offered certainty about the investment that they have made in their child's education. We all know that the decision to invest in a child's education is a stressful one for parents. How much more so when your child is studying in a foreign country? High-risk providers mean that teachers and support staff do not have certainty about their wages, entitlements or job security.

The Australian education sector risks getting a poor international reputation if we allow high-risk players. It gets the reputation of not being a sector where we can provide students with a high-quality degree. Australia as a whole loses out. We place at risk our diversity and multiculturalism if we allow high-risk providers. So it is important that we ensure the sector is of high quality and that the messages that get out through word of mouth about higher education in Australia are uniformly good ones. We do not want to make it too easy for risky entrants to set up, because that can harm every provider. We are taking this important action to ensure that high-risk providers are faced with an additional requirement to enter the market. We do not want to promote and subsidise education providers if they are putting at risk the whole overseas student sector. In this process we want to recognise that we need innovation. We need to encourage providers to put in place new products and innovative products, but we want to distinguish between that and high-risk providers.

We want to ensure that we have new diversity in the market—much as we have seen, say, from the University of Melbourne's shift to a different style of undergraduate teaching—but we also want to ensure that that innovation does not threaten the sustainability of the sector.

The Baird review into the ESOS legal framework recommended that the government take a risk management approach to the sector, and the government agreed. By linking the risk level to the fee structure, the Gillard government is adopting a model favoured by insurance companies all over the world: the greater the risk, the greater the fee. The fee paid by a provider will be based on four indicators of risk. The first part is a flat fee—a charge that all providers pay to cover the administrative costs. The second tier is a size fee that covers the costs of ongoing regulatory activity based on the size of the task. It is a combination of a charge per student enrolment and a charge per registered course for each provider. Third, there is a compliance history fee imposed in circumstances where the minister has in the past 12 months taken action against a provider under section 83 of the ESOS Act for breaching the act, the national code or a condition on the registration. Fourth, there is an entry to the market fee. Evidence suggests that providers with a shorter history of registration present a greater risk and therefore a greater regulatory and supervisory burden. New providers will be charged a fixed fee for each of the first three years of registration.

There have already been several measures adopted by the Gillard government to promote and enhance risk management in the international education sector. These include introducing review systems and periods, enabling conditions to be placed on a registration when the provider is first registered, and strengthening the ability to take compliance and enforcement action.

The Gillard government is interested in providing rewards and incentives for higher education providers who demonstrate their ability to continue to provide high-quality, low-risk education opportunities for overseas students. Government-funded schools, TAFE colleges and public universities that accept international students will pay the lower fee structure in recognition of the lower risk that they present in this sector. These low-risk providers will pay the flat fee and the student enrolment component of the size fee. These low-risk providers will be exempt from the course component of the size fee as they are already subject to rigorous quality control processes through other government requirements for local students and courses.

Overall, there will be a reduction in the level of the annual registration charge paid by the sector as a whole. This is because the low-risk providers comprise a significant share of the market. The revised charging structure will result in a more sustainable international education sector through better protection of international students and an ongoing commitment to continual quality improvement. Providers representing a greater risk to the market, such as new entrants and those with a history of non-compliance, may pay more under the new arrangements. We make no apology for this. We want to create an international education system that provides incentives for providers to improve their performance and to continue to deliver great quality education.

The reforms that we are talking about today are a small part of a wider suite of reforms to the international education sector. This legislation addresses the annual registration charge component of risk management. It is the second package of reforms, and will be complemented by the third package later this year.

During my time as an academic, one of the first things I learned was that collaboration is essential to research. Sometimes the other experts in your field are from countries that are not your own. Sometimes the best person to assist you and guide you through your postgraduate studies is an expert on the other side of the world. Here in Australia we want to ensure that we are offering attractive options for international and domestic students—the best researchers, the best facilities, the best quality of outcome for any type of qualification.

I am enormously proud of the Australian higher education sector, and particularly those institutions in my electorate of Fraser, and I want to make sure all Australians feel that sense of pride. We want to make sure that the best people to guide others through their postgraduate research, to lecture the undergraduates or to offer hands-on vocational training are located here in Australia. We want to make Australia the best option for students who are looking to study overseas. I commend the bills to the House.
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ABC News 24 Capital Hill 11 August 2011



Andrew Leigh and Kelly O'Dwyer discuss political issues on ABC News 24's Capital Hill program, hosted by Lyndal Curtishttp://www.youtube.com/embed/cJpcLvwetlw?hl=en&fs=1
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UN Security Council Reform



I spoke in parliament this week about proposals to reform the UN Security Council.
United Nations Security Council Reform
17 August 2011


In 1994 the genocide in Rwanda shook the world's collective conscience. A mixture of international unwillingness and poor procedure meant that effective action was not taken to prevent the killings. The next year, in what became the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II, United Nations forces in Srebrenica failed to protect those who had sought refuge in a so-called UN 'safe zone'. In 1999, fear of a veto in the Security Council prevented UN forces from intervening in atrocities in Kosovo. All of these failures revealed structural defects in the way the international community responds to mass atrocities.

