Protecting Medicare means changing the government - Sky AM Agenda

On the first AM Agenda of the year, I joined Kieran Gilbert to talk about the government's latest backflip on Medicare and the sustainability of health spending in the long term. Here's the transcript:





SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s cuts to Medicare; Queensland state election; Joint Strike Fighter espionage; Bali Nine executions

KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome to the program Assistant Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh. Gentlemen, good morning. Senator Birmingham, first of all I want to get your thoughts on this leak yesterday in the Sunday Telegraph. Samantha Maiden is reporting that Peter Dutton, the former health Minister, and Joe Hockey argued against reducing the rebate for GPs for shorter consultations. That didn't go ahead anyway as we know, that was due to start today. But the fact that we're seeing leaks from the Expenditure Review committee, that very senior portion of the Cabinet, has got to be a big worry to start the new year?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM, ASSISTANT EDUCATION MINISTER: Good morning, Kieran. Look, I'm not terribly worried nor interested in unsourced leaks, whether they're accurate or not, who knows. What I'm more interested in is, and what the Government is more interested in, is getting the policy settings right. Sussan Ley as the new Health Minister is going to go out and consult extensively with the health sector, with the medical profession to try to ensure we can come up with the right policy that delivers sustainability for Medicare in the long term. We want to ensure we can secure Medicare's future in a way that recognises that those who can afford to make a contribution to their healthcare should be making a greater contribution. It is hard; let's understand that this policy, as with so many measures the Government is pursuing at present, is all about getting the budget back under control. It’s about ensuring our economic settings and our fiscal settings and our budgetary settings are sustainable for the long haul.

GILBERT: Do you accept that the approach to this point has been a bit below average, to put it mildly, in terms of the efforts to reform Medicare? There's been two backflips in two months when it comes to your approach to reforming Medicare.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Talking taxis and Uber on 3AW

Following on from my opinion piece in the Herald Sun about the sharing economy, I joined Ross Stevenson on Melbourne's 3AW to talk about how services like Uber are changing established industries. Here's the transcript:





SUBJECT/S: sharing economy

ROSS STEVENSON: As we've been discussing this morning, there's an interesting article by the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, Member for Fraser, in the Herald Sun about Uber and the sharing economy. It's described as a ride-sharing service – I think that's quite deliberately chosen so that they don't use the word 'taxi' and Andrew Leigh thinks it’s a great idea. Andrew, good morning to you.


STEVENSON: Good. I think John and I have both used Uber, as you have, from time to time. There are two Ubers though. It varies from state to state, I assume, but there are two Ubers in Melbourne. One of them is a VHA car, that is to say, someone who already has a licence that they've paid the government for. The other one, UberX, is someone who hasn't paid the government a cent. I know you think it's a good idea, but is it fair on taxi drivers who've paid half a million bucks for licence?

LEIGH: It's an incredibly tough area, I think, to try and get this regulation right, Ross. I certainly wasn't aiming to step in there with a final solution. But I do think that increasingly, smartphones are changing the way in which we travel, and I think services like Uber and Lyft are ultimately going to be here to stay. So the question for governments is whether they just stand back and say that the old regulations are perfectly fine, or whether they say that maybe we need to react to what's going on. For example, Uber does its own checks, but they're not the government checks and they don't have access to all of the government databases.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Super rules should be about what's best for savings

With the new Assistant Treasurer flagging plans to change the rules governing default super funds, I joined Marius Benson on ABC NewsRadio to explain why industry funds are a good bet. Here's the transcript:





SUBJECT/S: Industry superannuation funds; global economic outlook.

MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, do you believe it's a legitimate exercise for the Government to review the role of union officials on super boards?

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Marius, I think the Government ought to be most focused on making sure that the retirement security of Australians is assured. Rather than playing political games, they ought to be focusing on the returns. Now, the last time I looked at the numbers, the industry super funds were returning an average of seven per cent a year, retail super funds were returning an average of six per cent a year. So why the Government thinks that it ought to be a top priority to shift the playing field towards retail funds is beyond me. An extra one per cent a year translates into potentially tens of thousands of dollars more in retirement savings for workers. That's the goal the Government ought to be focused on.

