Opening the Belco Bowl

With Chris Bourke MLA, I opened the revamped Belconnen Skate Park (aka 'Belco Bowl') today - a splendid facility for skaters and BMX riders that was partly funded by federal money under the stimulus program. It's located on the edge of Lake Ginninderra, which I argued can remind skaters that their sport started when Californian surfers looked out at flat waves, and decided they had to invent another sport.

The original Belco Bowl was opened in the early-1980s, only a few years after the invention of the 'ollie'. I'm told that the revamp makes this the largest skate park in the southern hemisphere. It'll be a great place for skaters to make friends, try new tricks, and enjoy the great view across the lake.

Below is a video and the press release that Chris and I put out.


Federal Member for Fraser, Andrew Leigh MP, and Member for Ginninderra, Dr Chris Bourke MLA, today officially opened the completed $4.2 million skate park in Belconnen providing the local community with a new state-of-the-art recreation facility.

As a joint initiative, the project received funding of $2 million from the Australian Government and $2.2 million from the ACT Government.

“I am pleased to be here today to celebrate the official opening of the Belconnen Skate Park and Eastern Valley Way Inlet upgrades,” Mr Leigh said.

“This project has restored the “Belco Bowl” to its former glory and rebuilt the park into a high quality facility that meets contemporary international skate-boarding and BMX standards.”

The new skate park design has retained the existing ‘Belco Bowl’ that is famous to local, national and international skaters.  The upgrade also includes a new street skate plaza with a mix of sculptural obstacles, a flow area/snake run, a mini ramp, a large shelter, seating, new lighting and viewing areas for family and friends.

Dr Bourke said the facility has the direct benefit of improving the skate park, but had the flow on effect of also improving the immediate surrounding area.

“This project has not only delivered a refurbished, state-of-the-art facility for skateboarders and BMX riders but also includes improvements to the adjacent foreshore area, creating an attractive recreation spot for the residents of Belconnen,” Dr Bourke said.

To celebrate the reopening of the refurbished skate park today, members of the Canberra Skateboard Association and BMX community held a series of informal competitions and demonstrations to showcase the new facilities.

“The reopening of the skate park completed one of two stages of work which included the skate park and the immediate public realm. The second stage of works includes the establishment of wetlands within the Eastern Valley Way Inlet, boardwalks, a new bridge, toilet block and refurbishment of the promenade area adjacent to the inlet.

“The skate park is part of a wider foreshore redevelopment that will see the Lake Ginninderra Foreshore refreshed in the coming years with new shaded areas, drinking fountains, boardwalk and paths for cyclists. New lighting will ensure the skate park and surrounding area can be enjoyed in greater safety and with greater confidence by Belconnen residents for more hours of the day.

“The ACT Government has provided a further $4.52 million over the next two years for Stage 2 works and construction is expected to commence in early 2012.”
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Hockey Confirms 12,000 Canberra Jobs to Go

On ABC Q&A last night, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed that Canberra is on his hit-list if the Coalition ever wins government, with 12,000 jobs to go.
TONY JONES: Well, would you be disbanding this department if it's a department that puts out false figures for political reasons? I mean, you are talking about getting rid of 12,000 civil servants.

JOE HOCKEY: Yeah. Well the Department of Climate Change will be pretty high up the list for very close scrutiny.

TONY JONES: You mean, you'll be thinking of disbanding it.


So much for Liberal Party claims recently that they would only get rid of 12,000 public servants by 'natural attrition'.
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Mobile Offices and Community Forums

Mobile Offices

I'll be holding a mobile office on Hibberson Street in Gungahlin next Saturday (6 August) from 9-10am. Do come along if there are local or national issues you'd like to raise in person with me.

Community Forums

Also, I'll be hosting a Youth Climate Change Forum next Tuesday. I will give a short outline of the key features of the Gillard Government’s clean energy future plan, answer questions that you might have about the clean energy future plan, and discuss how we can work together to achieve this historic reform.

The details are:
Tuesday 9 August
Manning Clark Centre Theatre 2
Australian National University
RSVP: Andrew.Leigh.MP <@>

All welcome - young, and young at heart.

Finally, I'll be holding another community forum on climate change in Dickson.
Sat 27 August
Majura Community Hall
Rosevear Pl
RSVP: Andrew.Leigh.MP <@>
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When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for four years

Having entered the world 39 years ago, I now begin my 40th year. Which made me feel rather old until I realised that if Alfred Deakin were alive, he'd be celebrating his 155th birthday today.

There are also some rather likeable features about 39, such as the fact that it's the sum of the first three powers of 3 (31+32+33). Does this mean I should be doing things in triplicate this year?
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Same-Sex Marriage

The ACT Labor Party conference today debated a motion (moved by Natasha Shahidullah and Andrew Barr) that advocated a change to include same-sex couples in the definition of marriage. I spoke in favour of the change.
Same-Sex Marriage
ALP ACT Conference, 30 July 2011

Few moments in life are so powerful, so emotionally charged, that they transcend the individual and connect us all.

  • The birth of a child;

  • Saying and being told I love you;

  • And for those of us who are married – our wedding day.

A day so special that we name anniversaries silver, gold and diamond.

Marriage should be recognised and registered by law, regardless of the sexual orientation, or gender of the couple wanting to be married.

