2CC CANBERRA DRIVE WITH LEON DELANEY
WEDNESDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2023
SUBJECTS: Australian Centre for Evaluation and the commencement of online employment service trials, Productivity Commission report on slowing productivity, allegations of bullying and sexism at the Productivity Commission, Rural Fire Service Association’s use of donations.
LEON DELANEY: Federal Member for Fenner, the seat in which this radio station is located also happens to be the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, and Assistant Minister for Employment. He's also coincidentally on the telephone right now. Good afternoon Andrew.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES, TREASURY AND EMPLOYMENT ANDREW LEIGH: Good afternoon, Leon, great to be with you.
DELANEY: Always good to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us today. You're on about your favourite pet project at the moment, aren't you, the Australian Centre for Evaluation, apparently it has passed a milestone?
LEIGH: It has. Today the Australian Centre for Evaluation has entered into a partnership with the Department of Employment to do a series of randomised trials on employment services programs.
These are programs which use the online services system to assist people to find jobs. We need to make sure, Leon, that at a time with historically low unemployment that everybody is getting the work that they feel that they're ready to do. So this is about ensuring that government works better, it will save people money, and it will help some of the most vulnerable in the community.Read more
CHANGING THE WORLD, ONE COIN TOSS AT A TIME
Evidence and Implementation Summit, Melbourne
Wednesday, 11 October 2023
I acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nations as traditional custodians of the land and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I commit myself to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which starts with voting Yes this Saturday.
I thank the Monash University, the National University of Singapore and the Centre for Evidence and Implementation for hosting today’s Summit. It’s terrific to see so many of you dedicated to closing the ‘know-do gap’– the gap between what we know and what we do.
The title of my presentation is ‘Changing the World, One Coin Toss at a Time’. I chose this title because the simple act of tossing a coin can help us get the evidence we need to address our most difficult problems. Heads, they receive the intervention. Tails, they’re in the control group. From there, we can establish a counterfactual and begin to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work.
Recently, at the National Press Club and the Australian Evaluation Society Conference, I’ve spoken about randomised trials, its origins in medicine and the need to embed evaluation in the work of government. I’ve spoken about social impact and how rigorous evidence can give us an accurate picture of program effectiveness. I’ve also spoken about how the increased availability of large, integrated administrative datasets can help us conduct evaluations more quickly and cheaply, making data and evaluation a match made in policy heaven. Today, I want to zoom out a little and discuss what best practice use of evidence looks like.Read more
FIRST EVALUATION PARTNERSHIP FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR EVALUATION
The Albanese Government established the Australian Centre for Evaluation (ACE) to help put evaluation evidence at the heart of policy design and decision‑making. It will improve the volume, quality, and impact of evaluations across the Australian government, and will work in close collaboration with evaluation units in other departments and agencies.
I can announce today that the ACE has entered into its first partnership agreement to support high-quality impact evaluations. This partnership will be with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and will use randomised controlled trials to evaluate different features of online employment services.Read more
How COVID Changed the World of Data
Australian National University School of Demography
6 October 2023
I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people as traditional custodians of the ACT and recognise all First Nations people present today.
I 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.
Thank you to the Australian National University for hosting today’s Symposium and thank you for focusing your efforts on understanding the impact of the COVID pandemic on demography in Australia.
I want to preface my remarks by acknowledging the remarkable ability of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and other government agencies to rapidly shift their operational focus during the pandemic.
Demographers deserve credit for helping guide governments, policymakers and the community through the COVID pandemic.
Today, I will tell the data side of the story.
COVID might have shrunk our worlds to frequent Zoom calls in which we took it in turns to remind each other ‘You’re on mute’.
But COVID also opened up a whole new world of data.
In the space of just a couple of years, we have access to more timely and frequent updates, new sources of data and greater integration.
I welcome the opportunity to talk about this extraordinary legacy, the lessons learnt and how we can build on it.
Rocking the demographic boat
The COVID pandemic was not only a rapidly evolving health crisis but an economic crisis too – the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression (Kennedy 2022).
Restrictions to limit the spread of COVID saw a reduction in spending, business turnover, losses in jobs and hours worked, and supply chain disruptions (ABS 2022a).
By June 2023, the level of GDP is estimated to have suffered a cumulative loss of $116 billion compared to its pre-pandemic trajectory (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Australia’s GDP, actual and pre-COVID trajectory
Source: ABS 2023a and Treasury
The COVID pandemic rocked the demographic boat.
As shown in this chart, Australia’s population growth slowed to 0.1 per cent in 2020–21 – the lowest rate in more than 100 years (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Australia’s population growth and components of growth, historical and projected
Source: ABS 2023b and Treasury
Australia’s net overseas migration fell into negative territory for the first time since the end of WWII, with a net loss of 85,000 people in 2020–21 (ABS 2023c).
There was a larger than expected increase in deaths due to COVID and other causes – 10.9 per cent above what was expected in 2022 (ABS 2023d).
