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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Labor is committed to sensible tax reform - Transcript, ABC RN Breakfast





SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s latest scare campaign, tax reform, energy prices, AEC redistribution.

FRAN KELLY: Andrew Leigh is Labor’s Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Andrew Leigh, welcome back to Breakfast.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks, Fran. Great to be with you.

KELLY: So last week Matthias Cormann was accusing Bill Shorten of taking Labor back to its failed Socialist roots. Now we’ve got the Treasurer saying Bill Shorten is leading a new red Labor. Is that a badge you’re proud to wear?

LEIGH: Fran, these sorts of ‘red peril’ scare campaigns really do remind you of that basic truth that when you’re having an argument and the other person turns to insults, it’s because they’ve run out of strong arguments. What Labor’s doing is sensible tax reform. When I was doing my PhD in the United States, one of my public finance professors was Martin Feldstein - the former chair of Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors - and he made a strong case for closing tax loopholes as both equitable and efficient. A lot of what we’re doing in the tax space is looking at closing loopholes. 

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Too much passing on of privilege - Transcript, 6PR Perth Live





SUBJECTS: Social mobility, inequality, marriage equality.

OLIVER PETERSON: To tell me more, Andrew Leigh joins me on Perth Live. Good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good afternoon, Ollie. How are you?

PETERSON: I am very well. Andrew, this is fascinating. If your surname is Leigh or Peterson or whatever it is, or Smith, it might depend on what job you get. Tell us more!

LEIGH: [laughter] The two of us do have kind of unusual names, don’t we? The idea of this comes from an American researcher by the name of Greg Clark. A couple of years ago he did a book called “The Son Also Rises”, which looked at very long run social mobility. It asked the question: ‚if you look at surnames held by the elite a couple of centuries ago, are they still held by the elite these days?‘ And you can’t use common surnames like Smith or Jones to do this kind of exercise. You’ve got to look at rare surnames like Cade or Mendelsohn or Harbison – surnames that are held by a small number of people, where you know you’re following the same family groups. We find that when we applied that methodology to Australia, along with our co-author Mike Pottenger, that Australia looks like it’s a less mobile society than previous research has shown. Indeed, there seems to be a lot of stickiness at the top of the distribution. Yes, the elite groups do mix it up a little bit over time, but our estimates suggest that for full social mixing to take place, it takes about 300 years. That suggests that Australia, in this long run measure of mobility, isn’t any better than Britain or the United States.

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There's not enough class jumping in Australia - Transcript, ABC Sydney Drive





SUBJECTS: Social mobility, inequality, marriage equality.

RICHARD GLOVER: An intriguing new study has used unusual surnames as a way of tracking social mobility through generations. One of the co-authors is Dr Andrew Leigh. He’s a former professor of economics who is now a Labor MP and he’s in our Canberra studio. Andrew, good afternoon.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good afternoon, Richard. Great to be with you.

GLOVER: Now first of all, we do think of ourselves as very egalitarian, don’t we?

LEIGH: Absolutely. We pride ourselves on being a nation where Jack isn’t just as good as his master, but maybe better. We tell stories about the fact that Sydney Grammar and James Ruse Agricultural High SChool were founded by former convicts or named after former convicts. Perhaps the richest Australian to have ever lived - relative to the income of his time - was Samuel Terry, who was transported for stealing stockings. This notion of 'class jumping' is essential to the Australian character. We’ve thought of ourselves as being a more mobile society than Britain or the United States and indeed previous research which just looked at single generation mobility did paint that kind of a picture.

GLOVER: Ok, that people did leave their fathers - if i can use this as a male expression for ease - people did leave their fathers behind?

LEIGH: Exactly. The apple seemed to fall a good distance away from the tree. The trouble is when you look at multiple generations, it seems to roll back towards the trunk again. This research that I’ve done with Greg Clark and Mike Pottenger looks right across the period from the late nineteenth century through to today and finds relatively slow social mobility.  When new look at these unusual surnames overrepresented in elite groups in the late 1800s, we see them still overrepresented among elite groups today.

GLOVER: Let’s explain that, because it’s an intriguing thing. It’s hard to study social mobility over time, because you haven’t got really detailed records of people so that you can follow a family through. You’ve come up with this idea - let’s not try to look at everybody, let’s choose people with really odd names where there’s probably only, where you could almost identify the family because it’s an odd name. That way you can really follow these people through generations.

LEIGH: That’s right. This is a method that Greg Clark came up with a couple of years ago for his book “The Son Also Rises” and which he’s deployed in a number of different countries. I was keen to work with him and with Mike to look at Australia. So you think of really unusual surnames, like Harbison or Cade or Mendelsohn or Zwar which are held by less than 200 Australians at the moment. We look for these surnames in old, historical records - records of doctors, elite biographies, those who attended the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney in the early era - and then we see how common are those same surnames in elite groups today.

GLOVER: So you’re not saying there’s anything particularly special about say the name Brissenden, but it’s just that it’s so unusual that it gives you a method not following one family through.

LEIGH: You’ve nailed it. That method then allows us to look at these family groupings and to say ‘do the family grouping which were at the top of the social hierarchy in the 1800s still appear at the top of the social hierarchy today?’. And the answer is that there’s a bit of mobility, but only about half as much as the previous studies which looked at just one generation might have suggested. 

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We need to do more to rebuild the strength of civic life in Australia - Transcript, ABC Tasmania





SUBJECT/S; Rebuilding civic engagement, marriage equality.

LEON COMPTON: The Shadow Assistant Treasurer is in Launceston today, hosting a forum on social capital and civic engagement. I’m imaging that he wants to see higher levels of social capital and more civic engagement. It’ll be interesting to see what he learns as he meets Tasmanians. One of the incredible strengths of Tasmania is that high level of social cooperation, the idea that - I suppose on the one hand can be a negative, that fewer people move around over the course of their lives, but it’s also an incredible positive that people feel a strong connection to community here. So are the sorts of challenges that are tearing at the social fabric in other places present here and what can we do to build our social capital? Times are changing, stresses are changing - what can we do to meet those changes? Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer, good morning to you.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning, Leon. Great to be with you.

COMPTON: Thank you for coming into the studio this morning. What is the issue that you’re actually looking at and talking about as you travel around Australia in your mind?

LEIGH: After the last election, Bill Shorten was kind enough to give me the portfolio of charities and not-for-profits. We’re the first political party to have a portfolio for charities and not-for-profits and it reflects Labor’s belief that we need to do more to rebuild the strength of civic life in Australia. You look over the last couple of generations, we’ve become increasingly disconnected from one another - less likely to donate, to volunteer, to join.  We’re less than half as likely to go to church, less than half as likely to be in a union than we were a couple of generations ago. If you look at many of the mass membership organisations of the past, they’ve shed members. So this Reconnected forum - and this will be the eighth forum we’re holding around Australia - with Ross Hart, Brian Mitchell and Justine Keay today is focussing on new ideas from Launceston community groups about how we can build social capital and boost civic engagement.

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Launceston Reconnected Forum Builds Community - Media Release






Today, we held a terrific ‘Reconnected’ roundtable with Launceston charities and not-for-profits, exchanging ideas to boost social capital and community engagement. 

Recent decades have seen a decline in the share of Australians joining community groups, playing organised sports, attending church or joining a union. 

Through our forums, Labor is working to promote social capital, and share ideas about how to reverse the trend of declining social capital.

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