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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Evaluating Policy Impact: it's vital to work out what works

Evaluating Policy Impact: it's vital to work out what works

Canberra Times, 12 September 2023

Social workers in schools always boost student outcomes. Drug offenders shouldn't be treated differently. Malaria bed nets are more likely to be used if people pay for them. Seeing inside a jail will deter juvenile delinquents from becoming criminals.

All four statements sound perfectly sensible, don't they? Unfortunately, randomised trials suggest all four are perfectly wrong. Let me explain.

In Britain, pilots of social workers in schools showed everyone liked the idea. Teachers, social workers and students all liked it. Then researchers at Cardiff and Oxford Universities ran a two-year randomised trial across 300 schools to test the impact. The results, reported this year, showed no significant positive impact. As a result, the planned national rollout has now been scrapped.

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Matildas show the way for Aussie Competition - Opinion Piece

Matildas show the way for Aussie Competition

Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2023

If anyone needed proof that competition drives better performance, you only need to look at the Matildas, whose peak World Cup soccer matches attracted more viewers than any Australian sporting event in at least a decade.

What made the Matildas great is that they have been playing against champions in major overseas leagues. As captain Sam Kerr puts it: “To be the best, you have to beat the best.”

Australia didn't win the World Cup but there's no doubt that it brought out the best in the Matildas.

Kerr's equalising goal in the England match may well have been the greatest of the tournament. You don't produce magic like that without testing yourself against elite players.

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Looking for a seasoned policy all-rounder

I’m inviting applications for a Canberra-based policy adviser.

As the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities, Treasury and Employment, the issues that I work on range across economic dynamism, better functioning markets, inequality, impact evaluations, including randomised trials, and building social capital. Economic training, an interest in the voluntary sector and a love of Canberra are definite pluses.

In contributing to the Albanese Labor Government’s commitment to deliver a better future for Australians, my office is energetic, progressive and considered.

I have a broad range of ways I engage on policy issues and help develop new solutions to the challenges we’ve set ourselves as a government. My policy work is the basis of op-eds and interviews, social media, tele townhalls, podcasts, and public events.

As in all walks of life, it always helps to surround yourself with people who can teach you something. So if you understand employment policy better than me, can pick a path through complex policy problems or have a knack for communicating important economic ideas, then I want to hear from you.

The base salary ranges from $91,990 to $150,086 depending on skills and experience. In addition to the base salary, a Staff Allowance ($31,702) reflects parliamentary work patterns.

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The Briefing with Tom Tilley - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament, competition in aviation, Qatar decision, Qantas, cost of living.

TOM TILLEY (HOST): Andrew Leigh is Labor's Assistant Minister for Competition, so he's in the hot seat right now because competition is what the Qatar/Qantas issue is all about and it comes at a time where the Government is under a bit of pressure. More pressure than they've been under their whole time in office.

Support for the Coalition is at its highest level since the 2022 election last year. Opposition to The Voice is polling at 53 per cent. As I mentioned at the start, Albanese's net satisfaction rating is in negative territory, and of course the Qatar Airways decision made in June is causing them a lot of problems. There's now a Parliamentary inquiry that's going to happen into that decision.

So let's let into it with Andrew Leigh. Minister Leigh, thank you so much for joining us on The Briefing.


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Higher Education Support Amendment (Response To The Australian Universities Accord Interim Report) Bill 2023

Higher Education Support Amendment (Response To The Australian Universities Accord Interim Report) Bill 2023
Second Reading Speech
House of Representatives, 4 September

There are hundreds of thousands of 18-year-olds who began university this year. Those people were born in 2005, and they'll be at university from 2023 to 2025 if they do a regular, three-year bachelor's degree. Those people won't be eligible for the pension until 2072. At the end of their working lives, they will be dealing with the advanced technology of a workplace in 2072. We don't know the exact contours of what that labour market will look like, but we do know that it will be the sort of labour market which will reward high levels of skills. Just as the level of skill in the Australian economy has steadily increased over the last couple of generations, it will continue to do so for the current cohort. That means that, to a school leaver today, who was born in 2005 and who isn't eligible for the pension until 2072, university looks increasingly attractive. University won't be for everyone, but, in an age in which artificial intelligence is increasingly taking more routine jobs—automation of mobile services and factory automation are filling niches once filled by workers—higher levels of education are valuable. Our crystal ball for forecasting the precise jobs that will rise is a bit cloudy, but we do know that it's a very good bet that the jobs of the future will require higher levels of formal education than the jobs of today.