Almost since its inception, reform has been on the agenda of the UN. In helping me better understand the various proposals for UN Security Council reform, I am grateful to William Isdale, who interned in my office and worked on this issue.

The UN Security Council plays a vital role in world affairs. Except in cases of self-defence, the Security Council is the only international body legally entitled to authorise the use of force. Yet the council currently has two major challenges: membership and procedural effectiveness.

The fact that the council's five permanent members are essentially the victors in World War II has riled developing countries, whose member states are often those most affected by UN peacekeeping operations. There is a strong push for greater geographical representation in the council and an emerging consensus that we should boost the number of permanent members and make the deliberations of the council more transparent. Among the countries most often mentioned are Japan, Germany, Brazil and India. Others suggest that the permanent members should include representatives from Africa and from majority Muslim nations. Australia is among the many countries that support India's current bid for a permanent seat, which India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, reportedly declined when it was offered in 1955.

A major issue in Security Council reform is the veto. The veto power of the permanent members has always been contentious—Australia opposed its introduction in the council from the start—and at one stage the conflict on this question threatened to break up the 1945 San Francisco conference at which the UN Charter was drafted. The threat of veto has prevented effective intervention in atrocities as recently as Darfur in 2005. Yet a resolution to remove the veto power would almost certainly itself be vetoed. Bodies like the African Union are aggrieved by the potential that their members will be offered second-class permanency, but additional vetoes in the council could make the body even less effective.

If we add permanent members, they should participate without a veto. Indeed, it would be better if the existing permanent members did not veto intervention to prevent mass atrocities. Thanks in part to the tireless efforts of former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, the council unanimously affirmed its 'Responsibility to Protect' in 2006 and again in 2009. Where intervention is approved, it should be done swiftly and with minimal casualties. One challenge is that the UN currently lacks its own standing army and instead relies on member nations willing to commit forces. At present, a large number of such forces are provided by developing countries who hope that their soldiers will be trained up in the process. The UN must ensure that it has the best people for the job.

The UN also has a way to go in ensuring that the procedures for authorising action on the ground are clear and transparent, as they were not in Srebrenica or Rwanda, and that it builds upon the infrastructure required for such operations. Progress has been made, such as the creation of a UN 'situation room' in 1993, but more could be done to strengthen the UN's capacity to monitor the security situation of countries and predict the likelihood of an outbreak of ethnic violence.

In a world of 'problems without passports', multilateralism is no longer a second option, especially when it comes to issues like genocide and other mass atrocities. Strengthening the ability of the United Nations to deal with such crises is in everyone's interests. Martin Luther King once said:

"Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilisations are written the pathetic words: 'Too late.'"

Let us hope that reform of the UN Security Council can help avert another Rwanda, Srebrenica, Kosovo or Darfur.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/r22HSdOgqF8?hl=en&fs=1
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Health Performance Authority



I spoke in parliament this week about health reform.
National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill 2011
17 August 2011


On 2 August I was pleased to visit the Canberra Hospital in the company of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health and Ageing, the member for Canberra, and Katy Gallagher, the Chief Minister of the ACT. We were generously shown around the Canberra Hospital by our ACT Health hosts, Lee Martin, Rosemary Kennedy, Kate Jackson and Sarah Majeed. It was a real eye-opening visit to see hospital reform in action; to see what is already occurring in Australia's hospitals as a result of having a federal government that is committed to improving health. Our party met with 16-year-old Jake Floro and his mother Kerrie-Anne Floro. Jake had a hip operation on 15 April and he is recovering really well.

This visit through the Canberra Hospital, one of the great hospitals in Australia, reinforced the positive experiences that I and my family have had at both the Calvary Hospital and the Canberra Hospital over recent years. I learned a lot from those personal experiences. As the dad of a couple of young boys who seem to always be falling off things, I have spent my fair share of time in emergency wards. But I have also learnt a lot about the ACT hospital system through speaking with my friends, Caroline Fahey, Mary-Ann Kulh and Mike Hall. At the outset I will speak generally about the bill, but I want to return to some ACT specifics of this bill at the end of my speech. The National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill 2011 will deliver another $20 million in extra funding for public hospitals. In practical terms, that means more beds, more local control, more transparency; it means less bureaucracy, less waste and less waiting. Under the new health agreement that was struck with all the Australian states and territories on 13 February this year, the Commonwealth will permanently pay for 50 per cent of the growth in hospital costs. Initially, from 2014-15, the Commonwealth will pay 45 per cent and then from 2017-18 it will be 50 per cent. There will be a national funding pool, so hospitals will all be paid the same way regardless of whether they are in Bourke or Ballarat. That will deliver unprecedented transparency in hospital funding arrangements.