Births fluctuated in interesting ways. In the December 2020 quarter, nine months after the pandemic hit, births fell. We know that crises can make couples cautious about starting a family, and this drop likely reflected the uncertainty that many couples felt in the early months of the COVID lockdowns.
But then things turned around. In the March 2021 quarter – nine months after mid-2020, births hit an all-time high (ABS 2023c). We can’t be sure as to why this occurred, but it may be that couples felt a little less anxious about the future as the year unfolded. Lockdown boredom may also have been a factor. Border closures between states and territories reduced internal mobility. The number of interstate moves in the year to March 2021 was 30.2 per cent lower than in 2018-19 (ABS 2023c).
The pandemic also influenced where people wanted to live with an increase in net moves from urban areas towards suburban and regional areas (Figure 3) (Centre for Population 2020).
COVID doubled the net number of people moving to the regions.
You can see a break in the data series on this chart. It’s due to the pandemic’s impact on Medicare address information this series relied on, which I will get to later.
Figure 3. Net internal migration to regions outside capital cities, quarterly
Source: ABS 2023c and ABS 2021d
ABC NEWS RADIO WITH THOMAS ORITI
THURSDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2023
THOMAS ORITI (HOST): All right. Keep your eye on your coins over the next few months, because the first ones to feature the face of King Charles will soon be in circulation. Considering the queen died over a year ago, you might be wondering why it's taken so long. Well, apparently, getting Charles's head on a coin is a bit of a complex and time-consuming process. And to tell us more, we're joined now by Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Treasury. Morning to you, Minister.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Good morning, Tom. Great to be with you and your listeners.
ORITI: What's the hold-up been then? Has the King been picky, perhaps, about the image that's going to go on the coin?
LEIGH: Well, we certainly didn't want to jump the gun in terms of getting the Royal Effigy and, of course, going through the appropriate testing processes. The Royal Mint's dies need to be used some 200,000 to 300,000 times. We use a different combination of metals than British coins, so there's a process of testing that we're going through. But Australians can expect to see those circulating coins before Christmas. They'll be coming out through banks, and it will be the first time in seven decades that we've seen a king on our coins. So, a pretty remarkable moment for Australia.
King Charles III to Soon Appear on Australian Coins - Transcript, Royal Australian Mint, Press Conference
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN MINT, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2023
SUBJECTS: KING CHARLES III ON AUSTRALIAN COINS
ANDREW LEIGH, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMPETITION, CHARITIES AND TREASURY: Morning everyone, thank you for coming along to today's exciting events. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury. I'd like to acknowledge the meeting today on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal People. [Ngunnawal language greeting omitted]. I acknowledge all Indigenous people present today.
I've also got to say how terrific news to have at our press conference today, students from Perth College. Thank you very much for coming along. I know we've got a number of coin collectors in the audience as well because the Royal Australian Mint's doing a new coin release. So it is, I think, one of the most diverse press conferences we've done in a while. Thank you all for being here, welcome to the Royal Australian Mint.
I'm here with Leigh Gordon, the CEO of the Royal Australian Mint, to formally unveil the effigy of His Majesty King Charles III, which will appear on coins produced by the Royal Australian Mint. The new effigy is designed by the Royal Mint in London and has royal approval. This is a historic day. For seven decades, Australians have seen a queen on their coins. This will be the first time for most Australians, that they have held the circulating coin which has a King on it rather than a Queen. Since 1953, every Australian coin has borne a Queen. That's been true since decimal currency came into effect in 1966. So this really is a historic occasion. People who look carefully at effigies will notice two things about this effigy. One is that the direction that the monarch faces has changed. Queen Elizabeth II faced to the right. As is tradition, King Charles III will face to the left. People will note too, that while Queen Elizabeth II bore a crown in her effigy, King Charles III appears without a crown. That's again another tradition. When Queen Elizabeth II first appeared on Australian coins, she didn't have a crown on her head.
I'm really excited to announce that the first circulating coin to have the effigy of the King will be the $1 coin. It will be the iconic ‘mob of roos’ coin which has been circulating in Australia since 1984. We expect to have those coins out in people's hands by Christmas, and the remaining denominations 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, and the $2 coins bearing the effigy of King Charles III will be progressively released in 2024. I want to thank the Royal Australian Mint, and officials in the Department of Treasury for their hard work in securing the effigy of His Majesty King Charles III with the Royal Mint in London. And I'll now pass to Leigh Gordon, the CEO of the Royal Australian Mint to make a few remarks about the effigy, before we'll be happy to take your questions. Over to you Leigh.
KING CHARLES III TO SOON APPEAR ON AUSTRALIAN COINS
The Albanese Government is today releasing the effigy of His Majesty King Charles III which will soon start appearing on circulating coins produced by the Royal Australian Mint.
The new effigy of His Majesty King Charles III is the official Commonwealth Effigy designed by The Royal Mint in London with Royal Approval.
The first coin to have the King’s effigy will be the $1 coin. The coins will start appearing in banks and cash registers across the country before Christmas.