BENSON: So are you saying those union officials on the boards are doing a better job, getting a better return than other board members in areas where union officials aren't represented?

LEIGH: I don't think it's about particular individuals. I think there is a benefit to having a diversity of experiences on a board, and certainly I think union officials have a place, as do business experts. But on the practical matter, if you're trying to tip the playing field towards the retail funds and deliberately skew away from the industry funds then the effect of that is to tip towards the lower-performing part of the sector. I'd really love to see the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer be less focused on what's good for their mates and more focused on what's good for all Australians in ensuring security in retirement.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Get the rules right and it will pay us to share - Herald Sun

There's been a lot said about how 'sharing economy' services like Uber benefit young, tech-savvy consumers. But I think there can be real benefits for all Australians, as I explore in this piece for the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Get the rules right and it will pay us all to share, Herald Sun, 19 January

Recently, I caught up with my brother and his partner for dinner. It was one of those busy nights, with clouds looming, when you can be left waiting for a taxi for ages. So I did what millions of people around the world are now doing every day. I tapped on the Uber app on my phone, and within minutes a car had appeared.

The driver was a migrant who’d been in Australia for a couple of decades. He’d worked as a taxi driver previously, but told me he preferred being an Uber driver since he got a bigger slice of the fare, and had the flexibility to take a break in the afternoon to pick up his kids from school.

As we chatted, it struck me that much of the talk about the rise of new ‘sharing economy’ services has focused on how these make life better for a small group of hipsters and tech-savvy Silicon Valley types.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

The Abbott Government's answer to everything: just cut

Yesterday the new Assistant Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, indicated that the government is working on yet another round of cuts for the upcoming May budget. Don't these people have any other ideas for managing the budget?



The Abbott Government has today confirmed that its only economic strategy is to cut and keep cutting.

New Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has flagged a fresh round of cuts in the upcoming May Budget.

His comments come just a month after Treasurer Joe Hockey promised the Government wouldn’t keep cutting.

The Abbott Government’s first Budget ripped $80 billion from schools and hospitals, $23 billion from pensions, $5 billion from universities and $3 billion from Medicare.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Consumer groups, banks and the Senate support FoFA - will Abbott?

With the news today that ANZ has thrown its support behind Labor's Future of Financial Advice reforms, the Abbott Government is looking increasingly isolated in its attempts to water down consumer protections.



One of Australia’s largest banks has added its voice to the chorus of support for Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms, proving the Abbott Government’s plans to water them down go too far.

In a submission to the Senate Economics Committee, the ANZ bank has stated:

“ANZ believes the current regulatory framework, including the recent Future of Finance Advice changes, will improve the quality of advice and has put in place a framework to protect consumers from poor advice.”

- ANZ Submission to Scrutiny of Financial Advice inquiry     

In backing Labor’s reforms, the bank joins many other major organisations which have warned that rolling back the FoFA package will put Australians’ retirement savings at risk.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Kep Enderby: a builder of better times

Canberrans and progressives around Australia were saddened last week to hear of the passing of Kep Enderby. In a piece for CityNews, I've reflected on the significance of his life and contribution.

Vale Kep Enderby, CityNews, 12 January

Jonathan Swift once said that ‘vision is the art of seeing the invisible’.

The ability to see through the fog of the present to the clarity of tomorrow exemplifies the great progressives of our time. From early on in his life and legal career it was clear that Keppel (Kep) Enderby was something of a master in this art. 

Initially drawn to a young and burgeoning Canberra in the early 1960s to lecture in Law at Australia’s new National University, Kep wasted no time making his presence felt in the Bush Capital. By 1970 he had secured Labor pre-selection for the Australian Capital Territory electorate, and entered Parliament that same year. 

My parents knew him through a mutual friend, and recall him as a whirlwind of ideas. Apparently, I stayed at his home in 1972. (It was a few months before I was born, so my memory is a little hazy.)