Across a whole range of public sector management issues, transparency drives reform. We see this in early childhood, in schools, in universities and in hospitals. The states and territories, under this historic agreement, have agreed to deliver substantial reforms. They will provide greater local control of hospitals. There will be a national price for activity based funding. As a former economics professor, and I would like to think a current economist, I regard this as a great way of driving efficiency and reducing waste. We will have new national standards and new targets to cut those waiting times in emergency departments and in elective surgery waiting lists. As someone who has spent a fair number of hours sitting in emergency departments, I know the stress that can build up while waiting for service. It is really important we do what we can to cut those emergency waiting times to make sure that those families that do not need to be in emergency rooms are not there and those who need to be in emergency rooms are seen quickly.

As a result of this legislation, there will be a new National Health Performance Authority. It is a key element of the government's health reform agenda and the COAG agreements. Its role will be to monitor and report on local hospital networks, public and private hospitals, Medicare Locals and other healthcare service providers. It will deliver clear, transparent performance reporting. There will be a new framework that will provide Australians with information about the performance of their health and hospital service in a relevant way and which is nationally consistent. As with the MySchool website, where parents can now compare schools right across the country, patients will have more information on their local healthcare services and those patients will spur reform. The authority will produce clear reporting. It will produce Healthy Communities reports for every Medicare Locals geographic area. You will be able to see, for example, how your local healthcare services are performing, preventive risk factors and access to GP services.

I moved a private member's motion earlier this year about the importance of transparency across the board and about the reforms that are driven by having a MyChild website, a My School website and a MyHospitals website. The MyHospitals website, which went live in December last year, compares the emergency department and elective surgery performance of public hospitals around Australia for the first time. The MyHospitals website is a critical element in ensuring that Australian health services are as good as they can be.

I move on to speaking from an ACT perspective about what this means. The ACT government—as a strong reforming Labor government—has already taken action to make sure the ACT health system can respond to growing health service demand. For the ACT, one of the big challenges is that many of the patients who are served in Canberra's hospitals come in from New South Wales. That is particularly true in the ski season when many people who find themselves injured on the slopes will eventually end up in a Canberra hospital. There is a lot of pressure placed on Canberra's hospitals, which they respond to well.

A part of the reforms the ACT government has put in place is a program called Your Health-Our Priority. It is a major infrastructure program which is facilitating investments such as a new cancer centre at the Canberra Hospital. There are also important investments that the ACT government is making in e-health. I note that this is an area of major difference between the two parties in this place. Those opposite would be quite happy to do away with e-health. They would be quite happy to stick with the old paper records, the errors and the inefficiencies that are inherent in using a paper based system. But the ACT government, as with the Gillard government, is committed to moving towards e-health and recognises that faster broadband will offer new opportunities in the future. And right now we can start getting those e-health records to ensure that, if you turn up to a different GP from the one you usually see, your new GP will be able to see your entire health record. That new investment is going to be absolutely critical to reducing error rates and ensuring patients do not have to repeat their health history every time they go to see a new doctor. These big investments will ensure the ACT health system is greatly improved. The Independent Hospital Pricing Authority will be a key part of this.

The ACT Legislative Assembly has established an ACT Local Hospital Network as part of this new reform. That will be a network system that holds service contracts with ACT Health. It will comprise the Canberra Hospital, Calvary Public Hospital, Clare Holland House and the Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre. The ACT government will continue to manage the system-wide public hospital service planning and performance, including the purchasing of public hospital services, and it will be responsible for the management of the performance of the ACT Local Hospital Network.

That Local Hospital Network, as I mentioned, will be overseen by a high-powered board. That board includes Michael Peedom, who is the Director of Legal Services of the ACT Regional Office of the Australian Government Solicitor's Office; Professor Nicholas Glasgow, the Dean of the ANU Medical School; Lynette Brown, a member of the ACT Health Council; Mary Montgomery, a member of the Calvary Health Care ACT Community Advisory Board; Colleen Duff, the Secretary of the ACT Branch of the Australian Nursing Federation; Dr Rashmi Sharma, a director of the ACT Division Of General Practice; Michael Moore, a former ACT health minister and a long-time campaigner for better health services in Canberra; John Runko, CEO of the property industry; Darlene Cox, a member of the Health Care Consumers Association; and Megan Cahill, and Associate Director in the Health and Human Services Practice of KPMG. These dedicated Canberrans will be an important part of ensuring that the Local Hospital Network serves all Canberrans.

Another exciting health reform for Canberra, which I know many of my constituents are looking forward to, is the establishment of a GP superclinic in the ACT, a GP superclinic that will ensure that we bring together many of the skills we have here in Canberra, joining together strong medical research teams, medical training teams and their expertise in delivering primary health care.

