Competition and Artificial Intelligence - Speech


McKell Institute, Sydney
Wednesday, 20 September 2023

I acknowledge the Gadigal people, traditional custodians of the land on which we gather today. I pay my respects to their Elders, extend that respect to other First Nations people present today, and commit myself, as a member of the Albanese Government, to the implementation in full of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which starts with voting Yes on October 14.

It’s always a pleasure to address the McKell Institute. New South Wales Premier William McKell not only taught my party that it was possible to win back-to-back elections; he also provided a model for how to govern in turbulent times. McKell became premier in 1941 – the year of Pearl Harbour – and governed until 1947 – through the end of the war and into the peace. Like Prime Ministers Curtin and Chifley, Premier McKell saw an opportunity to rebuild a nation that was stronger after the war than before. My thanks to McKell Institute CEO Ed Cavanough and your team for hosting today’s event.  

Not-So-Humble Beginnings

In 1955, a group of mathematicians sent a funding proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation. They were seeking support for a summer of brainstorming at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Their goal was to carry out a two-month, ten-person study of artificial intelligence ‘to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves.’ Lacking no modesty, the application said ‘We think that a significant advance can be made in one or more of these problems if a carefully selected group of scientists work on it together for a summer’ (McCarthy et al 1955).

The Dartmouth Workshop was held in 1956. It did not solve the problems of artificial intelligence over two months. But it did mark the first use of the term ‘artificial intelligence’, and the attendees at this seminal event are considered the founders of AI research.

In the coming decades, researchers encountered several ‘AI winters’. Among the many challenges that programmers encountered was the difficulty of word-sense disambiguation. Put simply – to translate a sentence a machine needs to have some idea of the subject or it made mistakes. One possibly apocryphal example arises from an attempt to train an AI to translate from English to Russian. Given the English saying ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’, the early AI model translated it literally into Russian as ‘the vodka is good but the meat is rotten.’

Those early researchers weren’t just held back by the processing power of their machines. They were also working on a model of AI that was based on giving a computer a series of rules that it would follow in sequence. The problem is that humans don’t learn how to speak by following rules. Instead, we learn by listening to others. By trying and failing. Over and over.

Classical symbolic AI is dubbed GOFAI, or Good Old-Fashioned AI. Generative AI – which trains computers by providing them with vast numbers of examples – succeeds where good old-fashioned AI failed by using neural networks. Those networks need vast amounts of data. And in recent years, they have made vast breakthroughs.

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6PR Money News with Karalee Katsambanis - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Tax concessions for small businesses, extending DGR status for charities, passing of the Housing Australia Future Fund, Competition Review Taskforce, Royal Australian Mint’s Big Things series,

KARALEE KATSAMBANIS (HOST): Dr Leigh, thank you for joining me from Canberra. Good evening.


KATSAMBANIS: It is indeed, well, a big day today in the Federal Parliament.

LEIGH: We just passed the Housing Australia Future Fund through the Parliament today, Karalee, which means 30,000 social and affordable homes, 4000 of which will be available for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence. We know the issue of housing affordability comes down to supply and by putting more supply out there, we're going to offer a better deal to renters and those who are trying to break in and afford a home -

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2CC Drive with Leon Delaney - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament, tax concessions for small businesses, extending DGR status for charities, passing of the Housing Australia Future Fund, Qantas High Court Ruling, Qatar Airways decision.

LEON DELANEY (HOST): Today is the final sitting day for the Federal Parliament before the referendum. Joining me now the Federal Member for Fenner, not to mention Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury and Assistant Minister for Employment, Dr. Andrew Leigh. Good afternoon.


DELANEY: Thanks for joining us today. So, what is the Government's Plan B when the referendum fails?

LEIGH: I don't think we ought to count out the Australian people on this one, Leon. I’m confident that Australians will support the notion of a Voice to Parliament, which is simply about recognising 65,000 years of First Nations history and setting up a committee to consult with First Nations People about decisions affecting them. It's no more complicated than that and it's a response to the generous offer made by Indigenous people at Uluru in 2017. Now, this just takes us one further step along the reconciliation journey, a journey epitomised by Michael Long walking into Canberra today, his second ‘Long Walk’, this time in support of the Yes vote.

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Backing Australian Charities - Media Release


The Government has introduced the Treasury Laws Amendment (Support for Small Business and Charities and Other Measures) Bill 2023 (the Bill) into Parliament. The Bill includes measures to encourage philanthropic giving.

