Memorials Inquiry

In recent meetings of parliament's National Capital and External Territories Committee, I've been asking questions about new memorials in the parliamentary triangle. So I'm pleased that Simon Crean (the relevant minister) has now asked the committee to inquire into the process of choosing national memorials. Terms of reference below.
Inquiry into the Administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 - Terms of reference

The Committee has been asked by the Hon Simon Crean, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government:

1.     To inquire into, and report on:

  • The administration of the National Memorials Ordinance 1928 (the Ordinance), with particular reference on:

o    The membership of the Canberra National Memorials Committee (CNMC);

o    The process for decision-making by the CNMC;

o    Mechanisms for the CNMC to seek independent, expert advice; and

o    Opportunities for improving transparency in the administration of the Ordinance.

  • The appropriate level of parliamentary oversight for proposed National Memorials.

  • The appropriate level of public participation in the development of proposed National Memorials.

2.     If changes to current arrangements are recommended, inquire into and report on transition provisions for current proposals for memorials which have not yet been constructed.

The Minister has asked the Committee to report by the end of 2011.

Submissions close 9 September (details here).
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Clean Technology Showcase

Canberrans who are interested in clean tech may wish to pop along to this important event tomorrow.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon Kim Carr invites you to the Clean Technology Showcase.

Date: Thursday 18 August, 2011
Time: 11.30 am - 1.30 pm
Venue: Mural Hall, Parliament House

This event showcases manufacturers from across Australia who have embraced clean and high technology. At the event, you can speak with these businesses and see clean and high technology products, which have been developed with the support of the Australian Government. You can also speak with parliamentarians and government officials.
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Sky News AM Agenda 15 August 2011 Part 2 of 2

Andrew Leigh and Mitch Fifield discuss political issues with Sky News AM Agenda host Kieran Gilbert
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Sky News AM Agenda 15 August 2011 Part 1 of 2

Andrew Leigh and Mitch Fifield discuss political issues with Sky News AM Agenda host Kieran Gilbert
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Territory Bill Backed

It's now over 22 years since the ACT Legislative Assembly's first elections, and the Assembly has shown itself to be a mature debating chamber; the equal of any other state or territory parliament.

So I'm chuffed that today, Federal Labor made the decision to back an important piece of legislation that will make it harder for the Australian parliament to veto ACT legislation. The veto power will still remain (removing it would require changing the constitution), but it will now be exercised by the parliament - not the executive.

As Simon Crean has put it, the bill strips the commonwealth's right to veto "at the stroke of a ministerial pen". Vetoing an ACT law should be only undertaken in extreme circumstances, and it's appropriate that all federal parliamentarians should have the chance to speak on such a debate.

My ACT colleague Gai Brodtmann and I took the unusual step of making a submission to the Senate inquiry into the bill. Federal Labor's decision to back it is subject only to some technical tweaks (this AAP report has a pretty decent summary of the amendments).

I'm hoping that the Coalition and minor parties will now get on board, and support this important bill.
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Caption Time

In the lead up to National Literacy and Numeracy Week, Media Access Australia has launched cap that!, a new education campaign asking teachers to turn on captions for improved literacy and inclusion for students. If you're an educator, you can find more information and teaching resources on their website.
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Mobile Offices & Community Forums

Here's an update of my upcoming mobile offices and community forums.

Community forums

  • West Belconnen (Ginninderra Labor Club, Lhotsky St) Friday 18 November 2.00-3.30pm

Mobile offices

  • Civic bus interchange Thursday 10 November 8-9am

  • Gungahlin (Hibberson St) Saturday 19 November 9-10am

  • Dickson Woollies, Saturday 19 November 10.30-11.30am

Past forums and mobile offices

  • Community Forum @ Belconnen (Belconnen Community Services, Swanson Court) Tuesday 25 October 6.00-7.30pm (focusing on the National Disability Insurance Scheme)

  • Dickson Woollies, Saturday 20 August 9:00am

  • Civic bus interchange, Wednesday 7 September 8:00am

  • Community Forum @ Dickson (Majura Hall, Rosevear St) Saturday 27 August 10-11.30am (starting with a speech on climate change)

  • Kippax Saturday 17 September 9:00am (with Chris Bourke MLA)

  • Charnwood shops 17 Sept 10:45am (with Chris Bourke MLA)

  • Jamison Trash & Treasure Sunday 25 September 9-10am (with Chris Bourke MLA)

  • Community Forum @ Gungahlin (Gungahlin Resource Centre Function Room, Ernest Cavanagh St) Wednesday 28 September 12.00-1:30pm (starting with a speech on early childhood)

  • Gungahlin (Hibberson St) Saturday 22 October 9-10am

  • Dickson Woollies Saturday 22 October 10.30-11.30am

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Belconnen Retirement Income Seminar

The federally-funded Financial Information Service are running a free seminar next week on 'Understanding retirement income streams'.

