What’s the Worst that Could Happen? Existential Risk and Extreme Politics - Speech


EAGxAustralia Conference, Effective Altruism Australia, Melbourne
Friday, 22 September 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 acknowledge any First Nations people and businesses represented here today. I commit myself to the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which starts by voting Yes on October 14.

Much of what we focus on in politics centres on immediate challenges. This week, I’ve participated in discussions about competition policy and randomised trials, community-building and economic dynamism. These are important issues for Australia’s future.

But the EAGxAustralia conference provides an opportunity to think about existential risk – about dangers not only to our way of life, but to our lives themselves.

In a busy life, it’s easy to confuse the improbable with the impossible.

What would happen if you decided to cross the road without checking the traffic? Odds are that you’d survive unscathed. But do it enough times and you’re likely to come a cropper.

That’s where catastrophic risk comes in.

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ABC Canberra with Adam Shirley 22 September 2023 - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Catastrophic risk

ADAM SHIRLEY (HOST): Well, there’s perhaps a one in six chance of a species-ending event, according to MP for Fenner and Assistant Minister in the Federal Government, Andrew Leigh. Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.


SHIRLEY: I must admit, reading about your contention and the way you've kind of gathered this information together, I did get a few don't look up vibes. I'm a bit worried.

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Startups, Upstarts and Competition - Speech


International Small Business Summit, Melbourne
Friday, 22 September 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 acknowledge any First Nations people and businesses represented here today. I commit myself, as a member of the Albanese Government, to the implementation in full of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including voting Yes for a Voice to Parliament.

Thank you to the Small Business Association of Australia for hosting today’s summit. It comes at a time when our government is providing around one million small businesses with direct energy bill relief.

We’re also putting in place the Small Business Energy Incentive to help businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million save on their energy bills.

We’re improving small business cash flow by halving the rate of increase of quarterly tax instalments for GST and income tax.

And we’re making it easier for small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $10 million to invest and grow through the $20,000 instant asset write-off.

Under the leadership of Small Business Minister Julie Collins and Treasurer Jim Chalmers, the Albanese Government is tackling cost pressures now and we’re laying the foundations for growth in the decades to come. Competition policy is central to both of those goals and that’s my focus for today.

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2CC Drive with Leon Delaney - Transcript


LEON DELANEY: There are plenty of older people that really pay no attention to politics at all, and yet they still have the right to vote. So why should it be different for 16 and 17-year-olds, especially when they're entitled to be in the workplace, and would be required to pay taxes, and as Johnathan Davis said to me last week, it's a good old conservative principle, no taxation without representation. Well, why not? I think, you know, if you're going to make the move, I'm quite okay with that.

Now, not everybody will agree, and that's why we have debate about the matter, and I presume the motion today, as far as I know, failed, so the age limit for voting is not going to change here in the ACT. But if it ever did, I think I'm okay with that. I think I'm okay with that. 12 past five, on 2CC, it's Canberra Live.

Our Federal Member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh, what do you think about that?

ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION, AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Leon, we've been concerned about the interaction with compulsory voting. Compulsory voting is one of the touchstones of Australian democracy. That notion that everyone participates in the democracy, that ours is a 100 per cent democracy, not a 50 per cent democracy as you see in other places.

So the challenge with extending the voting age down to 16 and 17‑year‑olds has always been this question of compulsion. Some people say that it should be voluntary, and that risks undermining compulsory voting. Others say it should be compulsory, and that risks seeing a whole slew of 16 and 17‑year‑olds fined for not casting a valid vote.

So this is the thing ‑

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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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Delivering the Murray Darling Basin Plan - Speech

Water Amendment (Restoring Our Rivers) Bill 2023
Second Reading Speech
House of Representatives, 13th September 2023

Cast your mind back to the last drought, some three years ago, when the Darling River stopped flowing for more than 400 days, when farming communities were brought to their knees, desperate for water, when millions of native fish died and gruesome environmental images were broadcast across the world. Last month the Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, struck a deal with basin state and territory governments in order to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. This historic agreement reflected the policy that Labor took to the last election to deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full. For me, as an ACT representative, this is important. The ACT is one of the signatory governments. I note that the minister who's responsible, Shane Rattenbury, has talked about the importance of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to the ACT.

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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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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.