Speaking


Audio Recordings

For audio recordings of my speeches and conversations at events across the country, please see this podcast below. It's also available on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.




Written Speeches

Below you will find transcripts of doorstops, speeches and media interviews.

Competition Drives Innovation - Speech

COMPETITION DRIVES INNOVATION *

Closing Remarks to the Australian Auto Aftermarket Innovation Awards Breakfast
Melbourne, Thursday 11 April 2024

In the 1950s, Sweden’s national electricity company noticed something curious. Although they managed a network of high-voltage cables, the biggest risk of death didn’t come from electricity. Instead, the greatest danger came when their employees were driving. At the time, cars either had no seat belts, or simple lap belts. If they crashed, deaths were common – even at low speeds.

So the company did something remarkable. Two safety engineers, Bengt Odelgard and Per-Olof Weman, developed the three-point lap-sash belt. Swedish inventor Nils Bohlin developed it for Volvo. In 1959, three-point seatbelts were installed in all Volvo cars.

Then Volvo did something remarkable too. It allowed any car company in the world to use its patent. Where lap belts had done little to save lives, lap-sash belts turned out to be the best piece of safety equipment ever installed in a car.

Just over a decade later, in 1970, the state of Victoria became the first place in the world to enact compulsory seat belt laws; after a trial of seat belts in police cars proved their effectiveness. In the 65 years since three-point seat belts were patented, they have saved over a million lives (O’Grady 2009).

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Healthy Surprises: How Randomised Trials Can Challenge Conventional Wisdom And Debunk Dogma - Speech

HEALTHY SURPRISES: HOW RANDOMISED TRIALS CAN CHALLENGE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM AND DEBUNK DOGMA*

Danks “Leaders in Science” Seminar
Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne
Tuesday, 9 April 2024

I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, the traditional owners of these lands, and pay respects to all First Nations people present.

Professor Goldfeld, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute staff, and researchers across laboratory, clinical, public health, and health services: Thank you for inviting me here today.

My thanks to the Institute for what you do each day to help improve the lives of children through rigorous research. I also pay tribute to Professor David Danks (1931-2003) who established Victoria's first genetics health service, which became this Institute, after whom today’s Seminar is named. As one obituary described him, ‘David was a remarkable doctor, scientist, teacher, mentor, family man, friend, and champion of good causes’ (Choo, 2003).

My focus today is on randomised trials – a central tool in medicine, but underutilised in policy. In particular, I want to focus on the way in which randomised trials in medicine can upend conventional wisdom, producing results that improve patient outcomes and extend lifespans. You might call these ‘healthy surprises’.

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Address to the National Co-operative Producers Roundtable - Speech

ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL CO-OPERATIVE PRODUCERS ROUNDTABLE
Friday 5 April 2024, Sydney

It is a pleasure to be here today, with cooperative producers from across industry and around Australia. Thank you to Melina Morrison, chief executive of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, for convening today’s conversation, and to all participants for joining us in Sydney, on the lands of the Gadigal people.

Let me start off with a with a story. My grandfather Keith Leigh was born in 1912. In 1929, when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began, he was just 17 years old. In order to make ends meet, he hit the road as a travelling salesman, largely selling hosiery. As Keith liked to say of his business role, he was a ‘traveller in ladies’ underwear’.

The 1930s were tough on Keith, as they were for many Australians. At the end of the decade, he and his friend Lindsay Brehaut set up the Hobson’s Bay Co-Op, named after the little bay that sits at the top of Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne. The Hobson’s Bay Co-Op allowed locals to pool their buying power at a time when so many were feeling the pinch.

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Unshackling Innovation: Rethinking non-compete clauses for a dynamic economy - Speech

UNSHACKLING INNOVATION: RETHINKING NON-COMPETE CLAUSES FOR A DYNAMIC ECONOMY
Address to the McKell Institute
Thursday, 4 April 2024

Non-compete clauses

As the Economist points out, when it comes to non-compete clauses ‘The clue is in the name’ (The Economist 2023). Non-compete clauses restrict an employee from working for a competitor or setting up a competing business when they leave. Non-compete clauses typically apply for a certain time, in a set geographic location, and within a defined industry. Let me provide some real examples to get things started.