When then Attorney-General Lionel Murphy was appointed to the High Court in February 1975, Enderby went to Gough Whitlam with a forceful case for replacing him in the role. In an exchange characteristic of the period, Enderby went down to the Prime Minister’s office and told him: ‘oh come off it, I think I deserve it’. To which Whitlam reportedly replied: ‘all right, you bastard’. 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Raising the GST is the Coalition's worst-kept secret





SUBJECT/S: Coalition campaign to raise the GST; foreign fighters; Kep Enderby

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well the worst-kept secret in Australia is now out in the open, with Andrew Robb firmly declaring that he's in the camp for increasing the GST. This is, of course, a campaign which has been running as a guerrilla campaign for the first part of the year. Dan Tehan, Dean Smith, Ian McDonald – these are just some of the many members in the Coalition party room who want to increase the GST. With issues like this you've got to look to history. Labor introduced Medicare, so you should always think that we're looking for ways to expand and improve it. The Coalition introduced the GST, so you should always suspect that they'll be looking for ways to increase it. But fundamentally, expanding the GST would be bad for Australian families. And while Tony Abbott might appreciate Andrew Robb's effort today, Australian families aren't going to appreciate having GST put on their school fees, their healthcare costs and their fresh food. Happy to take questions.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Robb blows the whistle on GST

First it was the WA Liberal Premier. Then it was a bunch of backbenchers. Now one of the Abbott Government's most senior Cabinet Ministers is calling for an increase in the GST. Looks like Tony Abbott's first broken promise for 2015 isn't far away.



The worst kept secret in Australia has been blown today, with senior Cabinet Minister Andrew Robb publically calling for the GST to be added to fresh food, health and education.

Minister Robb has today outed himself in The Australian Financial Review as the ringleader of the campaign within the Liberal Party to increase the GST.

This isn’t a guerrilla campaign being run by Liberal MPs – Australians now know the Liberal Party’s campaign to increase the GST goes right to the Cabinet table.

The Liberal Party has been running an orchestrated campaign to increase the GST for weeks now.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Smoothing the way for the sharing economy

Following my op-ed in today's Daily Tele about the opportunities and benefits of the sharing economy, I joined Simon Marnie on ABC 702 Sydney to talk about how my colleagues and I in parliaments around Australia might tackle the regulatory issues raised by services like Uber and AirBnB. Here's the transcript:





SUBJECT/S: opportunities in the sharing economy; cost of living

SIMON MARNIE: It's called the sharing economy. Basically, it's making an extra buck from what you already have: renting out a spare room, giving a ride to someone heading in your direction. But not everyone is a fan, mainly because of the legislative and regulatory sides that come into it. Federal MP Andrew Leigh reckons that the sharing economy could not only ease the cost of living, but could even make things like home ownership easier for Australians. He joins me on the line, good morning to you.

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Simon, how are you?

MARNIE: I'm well. Now, I must say that I've been using UberX and I've been quite impressed with its ease and with its inexpensive nature. But it is, at its heart, still an illegal thing, isn't it?

LEIGH: That's right. Illegal for drivers, as I understand it, in most situations. The only exception that I know of in Australia right now is that the South Australian Government is allowing hire car drivers to pick up passengers using Uber Black. So that's once they've passed the regular hire car checks. 

MARNIE: So with your background in economics, why have you got such high hopes for services like this and the idea of the sharing economy?

LEIGH: Well Simon, if you think about the two big challenges for an extraordinary city like Sydney, high on your list would have to be housing affordability. The average house used to be three times median incomes, now it's seven times median incomes. And commuting times would be the other one, with the roads gridlocked as you've been speaking about this morning. The potential, I think, to make better use of our housing stock through services like AirBnB is really important. We've got nine million unused bedrooms in Australia at the moment, and yet we've got this housing affordability crisis going on. We've got gridlock choking the streets of our major cities, and yet potentially there's these ways of linking up people who need a ride with people who have a spare seat. 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Stay in touch

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter


Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.