FUTURES OF SENTENCING AND INCARCERATION WORKSHOP
University of Queensland, 1 August 2018
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay respects to elders past and present.
My focus on mass incarceration is not as a lawyer or as a justice scholar. In fact, it is now a little over 20 years since I did my last day in the law. I finished up as Michael Kirby's Associate in the middle of 1998. My focus instead is as an economist who is concerned about the issues of poverty, disadvantage and inequality in Australia. It is becoming increasingly inescapable that you can't take a serious look at inequality and deep poverty in Australia without understanding what's going on with mass incarceration. In order to put a picture of what's going on together, I went back to trace the trends on the rates of incarceration in Australia. And in this, I also want to acknowledge the economist Saul Eslake who has helped build the long-run series back to 1900.
These days, the Australian Bureau of Statistics measures incarceration as a share of the adult population. But because of data limitations, I’m going to discuss today the incarceration rate as a share of the total population. In 1900, just a generation after the end of transportation, Australia incarcerated 0.126% of the population. By 1920, that had more than halved to 0.051%. It stays at about that level over the course of the next seven decades. Indeed, as recently as 1990, Australia's incarceration rate was only 0.077%. But in 2000, it had risen to 0.113%. By 2010, it was 0.133% - a doubling in just two decades. One of the first private member’s motions I moved was in 2011, on the topic of reducing crime and incarceration. Since then, the incarceration rate has risen by one-quarter, to 0.167%. That is the highest rate since Federation.Read more
LABOR LEADING CONSUMER AND COMPETITION DEBATE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 27 JUNE 2018
Dr LEIGH (Fenner): I move:
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes the Government's failure to commit to a full suite of measures to strengthen the consumer watchdog, including:
(1) increasing the maximum penalties for anti-competitive conduct;
(2) cracking down on payday lenders;
(3) providing the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with an independent market studies function;
(4) increasing the litigation budget of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission;
(5) requiring car manufacturers to share technical information with independent mechanics on commercially fair and reasonable terms, with safeguards that enable environmental, safety and security-related technical information to be shared with the independent sector; and
(6) prioritising cases that disproportionately affect disadvantaged Australians".
It is always a good day when the coalition belatedly adopts Labor's policies. On 15 June 2016, Labor called on the government to raise the penalties for ripping off consumers. We did so following a succession of scandals in which firms had seen penalties for anticonsumer conduct as simply the cost of doing business. We had that period from 2011 to 2015 when Nurofen, one of the big shots in the pain business, began selling a series of painkillers said to target pain in the body—Nurofen Back Pain, Nurofen Period Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache—but the fact was they all had the same active ingredient, 342 milligrams of ibuprofen lysine. The fact was that Nurofen were misleading consumers, and the penalties dealt out to them were a mere slap on the wrist.Read more
LABOR STANDS FOR TAX TRANSPARENCY
FEDERATION CHAMBER, 26 JUNE 2018
Dr ANDREW LEIGH: This is a motion based on a lie. Labor never voted against the multinational anti-avoidance law. Let me say that again for the benefit of the member for Goldstein, who moved the motion. This is a motion based on a lie, a falsehood. The member is misleading the House. Labor never voted against the multinational anti-avoidance law. I know this—
TIM WILSON: Did you support it?
LEIGH: Yes, Labor did support it, remember? I will take that interjection from the member for Goldstein. I refer the member to the Senate Hansard, 9 November 2015. Senator Dastyari said:
'Labor's position is that we support this bill.'
WILSON: What about the House?
LEIGH: The member for Goldstein asks about the House. I will come to the House, Member for Goldstein. There's not a moment in which Labor did not support the bill.
LEIGH: The problem with the member for Goldstein is he thinks that if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes the truth. He thinks, because he's sat in the House—
Government members interjecting—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members will be quite, please.