Same sex marriage is not about gay versus straight, conservative versus progressive, left versus right.

It is about social justice, equality for individuals, the recognition and protection of fundamental political and civil rights.

It is a Labor issue.

Our values make our party great. These have guided us for 120 years and should guide us on this issue.

We are a party of leadership. It is we who place a premium on treating people with dignity, decency, without discrimination.

In our heartland, our members, our voters watch Ellen DeGeneres and Erik van der Woodsen, Matt Lucas and John Barrowman, Jodie Foster and Stephen Fry; we listen to Elton John and KD Lang. Equality for same-sex couples is not unfamiliar to everyday Australians.

I understand and respect those who argue that marriage should remain a union between a man and a women. I have met with them in my electorate office and at my mobile offices. I have heard their views and their stories. They say that marriage is about the protection of the reproductive relationship and, as much as possible, giving children the opportunity to be reared by their biological parents within their natural family.

As a father of two, I absolutely understand the devotion to providing a caring, nurturing, loving and safe environment for children. But what I cannot understand is how my sexuality in some way gives me the right to marry because I am a better father than same sex parents.

The ACT has already led the way in recognising same-sex relationships.

Motions for marriage equality have already been passed at the Tasmanian, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australian, Queensland and Western Australian conferences.

I am hoping we can add the ACT to that list.

A young woman named Natasha recently wrote to me:

‘I have wonderful dreams for my friends. I hope they will experience a loving life. But most of all I want them to have the freedom to pursue their own happiness. Marriage equality is a part of this’.

I have been told countless stories of the impact that discrimination has had on same-sex couples. These stories shock and appal me.

Same-sex couples ask for our support in having their love treated equally. I joined the Labor Party because I believe in equality. I am proud to support this motion.

I'm particularly grateful to Damien Hickman for his work on the speech.
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Good Tory, Bad Tory

The debt ceiling crisis in the US really is quite extraordinary to behold. For decades, the US Congress has raised the debt ceiling as required. After all, the debt ceiling is just the natural consequence of a set of political tax and spend decisions, so in some sense it's odd that it even requires separate legislation. As recently as late last year, most reasonable observers thought there was no chance that Congress would vote against raising the debt ceiling.

But the US Republican Party no longer does reasonable. Following the Tea Party takeover, House Republicans have now now decided that they would prefer to trash America's credit rating (and thereby push up interest rates for millions of Americans) rather than accept any increase in taxes for high-income Americans.

The question is: how do mainstream commentators react when one party moves sharply to the extreme? As Paul Krugman's column and blog have recently noted, the overwhelming tendency among most political observers has been to maintain a standard he-said, she-said approach. So it's easy for the casual watcher to miss the big story: the US Republicans are fast abandoning any semblance of a market-driven party, and are now willing to do or say just about anything for political gain.

The contrast with parties like the UK Conservatives and New Zealand National Party is palpable. I don't agree with some of what those parties are doing, but at least it's possible to discern a clear ideological compass in their decisions, many of which continue to be pro-market (eg. both countries' adoption of emissions trading schemes).

As for Australia, it's now pretty clear where Tony Abbott takes his lead. Having abandoned his party's belief in using markets to deal with climate change, walked away from a set of fuel tax reforms first put in place by Peter Costello in 2003, and used any chance he gets to attack the scientific consensus over climate change, Abbott is firmly placing himself in the US Republican mould. The question is: will the Coalition's rejection of mainstream economics in favour of populist politics get written up for what it is? Or will commentators miss the critical shift (that one political party has taken a huge leap to the intransigent right) and focus instead on what Krugman describes as 'the centrist cop-out'?
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Gould's Books

I spoke in parliament recently about the passing of bookseller and social activist Bob Gould. I wouldn't normally use this website to promote a business, but his daughter Natalie Gould wrote to say that she is trying to ensure that Gould's Books survives, and is running a 50% off sale until 14 Aug. So if you're strolling along King St Newtown, do drop in.
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What I'm Reading

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Social Mobility

Tim Soutphommasane's recent philosopher column in The Australian dealt with the underrated issue of social mobility - how far does the apple fall from the tree?

I penned a short letter in response, which the Oz kindly ran on Tuesday.
Dear Editor,

I enjoyed Tim Soutphommasane's article on social mobility. As he correctly points out, it's fundamental to how we think about inequality, since most of us are willing to put up with a bigger gap between rich and poor if the lottery is redrawn each generation than if social position is immutable from birth.

Tim quotes my research as finding that Australia is "among the most socially mobile societies in the world". Not quite. My study found that we are more socially mobile than the US, but less socially mobile than the Scandinavians.

For those who like numbers, a 10 percent rise in a father's income is associated with a 1-2 percent rise in his son's income in Denmark and Sweden, 2-3 percent in the UK and Australia, and 4-6 percent in the US and China.

So it's not as hard to jump from rags to riches in Australia as in some other societies. But we could still do more to ensure that every child - no matter their circumstances - has the opportunities that should be their birthright.

Andrew Leigh
Member for Fraser.
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Tax Forum

The Australian Government's Tax Forum will be held in Canberra on 4-5 October. Expressions of interest opened today for people in several categories: community, business, academics, superannuation, general public, and students.

More details here, with an expression of interest form here.
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