Breakdancing

‘Charlotte’, a 17-year-old landed her first casual job as a dance teacher. It was her dream job, but it wasn’t perfect. Far from it – Charlotte was forced to quit after experiencing harassment.  Months later, she took a job at a different dance studio and immediately received a warning letter from her former employer. The letter said Charlotte had breached a restraint of trade clause to not work or volunteer for a competing business for 36-months within a 15-kilometre exclusion zone – noting the company had several studios. Putting her in a difficult position, Charlotte’s former employer also contacted the new dance studio.

Client disservice

‘Mia’, a disability support worker was doing what she loves – working in the community and helping people. She developed trust and rapport with her clients over many years.

Mia worked for a registered National Disability Insurance Scheme provider but wasn’t too happy about being offered a new contract with a lower hourly rate. So Mia went out on her own as an independent and later joined a rival registered provider. Without any cajoling, several former clients decided to transfer their care plans and follow her to the new provider. Mia received a letter from her former employer stating that she had breached restraint of trade clauses relating to non-competition and non-solicitation of clients.

Unbending

Patrick, a 21-year-old boilermaker, built a solid resumé and decided it was time to take his skills and pay packet to the next level. His new opportunity involved not working for a competitor but working in-house for a former client. It was a rural town and customers were hard to find so Patrick’s previous employer wasn’t pleased about losing a client.

Patrick was branded a troublemaker and was sent a letter saying he breached his post-employment obligations. The letter further applied the blowtorch by threatening court action seeking thousands of dollars in damages plus costs.

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Harnessing The Data Deluge: The Surprising Power Of Big Data And Artificial Intelligence - Speech

HARNESSING THE DATA DELUGE: THE SURPRISING POWER OF BIG DATA AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE*
Address to the 10th Annual Australian Government Data Summit
Hotel Realm, Canberra
Thursday, 28 March 2024

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of these lands, and pay respects to all First Nations people present.

I’m pleased to join you today, in the tenth year of the annual Australian Government Data Summit. Robust, rigorous data and statistics are vital for delivering outcomes for all Australians.

Throughout our nation’s history, Australia’s statisticians and statistical agencies have punched above their weight in this – or should I say, found themselves in the right tail of the distribution. The nation’s first statistician, George Knibbs (known to his friends as ‘The Knibb’) published papers on mathematics, geodesy, wealth, and population. He was an acting professor of physics at the University of Sydney. He published a book on the federal capital. He was a member of the British Astronomical Society. He even wrote a book of verse.

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Starting with Statistics to Transform Disadvantage - Speech

STARTING WITH STATISTICS TO TRANSFORM DISADVANTAGE
Launch of the 2024 Child Social Exclusion Report
Parliament House, Canberra
Wednesday, 27 March 2024

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of these lands, and pay respects to all First Nations people present.

Thank you Claerwen for the warm introduction and to Aunty Violet Sheridan for your Welcome to Country. I also acknowledge the many researchers and policy advocates here and the work you all do to create a fairer Australia.

Thank you to UnitingCare for inviting me here today to celebrate the 2024 Child Social Exclusion Index Report. The report is a collaboration between University of Canberra researchers and UnitingCare, which has worked for over 100 years to support vulnerable Australians and advocate for social justice.

Tackling disadvantage is at the heart of our Government’s vision for Australia (Albanese, 2022), and one of the most important challenges of our time.

It is a topic I have been focused on since my university days. The title of my 2004 PhD thesis was ‘Essays in Poverty and Inequality’, a set of issues that I expanded on in my 2013 book: ‘Battlers and Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia’. 

Tackling inequality and exclusion must start with robust data and statistics. That is what this report does. It extends the concept of poverty to measure social and material disadvantage, and highlights the geographical areas facing high levels of child social exclusion. I congratulate you on the report, and your contribution to a long and rich tradition in the social sciences.

It is a history which says we must start with robust statistics to transform disadvantage. It shows that data-driven indices and maps can create change significant social change. It is this tradition that I am going to focus on today, and which I hope inspires you, as you consider the findings of the report.

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Fairer, Cleaner: The Transparent Investment Revolution - Speech

FAIRER, CLEANER: THE TRANSPARENT INVESTMENT REVOLUTION
Climate Integrity Summit 2024, Parliament House
Wednesday, 20 March 2024

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people on whose lands we meet and pay respects to all First Nations people present today.

Thank you to the Australia Institute for hosting this annual summit on climate integrity, and to Richard Dennis for the invitation to deliver this address today. I am delighted to be joining such a distinguished line-up of speakers, including their excellencies Mr Anote Tong, former President of the Republic of Kiribati, and Mr Enele Sopoaga, former Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

My focus this morning is on climate and tax transparency in our financial system so that we can drive down emissions and create a fairer society in the process.