The Bill provides a pathway for up to 28 community foundations to be endorsed as deductible gift recipients.

The entities are, or will be, structured as either trusts or incorporated entities. Community charity trusts and community charity corporations do not fit neatly into any of the existing deductible gift recipient categories.

The amendments create a new framework to facilitate community charities achieving deductible gift recipient status, subject to appropriate oversight and enforcement powers. Although this framework will currently only apply to a small number of named community charities, additional organisations could be brought within scope in future by being specified in ministerial declarations as candidates for endorsement.

This will encourage philanthropic support for these foundations and contribute to the Government’s goal of doubling philanthropy by 2030.

The Bill specifically lists Justice Reform Initiative Limited and Transparency International Australia as deductible gift recipients, and extends the listing of Australian Sports Foundation Charitable Fund and the Victorian Pride Centre Limited.

This encourages philanthropic giving and supports the not-for-profit sector by allowing taxpayers to claim income tax deductions for gifts and donations made to deductible gift recipients. 

Labor is committed to working with the charity sector to build a more connected community and a fairer society.

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Modernising Statutory Declarations

Statutory Declarations Amendment Bill 2023
Second Reading
Federation Chamber, 13th September 2023

Dr LEIGH (Fenner—Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, Assistant Minister for Employment) (17:54): In my early 20s, as a law student, I decided that I wanted to become a justice of the peace. The process then was that you wrote to your local member of parliament, who, in my case, was the Liberal member for Northcott, Bruce Baird. He was quite happy to support me as a justice of the peace. I did so because I wanted to help out in the community, and I was struck by the number of times I'd encountered people who need a statutory declaration witnessed but were unable to find somebody to do so. Every 10 seconds in Australia a statutory declaration is filled in, amounting to some 3.8 million statutory declarations a year and costing some 900,000 hours. Those statutory declarations might involve evidence in a court proceeding; they might involve issues around child custody.

This significant modernisation ensures that, rather than requiring statutory declarations to be carried out in the traditional paper based form with an in-person witnesses, they can also be carried out in two alternative ways: electronically, by allowing electronic signatures and witnessing by an audiovisual communication link; or digitally verified through the use of an approved online platform that verifies the additional identity of the declarant through an approved identity service.

This will be an important efficiency gain for businesses, but it also has a crucial equity dimension. I know that is why the Attorney-General has championed it so strongly. We frequently find that people who want to get a statutory declaration witnessed have to pay for that service. Or, if they can find a free service, it's limited in the length of the statutory declaration or limited in the approach that it takes to attachments. So it is the most vulnerable who often find themselves unable to complete the in-person statutory declarations. Thanks to these reforms, those who are unable to pay for in-person witnessing service will have an alternative approach. I commend the Attorney-General for this important efficiency and equity measure to modernise statutory declarations in Australia.



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Evaluating Policy Impact: it's vital to work out what works

Evaluating Policy Impact: it's vital to work out what works

Canberra Times, 12 September 2023

Social workers in schools always boost student outcomes. Drug offenders shouldn't be treated differently. Malaria bed nets are more likely to be used if people pay for them. Seeing inside a jail will deter juvenile delinquents from becoming criminals.

All four statements sound perfectly sensible, don't they? Unfortunately, randomised trials suggest all four are perfectly wrong. Let me explain.

In Britain, pilots of social workers in schools showed everyone liked the idea. Teachers, social workers and students all liked it. Then researchers at Cardiff and Oxford Universities ran a two-year randomised trial across 300 schools to test the impact. The results, reported this year, showed no significant positive impact. As a result, the planned national rollout has now been scrapped.

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Matildas show the way for Aussie Competition - Opinion Piece

Matildas show the way for Aussie Competition

Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2023

If anyone needed proof that competition drives better performance, you only need to look at the Matildas, whose peak World Cup soccer matches attracted more viewers than any Australian sporting event in at least a decade.

What made the Matildas great is that they have been playing against champions in major overseas leagues. As captain Sam Kerr puts it: “To be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Australia didn't win the World Cup but there's no doubt that it brought out the best in the Matildas.

Kerr's equalising goal in the England match may well have been the greatest of the tournament. You don't produce magic like that without testing yourself against elite players.

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The Briefing with Tom Tilley - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament, competition in aviation, Qatar decision, Qantas, cost of living.

TOM TILLEY (HOST): Andrew Leigh is Labor's Assistant Minister for Competition, so he's in the hot seat right now because competition is what the Qatar/Qantas issue is all about and it comes at a time where the Government is under a bit of pressure. More pressure than they've been under their whole time in office.

