Don's Parting

Don Aitkin's term as chairperson of the National Capital Authority wrapped up yesterday. A true Canberra icon, Don has brought a great deal of energy and experience to the NCA, and I'm sure he'll be greatly missed.

Shelly Penn, who has been serving on the NCA's board, will step into the role of acting chairperson.
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A Propitious Cycle

Noting the absence of bike racks near my office on 1 Torrens Street, I wrote to the ACT Government to ask whether they'd consider installing one. This week, I received a letter from Simon Corbell, saying that they'll be putting a bike rack nearby. So if you're coming to an event or meeting in my office, you'll soon be able to lock up your bike close by.
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Six Impossible Things

(Cross-posted on the ALP blog, which is the place to leave comments.)

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice: ‘Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’

I was recalling this line the other day when thinking about the task faced by Tony Abbott. Here are the six impossible things that the Opposition Leader has to believe before breakfast every day.

Impossibility 1: That a price on carbon pollution won’t change behaviour. Once upon a time, Liberals used to believe in the power of prices. Now, they take a selective approach. When it comes to the effect of the exchange rate on import prices and the impact of income taxation on the price of work, they contend that prices matter. But when it comes to carbon, the Opposition must believe the impossible: that companies won’t reduce their pollution when we put a price on it.

Impossibility 2: That mining companies pay too much tax. In August, BHP posted a $23 billion profit – the largest in Australian history. As the Henry Tax Review acknowledges, Australia’s royalty tax regime is both inequitable and inefficient. That’s why Labor is moving towards a profit-based tax on the minerals that are the birthright of every Australian. It’s only Mr Abbott and his naysaying Liberal-National team who think that mining companies are paying enough tax.

Impossibility 3: That WorkChoices will raise productivity. The current decline in productivity growth began about a decade ago, about midway through the Howard Government’s time in office. In the WorkChoices era, the productivity growth rate continued to fall. As the Grattan Institute’s Saul Eslake pointed out at a conference run by the Reserve Bank of Australia: ‘the workplace relations reforms introduced by the Howard Government under the title “WorkChoices” in its last term in office were not, primarily, “productivity-enhancing”.’ Mr Abbott likes to claim that WorkChoices is ‘dead, buried and cremated’. But it’s increasingly looking like he pickled his favourite bits before burying the rest.

Impossibility 4: That Australia could’ve gotten through the GFC without taking on debt. When an economic downturn hits, it has two impacts on the budget. First, revenues fall as governments get lower company tax receipts, less income tax, and less GST. Second, smart governments engage in fiscal stimulus – stepping in to keep people in jobs and businesses afloat. In the 2008-09 downturn, two-thirds of the cost to the budget came from lower revenues, while one-third came from fiscal stimulus. In total, we took on debt less than a tenth of national income – a small fraction of the debt loads in most developed countries. When you hear Liberal and National Party members arguing that Australia shouldn’t have gone into debt, they’re not only saying that we shouldn’t have had fiscal stimulus. They’re also contending that when a downturn hits, the government should start cutting back. That’s either an economic recipe for disaster, or just another impossible claim.

Impossibility 5: That Australians are saving enough for retirement. When the Keating Government introduced universal superannuation in the early-1990s, some Liberals denounced it as an unwarranted impost on businesses. Two decades later, universal superannuation has become part of Australia’s social fabric. But in a ‘Groundhog Day’ moment, the Opposition are currently opposing an increase in the minimum superannuation contribution from 9% to 12%. What’s particularly ironic about this is that every member of parliament elected since 2004 are covered by an agreement that sees us receive 15% superannuation contributions. Impossibly, Liberal-National Party members of parliament believe that 15% is good enough for them, but 9% is sufficient for their constituents.

Impossibility 6: That parliament isn’t working. Since the last election, the Gillard Government has passed more than 200 Bills through the House of Representatives and nearly 150 through the Parliament. That’s more than the Howard Government in the same amount of time. At the same time, the Opposition are bereft of policy ideas, and staring at a $70 billion hole in their costings. As the White Queen said to Alice: ‘The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.’ Perhaps that will be the basis on which Mr Abbott draws up his next election costings.

Australia can’t afford to be caught in Tony Abbott’s ‘wonderland’ where truth yields to nonsense. It’s time for the Opposition Leader to give up his six impossibilities, and join the conversation about how to build a better future for Australia.
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Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun event

Ben Donohoe, the son of a staff member at Hawker College, was only 9 years old when he passed away from a brain tumour in 2005. Since then, the students of Hawker College have been organising an annual charity fun run to raise money for the ACT Eden-Monaro Cancer Support Group and Make-A-Wish Australia. Now in its 7th year, the Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun event will be held on Sunday 6th November, at Lake Ginninderra.