Transparency at work

This time last year, news broke that global biotechnology company Amgen is being sued for hiding its $10.7 billion dollar tax bill from investors. The plaintiffs said that “Amgen’s share price fell 6.5 per cent in August 2021, and a further 4.3 per cent in April 2022, because the company waited until then to disclose its potential liabilities” (Stempel, 2023). The US Inland Revenue Service “accused Amgen of underreporting taxes from 2010-2015, mainly for attributing what should have been US taxable income to a Puerto Rico unit” (Stempel, 2023). It powerfully illustrates how shareholder value is intimately linked to what is known about a company.

Consumers and investors have long understood that what they buy, and the investment decisions they make, have the power to influence ‘grand’ social, economic, and environmental challenges. As far back as the 1700s, John Wesley advised his congregants against “any sinful trade” (Uberti, 2023). When the Methodist Church began investing in the stock market at the turn of the 20th century, they avoided companies involved in alcohol and gambling (Goff, 2006). When investors saw the destruction of the Vietnam War in the 1970s, they created the first ethical fund – the Pax World Fund – so they could avoid investing in weapons and weapons manufacturers (Uberti, 2023).

Meanwhile, debate has raged about what this all means for corporations, and how they balance their responsibilities to shareholders and to the public. We must create a financial system in which Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors into shareholder value, as much as acquisitions or sales. Without transparency and robust public reporting, how will we know about the Environmental, Social and Governance factors faced by a company, and make decisions about where to invest our dollars accordingly?

The more that companies make regulatory or reputational risks they face transparent through data and metrics, the more that investors are empowered to vote with their feet on their values and make long-term, values-aligned sustainable investment decisions. With good ESG data, metrics and standards, people can move their capital with precision and thereby shape the world. “This is how values drive value”, as Mark Carney puts it (2020 & 2021).

 

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Inauguration of the Canberra Baps Shri - Speech

INAUGURATION OF THE CANBERRA BAPS SHRI
Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir
Taylor, ACT
Sunday, 17 March 2024

I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, on whose lands we meet today, and all First Nations people present. 

Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Deputy Indian High Commissioner Suneet Mehta, the many visiting dignitaries from Sydney, Perth and New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen.

This is my third visit to this BAPS Hindu Mandir. On my first visit, only the bare bones of the structure had been completed. On my second visit, much of the internal work had been completed. This third visit, the building looks perfect, inside and out. At this rate, I can only imagine how good it will look when I am back here for my fourth visit!

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Fresh and Fair Competition - Speech

FRESH AND FAIR COMPETITION
National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council Roundtable
Wednesday, 28 February 2024


I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, on whose lands we meet today, and pay respects to all First Nations people present.

Australia’s agriculture sector has hung its hat on technology to deliver a strong productivity performance over the past 20 years (Treasury 2023 p84).

As Australia’s third largest agricultural industry, horticulture is a significant part of the innovation story (DAFF n.d).

We are now seeing overhead cameras and artificial intelligence speeding up processing times by detecting and accurately determining the size of up to 5,000 pieces of fruit in the back of an open-top truck (AUSVEG 2023).

Researchers are testing drones – and the turbulent downdraft they create – as a possible way to pollinate glasshouse-grown strawberries and tomatoes (Jadhav 2023).

Growers are maximising their output by taking tonnes of otherwise wasted vegetables and turning them into nutrient-dense powders for supplements and our morning smoothies (AUSVEG 2023).

Governments are joining forces with industry to revamp pest-management datasets to further strengthen our arm at the trade negotiating table (Watt 2023).

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Grocery Prices - Speech

GROCERY PRICES
Matter of Public Importance, House of Representatives
Wednesday, 28 February 2024

It is a great thing in this House to be discussing the important issue of competition, and for that I thank the member for Kennedy for bringing forward this matter of public importance.

If you're a sports fan in Australia you have plenty of choices. If you're an AFL fan you've got 18 teams to choose from. If you're a fan of the Women's Big Bash League you've got eight teams to choose from. If you're a fan of the Australian Ice Hockey League you have 10 teams to choose from including the Canberra Brave, the Central Coast Rhinos, the Melbourne Mustangs and the Sydney Ice Dogs. If you're an A-League fan you have 12 teams to choose from. The fact is that many of these leagues are also growing new teams, so we've had the GWS Giants and the Tasmanian JackJumpers.

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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.