Details, details...
Wednesday, 17 August
6pm – 8.30pm
Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

Update: Due to the popularity of these seminars, Centrelink scheduled another one
Thursday, 18 August
6pm – 8.30pm
Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

Please RSVP to 13 6357 or [email protected]
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Speaking with Hall Residents

I met with residents in the historic village of Hall recently, a community in the northern part of my electorate that has social capital aplenty. Here's the local writeup, courtesy of the Hall & District Community Association.
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Census Day

It's census day, and my AFR column is on the importance and history of the census.
Take Control of Your Census, Australian Financial Review, 9 August 2011

In the 1947 film ‘Magic Town’, James Stewart plays an opinion pollster who discovers the town of Grandview: a perfect statistical mirror of the United States. Anything you want to know about the country can be found out merely by tallying the residents of Grandview.

Increasingly, we’re starting to feel like Grandview residents. A few decades ago, one survey found that 23 percent of Americans are been polled annually – a figure that’s probably risen as telephone calls have become cheaper and demand for poll results has grown.

But the deluge of polls makes us more reluctant to participate. So surveys have become less representative, with response rates mostly below 50 percent and falling. Consequently, the only way of making surveys accurate is either to pay respondents a fee (as the longitudinal HILDA survey does), or to compel a response (as the Australian Bureau of Statistics does). And for the ABS, the mother of all its surveys is the quinquennial census.

Censuses have their origins in assessing military strength. From 508 BC, the Romans conducted censuses to determine the tax base and number of men who could be called to arms. Military expansion under the Han Dynasty was facilitated by China’s first census in 2 AD. William the Conqueror’s 1086 census (which resulted in the Domesday Book) ensured that he could properly tax the country he had recently invaded.

The questions we ask say something about Australia as a society. For a century, we have asked Australians their religion, but it wasn’t until 1976 that income became a regular question. By contrast, the US census has asked about income since 1940, but never about religion. Over the past century, the Australian census has ceased asking people how long they’ve been married and whether their house has a bathroom, and added questions about unpaid work and internet access.

Census questions have political power. Historians Len Smith and Tim Rowse point out that it was not until 1966 that the ABS was confident it had enumerated all Indigenous Australians (previous censuses had assumed a few thousand undetected Aboriginal people in remote areas). Full enumeration led to a 1969 Census publication that compared socio-economic outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians: a forerunner to today’s Closing the Gap reports.

Similarly, the recent inclusion of a question about ancestry has led some migrant groups to lobby their members to provide a consistent answer, in order to gain greater public recognition. Meanwhile, there are still members of the Jewish community who say that the lesson of the twentieth century is never to write ‘Jewish’ on any official form.

For researchers, the ABS provides a 1 percent sample of the Australian census, which represents one of the largest datasets around. When I was an economics professor, I found the census particularly valuable for looking at rare events – such as whether couples with a son and a daughter are more likely to be married than those with two children of the same gender (answer: yes).

From a public policy standpoint, censuses are one of the ways that we decide how to allocate resources across communities. A constituent emailed me recently to point out that elections are virtually never decided by a single vote, but every additional person who answers the census brings resources to the area. She argued that it was more important to fill out the census form than to vote (a conclusion I could not possibly endorse, since I encourage everyone to participate in both activities).

Will we ever abandon the census? The Scandinavian countries have done just that, taking the view that their extensive national registers (linked by a unique identification number) make census-taking unnecessary. In the United States, questions about income, education and disability have now been taken out of the decennial census and moved into a new ‘American Community Survey’ which samples 3 million people annually. With fewer people to survey, the US Census Bureau is able to devote more resources to obtaining a properly representative sample, which is available on an annual basis.

When you’re filling out your census form tonight, think of the myriad purposes for which it will be used. Whether you’re a researcher or a curious citizen, Australia’s census helps us all to better understand the nation. Better yet, if you tick the box to allow your information to be revealed in 99 years, you might even help your descendents with their genealogical explorations.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser.

Thanks to my friend Tim Rowse for a valuable chat when I was pulling it together

The one cute fact I couldn't quite figure out how to squeeze in: the man who ran the census in Roman times was called the 'censor'. His role in between censuses (which were 5-yearly, like Australia today) was to enforce public morals. Hence the origins of the term 'censor' and 'censorship'.
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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.