I’m going to be pounding the pavement with 10 of my staff and friends to help add to the $220, 000 that has already raised for this important cause.  If you’d also like to be part of the action you can register online here, or you can make a donation here.
What: Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun

Where: John Knight Memorial Park, Lake Ginnindera

When: Registration from 7.30am – 8.30am, Sunday 6th November 2011

You can find more information on the event website.

Hope you can make – please feel free to swing by my marquee and say hello if you do!
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New Social Housing

I attended the opening of eight new social housing units in O'Connor this morning. The bottom four units will be occupied by people with mobility impairments, while most of the top four units will be single parent families. For some of the tenants, it's the first place they've ever had to call their own.


Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development

Minister for Sport

Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness


Member for Fraser


28 October 2011


Vulnerable people in Canberra will benefit from a new social housing development opened today, supported with $1.6 million from the Australian Government.

Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib and Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh today welcomed the opening of the new development in David Street, O’Connor, which will offer safe and secure homes for people in need.

“This development will provide a stable home for seniors, people with disabilities and people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” Dr Leigh said.

“It features eight two-bedroom units, four of which are Class C Adaptable, which means they are easily modified for tenants with a disability.

“The units incorporate six-star energy rating and environmental design principles such as an underground rain water tank and gas boosted solar hot water units.

“I would like to thank the ACT Government for their involvement in the development and management of this housing development.

“Through this development, we are helping to reduce homelessness, and we are giving vulnerable people in Canberra a better future.”

The development, worth $2.1 million in total, is partly funded through the Australian Government’s Social Housing Initiative, which is designed to assist low income Australians who are homeless or struggling in the private rental market.

The Australian Government’s $5.6 billion investment under the Social Housing Initiative represents the single largest investment in social housing ever undertaken by an Australian Government.

Senator Arbib welcomed the new development which will provide security to some of the vulnerable people in Canberra in need of a home.

“These wonderful new homes will give some of our most vulnerable a place to call home,” Senator Arbib said.

“Under the Social Housing Initiative, around 19,600 homes are being constructed across the nation and will be completed by June 2012 – over 16,400 of these have already been completed.

“In the ACT, the Australian and ACT Governments are working together to deliver 421 new homes – 419 of which have been completed.

“Through the Initiative, the Australian Government has supported more than 15,000 jobs nationally, and helped shield Australia from the recession that hit most other economies.”
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Any club that will have me as a member...

The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) has elected 26 new fellows. Bizarrely, they've including a sitting politician. Have they no standards?

(On a more serious note, I'm chuffed to be joining in the same cohort as Lisa Hill, who taught me in my undergraduate political science degree, Stephen Bell, who marked my undegraduate honours thesis in 1994; and former ANU colleagues Dave Chalmers, Hal Hill, Jeff Bennett, Kaarin Anstey and Andrew Podger. Thanks too to my nominators - who I'll refrain from naming in case they'd like to maintain anonymity.)
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Know a community group that wants to make some noise?

For the past six months I’ve been lending out my marquee to community groups. It’s been very popular, and has been used to assist causes as diverse as motorcycle awareness and the Mount Rogers Explorer Day. Now I’ve got a small public address system which I’d be happy to lend to any community group that needs a bit of amplification. It’s simple to use, operates off a rechargeable internal battery (or mains power), and it comes with a microphone. It’s ideal for addressing small gatherings - indoor or outdoor. Phone 6247 4396 or email me at Andrew.Leigh.MP<AT> to book either the marquee or the PA system for your event.

And while I'm talking about community groups, I’m also opening up a spot in my newsletter, the modestly-named Leigh Report, as a noticeboard for organisations that are seeking to expand their membership. It could be an appeal for volunteers or it could be a shout out to like-minded Canberrans who just don’t know you exist. Email the contact details of your organisation and a one-sentence summary of who in the community you’re trying to reach to Andrew.Leigh.MP<AT> and I’ll try to include it in the next newsletter.
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More Information > Less Infections

I've written and spoken before about the power of information to improve public services. So it's beaut to see that the MyHospitals website will from today contain information on hospital infection rates.
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ABC 24 Capital Hill

My video from my latest Capital Hill appearance with Kelly O'Dwyer, hosted by Julie Doyle.
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Sky AM Agenda

Here's my latest Sky AM Agenda appearance with my regular sparring partner Mitch Fifield. Kieran Gilbert's the host this time.
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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.