Australian Youth Forum for 2011

A brief speech in Parliament on youth engagement.
Australian Youth Forum, 10 February 2011

I was pleased today to attend the launch of the Youth Forum’s Youth Engagement Steering Committee, which is going to advise the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Mr Peter Garrett, about a range of important issues in education. I was delighted to have the opportunity at that event to meet Ms Tahlia Azaria, a successful member of the AYF steering committee in 2010, who will lead the steering committee in 2011 as chair.

I would like to pay particular tribute to two members of that youth steering committee from my electorate, Anthony Antioch and Mitchell Wall, two very impressive young men who I am sure will bring to bear a youth perspective on some of the critical issues that young Australians feel it is important to speak about.

I think young Australians often feel too shut out of our political process, that they do not have enough opportunities to have their voices heard in the corridors of power. The Youth Engagement Steering Committee is a way of addressing that, of bringing a breath of fresh air into our political process and ensuring that young Australians have a voice at the highest level of power.
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Politics and Parenthood

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Why helping Indonesia is in our National Interest

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Leadership for People with a Disability

A new national program provides leadership skills for people with a disability. I hope that local Canberra groups will apply.

Media Release - Helping leaders for tomorrow

Andrew Leigh, Federal Member for Fraser, is encouraging organisations in Canberra to help boost leadership skills of people with a disability.

Leaders for Tomorrow is a new national program designed to help people with disability become leaders in business, the community and government through mentoring and leadership development.

“This is one part of the Gillard Government’s $11 million package to support people with a disability and carers in our community,” said Andrew Leigh.

“The Leaders for Tomorrow package allows local organisations to help people with a disability partner up with mentors.

“It’s about overcoming barriers to education and work and skilling up the leaders of tomorrow.

“I hope many organisations in Canberra take up this opportunity.

“The successful applicants will develop individual leadership development plans for all participants in the Leaders for Tomorrow program. This may include goal setting, team building, governance, communication, implementing change and problem-solving.

“I congratulate Senator Jan McLucas, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, and the Gillard Government in helping people with a disability,” concluded Andrew Leigh.

The program is expected to provide about 200 people with disability with up to 12 months intensive leadership support, including a mentorship program where people work with mentors in their field of interest.

The accessibility package is being delivered under the National Disability Strategy and also includes the $5 million Accessible Communities Program, which is currently open to local governments to make their communities more accessible for people with disability through minor infrastructure upgrades.

Eligibility criteria and application forms for the Leaders for Tomorrow are available at, by calling 1800 668 689 or sending an email to [email protected]

Applications close on 11 March 2011.
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Big Ideas Competition

I'm running a 'Big Ideas' competition for young people living or studying on the north side of Canberra (the Fraser electorate). Entries should:
* Be a video no more than 3 minutes in length;

* Describe an issue, what should be done in response, and why.

The competition will be open for entries until Friday 12 May and will be run with three separate levels: primary (K-6), secondary (7-10) and youth (year 11 until age 24).

Topics can include anything from reducing crime to improving sports participation, urban transport to water use, foreign aid to alleviating homelessness, boosting business start-ups to fostering artistic creativity in Canberra.

The judges are: Danielle Cronin (Canberra Times), Kieran Gilbert (Sky), Peter Martin (Age), Samantha Maiden (The Australian), Mark Simkin (ABC), Sarah Wiley (2GB), Annabel Crabb (ABC), Mark Davis (SMH), and Laura Tingle (AFR).

If you know any young Fraser residents with bright ideas, please encourage them to enter the competition.

For more details, click on the 'Big Ideas' tab at the top of this page.
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Schooling in Indonesia

I gave a brief speech today in Parliament on Australia's aid program, and particularly its funding for education in Indonesia.
Schooling in Indonesia, 9 February 2011

In the late-1970s, I attended primary school in Banda Aceh. I was there because my father was working on an AusAID project to improve education in Indonesia. At the same time, Indonesian education was improving me. As the only white child in my class, I came to appreciate perspectives and cultures quite different from my own. The power of stories and songs, an understanding of geography and history – these things stay with me still.

For Indonesia, as for Australia, education is the best anti-poverty tool we’ve developed. A wealth of evidence now shows that education raises wages and increases participation in the democratic process. Better educated citizens are healthier, and their children receive many of these benefits too.

Yet while Australia has for decades been a partner in improving the Indonesian education system, that bipartisan consensus now threatens to crack. Fuelled by some of the most reactionary groups in Australia, a campaign has been afoot to say that when floods hit Australia, we should stop assisting others. This kind of inward-looking approach will directly harm thousands of Indonesian children. But it will also harm our national interest, which is in engagement, not autarky.

Our nation is not so poor - in finances or national spirit - that we must choose between rebuilding the damage done by the floods and being a good neighbour.
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In praise of public servants

Kevin Rudd has a terrific piece in today's Drum. A few quotes:
It’s fair to say we in politics don’t stop often enough to say thank you to public servants in public forums. This is a criticism that could be equally directed at either side of the political spectrum, and would be a fair comment. ...