Support for the Coalition is at its highest level since the 2022 election last year. Opposition to The Voice is polling at 53 per cent. As I mentioned at the start, Albanese's net satisfaction rating is in negative territory, and of course the Qatar Airways decision made in June is causing them a lot of problems. There's now a Parliamentary inquiry that's going to happen into that decision.

So let's let into it with Andrew Leigh. Minister Leigh, thank you so much for joining us on The Briefing.


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Review of 'Recoding Government'

Recording Government

Inside Story, 31 August 2023

In 2018 a US court ordered the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who had been separated at the US–Mexico border. The ruling forced a backflip on the administration’s policy of separating children from adults. Yet the administration’s border agents struggled for weeks to comply with the court ruling.

The problem turned out to be technical. The computer system used by the agents, designed on the assumption that unaccompanied minors were travelling solo, had no way of recording a link between them and their parents. Some agents stuck sticky notes on infants’ onesies. Others kept makeshift records that were lost when the children were moved.

In Recoding America, technology writer Jennifer Pahlka tells the stories of how technological successes and failures have affected the way the US government operates. As founder of the non-profit Code for America and deputy chief technology officer under president Barack Obama, Pahlka is ideally placed to show why government computer systems sometimes underperform (and occasionally outperform) our expectations.

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The Economics of Corruption - Speech



National Integrity Summit, Melbourne
Wednesday, 30 August 2023

I acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nations, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we gather today.

I pay my respects to their Elders, extend that respect to other First Nations people present today, and commit myself, as a member of the Albanese Government, to the implementation in full of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. including a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament

Thanks to Transparency International Australia and your CEO Clancy Moore for inviting me to speak today. I also acknowledge the National Anti-Corruption Commissioner Paul Brereton, Deputy Commissioner of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Kylie Kilgour, and longtime anti-corruption campaigner Professor A.J. Brown.

The Moonlight State

While Australia has had many corruption scandals, the Fitzgerald Inquiry and the systemic corruption among police and Queensland politicians it unearthed stands out both because of the scale of the corruption that it revealed and the long-term impact it had.

Historian Raymond Evans described the Fitzgerald Inquiry as ‘the most remarkable Commission of Inquiry in Australia’s history’.[1] In 2009 – in the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the tabling of Fitzgerald’s report in Parliament – then Premier Anna Bligh said:

‘In many ways, the Fitzgerald inquiry was Queensland’s Berlin Wall. It washed away an old regime and heralded in a new era.  Nothing on Queensland’s political landscape has been the same since.’[2]   

The system whereby corruption police would take protection payments from the sex industry was called ‘the Joke’, but the cost was no laughing matter. By the 1980s tens of thousands of dollars in bribes were being paid each month to senior police the culture that grew up around the crooked cops went far beyond one industry. To quote the Fitzgerald Report:

The later segment of evidence involving political figures demonstrated that misconduct in the Police Force was not isolated, but part of a wider malaise to do with attitudes to public office and public duty.[3]

Indeed the Fitzgerald Inquiry may never have happened if then Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson hadn’t been on a trip to the United States on the night the Four Corners show ‘Moonlight State’ aired.[4] As a result it fell to the Acting Premier Bill Gunn to initiate the inquiry. 

The Inquiry ultimately led to four former state ministers, and multiple senior police being found to have engaged in corrupt conduct, and the establishment of Queensland’s first anti-corruption body, the Crime and Misconduct Commission (now the Crime and Corruption Commission) in 1988. 

Corruption ultimately brought Joh’s premiership to an end. According to party-room records revealed years later – Joh was allegedly set to receive up to $20 million to facilitate the construction of what would have then been the world’s tallest building in Brisbane.[5]

His National Party colleagues refused to wave the deal through, so Joh tried to reshape his Cabinet. He demanded five Ministers resign – they refused. He demanded the Governor of Queensland, Walter Campbell call an election despite the Parliament only being a year old – which Campbell declined. Joh was ultimately challenged by Mike Ahern – ending 19 years as Premier.

Joh himself was put on trial for perjury in 1992 but the jury deadlocked.

According to another episode of Four Corners from 2008: ‘A later inquiry conducted by Justice Bill Carter found the [jury] selection process had been manipulated by ... ex-police officers ... helping to put Joh before a jury led by Young Nationals member, Luke Shaw’.[6]

When corruption really gets into the bones of a society the damage it does to institutions can take generations to heal.

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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.