The other denominations will be progressively released in 2024, based on bank demand.
The first collector and investment coins bearing the King’s effigy are expected to be available for sale early next year.
Daily Telegraph, 3rd of October
Competition fairness crucial to help economy bloom
Suppose you open the first florist in your suburb. As a local trader, you pride yourself on being part of the community. Like most companies, you rely on the internet for much of your business, so you go online to see how you might improve your digital presence.
That’s when you notice something amiss. A mystery florist is showing up in your suburb too. The search results boast that they have ‘the finest quality flowers’ in the suburb, and crows about its ‘fantastic local service’.
The trouble is, they don’t have any local presence at all. In fact, the mystery florist operates out of large warehouses and has thousands of webpages to create the impression it’s a local business in suburbs across Australia.
That’s what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission uncovered last year. As a result of their investigation, several national online retailers already admitted to gilding the lily and making misleading representations about being local florists when they were nothing of the sort. By giving the impression they were based in the local community these larger online businesses were unfairly diverting business away from legitimate local florists.
In many instances small businesses are consumers too and like the rest of us they need larger businesses to be honest with them. In a recent Australian example, energy retailer Blue NRG drew the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s ire after it told around 500 business customers it had a legal right to increase electricity prices under fixed-rate contracts. In fact, it had no such legal right. The competition watchdog issued a warning about making misleading or deceptive statements about prices. This was especially problematic given the cost pressures facing many small businesses.
Small businesses often find themselves at a significant disadvantage when negotiating to supply goods and services to bigger businesses. Two years ago, the competition watchdog recognised this by providing an exemption from competition law that enables small businesses to collectively negotiate with their customers and suppliers. After notifying the commission, over seventy small business collectives have now taken advantage of this exemption, in a wide range of sectors across the economy.Read more
Weekend Australian, 30th September 2023
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE BOOM POSES BIG RISKS FOR COMPETITION
The rise of AI engines has been remarkable. To reach 100 million users, the telephone took 75 years. The mobile phone took 16 years. ChatGPT took two months.
The progress of these systems can be seen by looking at their performance on tasks that humans find difficult. Compare Chat GPT’s old version 3.5 (released in 2022) with its new version 4 (released in 2023). Faced with the New York bar exam, the old model scored at the 10th percentile. The new model aces the test at the 90th percentile. And that’s just one year’s improvement.
People are using AI in ingenious ways. A garden designer who specialises in ultra-high-density planting arrangements uses AI to provide inspiration in choosing species that fit together. Software engineers use AI for everything from writing complex Excel formulas to debugging computer code. If you’ve never programmed a website, AI will write the code for you.
But what will AI do for competition? On the optimistic side, AI can be a valuable competitive force in product and service markets. It might help small firms scale faster – placing pressure on lazy incumbents. If all firms have access to similar quality AI, it can have a democratising effect on the economy, potentially boosting dynamism.
However, AI also poses five risks for competition.
First, costly chips. Currently only a handful of companies have the cloud and computing resources necessary to build and train AI systems. This means that any rival AI start-up must pay to licence server infrastructure from these firms. Computing power, including the development of AI systems, also relies on access to currently costly and scarce semiconductor chips. In generative AI chips, Nvidia’s market share now exceeds 70 percent.
Second, private data. The latest AI models from Google and Meta are trained on about one trillion words. Companies that hold large troves of data, including Reddit and X, are blocking open access to those who might use them to train their large language models. Data access could potentially push the AI market towards a less competitive outcome.
Third, network effects. By observing which responses meet user demands, generative AI systems are able to steadily improve the relevance and accuracy of its outputs. Just as Google search learns from users, so too does Google’s AI engine, Bard. This means that network effects could fuel market power, entrenching the position of the strongest platforms. If AI engines are natural monopolies, then competition regulators ought to worry.
6PR MONEY NEWS WITH KARALEE KATSAMBANIS
THURSDAY, 28 SEPTEMBER 2023
SUBJECTS: Qantas appearance at Senate Inquiry into Aviation, Employment White Paper, TAFE Centres of Excellence, Consultations into changes to charities commission’s secrecy provisions, Minting of new coins with King Charles effigy.
KARALEE KATSAMBANIS (HOST): We're going to catch up now as we do with the Honourable Dr Andrew Leigh, who, as we know, is Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, as well as Employment. Just giving us a wrap up of what's been happening in Canberra this week. Dr. Leigh. Good evening.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT CHARITIES, COMPETITION, AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Good evening, Karalee. Great to be back on Money News with you and your listeners.
KATSAMBANIS: Oh, lovely to have you. Look, I know that we're a bit pressed for time, a few things I want to canvass with you. First of all, Qantas, I mean, we've seen Richard Goyder, we've seen Vanessa Hudson front up in front of the Senate inquiry. We heard the shocking revelations yesterday that Qatar Airways actually heard about what was going on through the Australian media rather than through the Federal Government. Do you think they deserve better? Do you think the Australian taxpayers deserve better?Read more