LEIGH: and he's heard the talking point from the Treasurer and the minister for revenue, that somehow it's okay to continue to mislead the House.Read more
KEYNOTE ADDRESS TO THE NATIONAL VOLUNTEERING CONFERENCE
22 JUNE 2018
Thank you Adrienne for that generous introduction. I honour the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, on whose lands we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders past and present. I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues Dan Tehan and Louise Pratt, and thank Adrienne Picone, Vicki Darling, and the Volunteering and Contact ACT team for their organisational work. In taking the lead to organise this Sydney event, my fellow Canberrans have proven that our national capital is also Australia’s social capital. I particularly thank each and every attendee - generous volunteers coming together to discuss about how we can strengthen Australia’s civic fabric.Read more
LABOR'S PLAN TO TACKLE TAX HAVENS
Federation Chamber, 20 June 2018
In 2012, the Coalition voted in the House and Senate against laws to close a multinational tax avoidance loophole. Last year, we saw that very same law being used to secure a $340 million judgement against Chevron. But, extraordinarily, we didn't see the Turnbull Government saying: 'Mea culpa. We got it wrong in 2012. If we'd had our way back then, the budget would now be hundreds of millions of dollars worse off, net debt would be rising even faster than it is today'—hard to believe given that net debt is rising faster than it did even under the global financial crisis. We saw none of that apology. Instead, we saw the government patting themselves on the back for the Chevron decision, patting themselves on the back for a court decision based on a law they had voted against.Read more
CRACKING DOWN ON ILLEGAL PHOENIX ACTIVITY
Federation Chamber, 20 June 2018
In May 2017 Labor announced that a Shorten Labor government would take significant action to tackle illegal phoenix activity. We said, in particular, that we would put in place a director identification number, dealing with the problem that, right now, it is tougher to open a bank account than to register as a company director. One of the consequences of this was brought home through media reports which noted that a member of this House was registered multiple times as a director. That, I assume, was inadvertent, but the fact that it could occur at all illustrates the problem in our current system.Read more
THE SECRET GST DISTRIBUTION REPORT
Federation Chamber, 20 June 2018
Another critical issue that the government is failing to act on is the GST distribution report. The Productivity Commission handed its report on GST distribution to the government on 15 May. The government has to table the report in parliament 25 sitting days after receipt. There will be only 15 sitting days between receiving the report and the date of the by-elections in Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia that occur during the winter break.Read more
TACKLING THE HOUSING AFFORDABILITY CRISIS
MASTER BUILDERS NATIONAL LEADERS SUMMIT
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 20 JUNE 2018
I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and thank Hedley Davis and Denita Wawn, as well as my ACT colleague Zed Seselja.
As you know, Australia is facing a housing affordability crisis. We now have the lowest home ownership rate that we've had in 60 years. There are over 500,000 Australians in rental stress and almost no housing that is affordable for low-income Australians. In the early 1980s the ratio of house prices to incomes was 2:1. Now, it's over 5:1. We're a nation that is increasingly struggling to house our young people.
18 June, 2018
Over the years, the Liberal Party has accepted a number of significant foreign donations, including $14,000 from Kazumasa Ikoma of Japan, $50,000 from Kin Chao Sun of Hong Kong and $1.5 million from British citizen Michael Ashcroft. For over a year, Labor has refused to take foreign donations, but the Liberal Party still remains open to taking foreign cash.Read more
GENDER EQUALITY AND THE VALUE OF WORK
FRIDAY, 8 JUNE 2018
Thank you Ursula for the most generous introduction. Can I too acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, on whose lands we’re meeting today and pay my respects to their elders past and present. And just to say how chuffed I am to be back at CEDA, speaking on this critical topic. I thank CEDA, Macquarie University and Deloitte for putting on today’s event, acknowledge Lee Kelly, Mary Delahunty, Narelle Hooper, Lucy Taksa and particular Libby Lyons, the head of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. It’s not many countries that can boast that the head of their gender equality agency is also the granddaughter of the first female parliamentarian. So we should be pretty proud of that.
I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is the gender pay gap is closing. The bad news is that it is happening at a glacial pace. According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s most recent report, the gender pay gap among full time workers was 16 1/2 per cent in 1997. Twenty years later, in 2017, it had narrowed to 15 1/2 per cent. That’s a gap of $250 a week. If we continue at that rate - closing the gender pay gap by half a percentage point every decade - then in just 310 years we will have done it.*Read more