Our Embassy in Cairo, staffed with fewer than 10 Australians on a regular basis, has swelled to over 40 staff helping stranded Australians get back home to safety.

More than 30 members of the public service heard the call that the Government was looking for more staff to assist in a deteriorating security environment and said “yes, I will go”.  ...

Tricia, a regional consular officer based in Dubai, answered the call. She was one of the first on the ground. She worked tirelessly all week until being detained while scoping routes to ensure Australians could travel safely along them. And what did she do after being released? Went straight back to work including living at the airport three days straight helping Australians onto flights. This work is truly appreciated and brought home to me when I met just a few of these rescued Australians on their way home from Egypt.

Tricia’s efforts are just one example of brilliant efforts by brilliant members of our foreign service. Efforts worth commending, but efforts replicated across the public service on a daily basis. ...

Every day, be it those on the front line at Centrelink, our customs and border protection staff, or those working on the policy ideas that will solve the challenges that Australia faces, we should be proud that in Australia we do have a world class public service.
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What I'm Reading

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Getting on with the Job

The recent floods and cyclone have had a devastating impact on Queensland and Victoria, with major infrastructure now needing to be rebuilt. In order to fund this rebuilding effort, Labor has proposed a $5.6 billion package. Two dollars out of three of this package will be funded by savings measures from the budget, while the remainder will be funded by a one-off levy in 2011-12. The levy will be progressive, so that flood victims and taxpayers earning less than $50,000 will pay nothing. For most of those who do pay the levy, the cost will be less than a cup of coffee per week.

Yet although he was part of a government that used special levies to fund extraordinary costs such as the Gun Buyback or the East Timor reconstruction effort, Tony Abbott has opted to oppose the flood levy. Dragging out his tired old ‘big new tax’ line, the Liberal-National Coalition has argued that the circumstances are inappropriate to impose a levy. This is despite the fact that during the election campaign Abbott proposed a company tax levy. Not only would that levy have been effectively imposed on all taxpayers (for the most part, company taxes end up being paid by consumers and workers), but it would have been permanent, not temporary.

What has Abbott proposed instead of a levy? His favoured solution seems to be savings cuts. The trouble is, he can’t identify reasonable programs that could be cut. He keeps talking about scrapping infrastructure funding, but does the Coalition really want half-built school libraries? And in a sign that Coalition maths are just as fuzzy as they were last year, Abbott has tried to go back to several ‘savings’ measures that were identified by Treasury as dodgy in the last election, when they found an $11 billion hole in Coalition election costings. (It’s not clear why he thinks that a spending cut that was shown to be fake last August will fool anyone today.)

Being the man who just says no might be good short-term politics for Abbott, but surely he also recognises the risk that it poses to his credibility over the long-run. The more often Abbott reaches for the glib one-liner instead of a sound policy choice, the less likely the Australian people are to believe that he has the skills and temperament to govern the country.

(cross-posted at the ALP website)
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Mobile Offices and Community Forums

Mobile Offices

In the last quarter of last year, I ran 15 mobile offices, and met a wide variety of Canberra residents to talk about local and national issues.

Over the coming months, I'll be holding more mobile offices. These are a good opportunity to raise issues that are specific to you or your family. Here are the first dates for 2011.

  • Sat 26 February - Canberra Show, EPIC – 9.00 to 11.00 am

  • Sat 19 March - Jamison Shops – 10.00 to 11.00 am & Lyneham Shops – 11.30 am to 12.30 pm

  • Wed 30 March - Bus Interchange, Civic – 8.00-9.00am

  • Wed 6 April - Garema Place, Civic – 12.30 to 1.30 pm

  • Sat 9 April - Gungahlin Marketplace – 10.00 to 11.00 am & Dickson Woolies – 11.30 am to 12.30 pm

Community Forums

In addition to my mobile offices, I'll be taking a leaf from my predecessor Bob McMullan's book, and running a series of community meetings. As part of these, I'll be delivering a speech on an issue that I thought might be of interest to Fraser residents. You're welcome to come to just the speech, just the community forum, or both.

The first four forums will be scheduled at different times of the day, and in different parts of the electorate. I hope as many residents as possible can come along.

  • Wed 16 March – Gungahlin Lakes Club
    6.30 to 7.00 pm: ‘Revenge of the Nerds: Improving Australia’s Education System’
    7.00 to 8.30 pm: Community Forum

  • Wed 20 April – Belconnen Labor Club
    1.30 to 2.00 pm: ‘Better Together: Ten Ways to Revitalise Community’
    2.00 to 3.30 pm: Community Forum

  • Wed 18 May – Ginninderra Labor Club
    6.30 to 7.00 pm: ‘The Pro-Growth Progressive: How Economic Reform Can Make Us Happier’
    7.00 to 8.30 pm: Community Forum

  • Sat 2 July – Downer Community Hall
    10.00 to 10.30 am: ‘Too Hot to Handle? The Challenge of Climate Change’
    10.30 am to 12.00 pm: Community Forum

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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.