I want to use this opportunity too to pay tribute to the West Belconnen Health Co-op. My friend Michael Pilbrow has been heavily involved in this. The West Belconnen Health Co-op has done a great deal to boost bulk-billing rates in the ACT and to bring new doctors into Canberra. They are servicing one of the more disadvantaged parts of the ACT and they have expanded from their Charnwood site to open a new site in Belconnen. As part of that, they are really serving a great mission of community medicine, ensuring that doctors are there for those who need them and bringing specialists in to the West Belconnen Health Co-op so that patients do not have to travel all around Canberra to see an expert. Once a month, say, a specialist will come in and see people with particular issues.

Winnunga Nimityjah is another health centre in the ACT, an Aboriginal health service operating out of Narrabundah but servicing many people on the north side of Canberra. Winnunga Nimityjah often drives its clients down to the health service. They go above and beyond to provide a level of health care to Indigenous Canberrans. And of course, if we are to close the gap, it will be through initiatives such as Winnunga Nimityjah. I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to those workers there.

All of these are mainstream reforms. You would expect them to be supported by both sides of parliament. But what we have seen is the coalition opposing efficient pricing and opposing transparency. It is of a piece with much of what we have seen from the current Leader of the Opposition. The current Leader of the Opposition only has one word in his vocabulary and that word only has two letters. The Liberal Party has become the party of 'no': the party of opposition to everything. In the case of private health insurance, the current Liberal Party says that Australians without private health insurance who earn the minimum wage should be subsidising the private health insurance of millionaires. They are unwilling to means-test the private healthcare rebate for millionaires. This is what we might expect given that the Leader of the Opposition is the man who ripped a billion dollars out of our healthcare system. It is a sad thing to see that those opposite are so committed to an ideological oppositionist agenda. The reforms that we are putting forward are sensible reforms, reforms that will deliver more beds, more transparency, more efficiency to our healthcare system. But those opposite seem only able to learn from the scare campaigns of the US Republicans and their Tea Party friends. They seem to have decided that whatever issue comes up, they have to oppose it. Maybe the next time we start talking about efficiency here, we are going to hear those opposite start to raise spectres of death panels, as the US Republicans have done.

It is sad that the modern conservative parties have now become fringe oppositionist parties. It is very different from the mainstream parties of small 'l' liberalism that the Liberal and National parties once were. They have now become the party of 'no', the party of rallies, the party of radicalism. The modern Liberal and National parties have lost touch with what ordinary Australians want. When I hold my community forums and mobile offices, Canberrans tell me that what they want is quicker access to doctors. They want access to GPs and they want to make sure that when they go to hospitals they get seen as quickly as possible. They want to know about the performance of their local hospitals and they want to be able compare those local hospitals. They want to be sure that at all times their healthcare system is operating as efficiently as possible.

My constituents know, as, sadly, those opposite appear not to know, that a more efficient system means that we can spend more dollars on high-priority areas. We can invest in cutting waiting times, we can invest in closing the gaps and we can invest in e-health, ensuring that the technology of the future is available in Australian hospitals today. I commend the bill to the House.
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Memorials Inquiry

In recent meetings of parliament's National Capital and External Territories Committee, I've been asking questions about new memorials in the parliamentary triangle. So I'm pleased that Simon Crean (the relevant minister) has now asked the committee to inquire into the process of choosing national memorials. Terms of reference below.
Inquiry into the Administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 - Terms of reference

The Committee has been asked by the Hon Simon Crean, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government:

1.     To inquire into, and report on:

  • The administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 (the Ordinance), with particular reference on:


o    The membership of the Canberra National Memorials Committee (CNMC);

o    The process for decision-making by the CNMC;

o    Mechanisms for the CNMC to seek independent, expert advice; and

o    Opportunities for improving transparency in the administration of the Ordinance.

  • The appropriate level of parliamentary oversight for proposed National Memorials.

  • The appropriate level of public participation in the development of proposed National Memorials.


2.     If changes to current arrangements are recommended, inquire into and report on transition provisions for current proposals for memorials which have not yet been constructed.

The Minister has asked the Committee to report by the end of 2011.

Submissions close 9 September (details here).
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Clean Technology Showcase

Canberrans who are interested in clean tech may wish to pop along to this important event tomorrow.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr invites you to the Clean Technology Showcase.

Date: Thursday 18 August, 2011
Time: 11.30 am - 1.30 pm
Venue: Mural Hall, Parliament House

This event showcases manufacturers from across Australia who have embraced clean and high technology. At the event, you can speak with these businesses and see clean and high technology products, which have been developed with the support of the Australian Government. You can also speak with parliamentarians and government officials.
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8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon ACT 2612 | 02 6247 4396 | Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au