Where will those new university graduates come from? They'll tend to come from groups that are currently underserved. At the moment around half of Australians in their late 20s and early 30s has a university degree, but that level differs quite markedly across Australia. In the outer suburbs of major Australian cities, only 23 per cent of young Australians have a university degree. In the regions, only 13 per cent of young Australians have a university degree. Among young adults from poor families, only 15 per cent have a university degree. Among Indigenous Australians, only seven per cent have a university degree. For a young Indigenous man today, you're more likely to go to jail than you are to go to university. Right across the population, 36 per cent of Australians have a university qualification today, and it's been forecast that by mid-century it's going to be necessary to have 55 per cent of the population with a university qualification.

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Review of 'Recoding Government'

Recording Government

Inside Story, 31 August 2023

In 2018 a US court ordered the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who had been separated at the US–Mexico border. The ruling forced a backflip on the administration’s policy of separating children from adults. Yet the administration’s border agents struggled for weeks to comply with the court ruling.

The problem turned out to be technical. The computer system used by the agents, designed on the assumption that unaccompanied minors were travelling solo, had no way of recording a link between them and their parents. Some agents stuck sticky notes on infants’ onesies. Others kept makeshift records that were lost when the children were moved.

In Recoding America, technology writer Jennifer Pahlka tells the stories of how technological successes and failures have affected the way the US government operates. As founder of the non-profit Code for America and deputy chief technology officer under president Barack Obama, Pahlka is ideally placed to show why government computer systems sometimes underperform (and occasionally outperform) our expectations.

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The Economics of Corruption - Speech



National Integrity Summit, Melbourne
Wednesday, 30 August 2023

I acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nations, the 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. including a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament

Thanks to Transparency International Australia and your CEO Clancy Moore for inviting me to speak today. I also acknowledge the National Anti-Corruption Commissioner Paul Brereton, Deputy Commissioner of Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Kylie Kilgour, and longtime anti-corruption campaigner Professor A.J. Brown.

The Moonlight State

While Australia has had many corruption scandals, the Fitzgerald Inquiry and the systemic corruption among police and Queensland politicians it unearthed stands out both because of the scale of the corruption that it revealed and the long-term impact it had.

Historian Raymond Evans described the Fitzgerald Inquiry as ‘the most remarkable Commission of Inquiry in Australia’s history’.[1] In 2009 – in the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the tabling of Fitzgerald’s report in Parliament – then Premier Anna Bligh said:

‘In many ways, the Fitzgerald inquiry was Queensland’s Berlin Wall. It washed away an old regime and heralded in a new era.  Nothing on Queensland’s political landscape has been the same since.’[2]   

The system whereby corruption police would take protection payments from the sex industry was called ‘the Joke’, but the cost was no laughing matter. By the 1980s tens of thousands of dollars in bribes were being paid each month to senior police the culture that grew up around the crooked cops went far beyond one industry. To quote the Fitzgerald Report:

The later segment of evidence involving political figures demonstrated that misconduct in the Police Force was not isolated, but part of a wider malaise to do with attitudes to public office and public duty.[3]

Indeed the Fitzgerald Inquiry may never have happened if then Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson hadn’t been on a trip to the United States on the night the Four Corners show ‘Moonlight State’ aired.[4] As a result it fell to the Acting Premier Bill Gunn to initiate the inquiry. 

The Inquiry ultimately led to four former state ministers, and multiple senior police being found to have engaged in corrupt conduct, and the establishment of Queensland’s first anti-corruption body, the Crime and Misconduct Commission (now the Crime and Corruption Commission) in 1988. 

Corruption ultimately brought Joh’s premiership to an end. According to party-room records revealed years later – Joh was allegedly set to receive up to $20 million to facilitate the construction of what would have then been the world’s tallest building in Brisbane.[5]

His National Party colleagues refused to wave the deal through, so Joh tried to reshape his Cabinet. He demanded five Ministers resign – they refused. He demanded the Governor of Queensland, Walter Campbell call an election despite the Parliament only being a year old – which Campbell declined. Joh was ultimately challenged by Mike Ahern – ending 19 years as Premier.

Joh himself was put on trial for perjury in 1992 but the jury deadlocked.

According to another episode of Four Corners from 2008: ‘A later inquiry conducted by Justice Bill Carter found the [jury] selection process had been manipulated by ... ex-police officers ... helping to put Joh before a jury led by Young Nationals member, Luke Shaw’.[6]

When corruption really gets into the bones of a society the damage it does to institutions can take generations to heal.

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The economic case for a First Nations Voice to Parliament - Opinion Piece

The economic case for a First Nations Voice to Parliament

The West Australian, 30 August 2023

The moral case for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament is powerful. It is an opportunity to recognise that Australia is home to the longest continuing culture in the world – two thousand generations of Indigenous Australians have lived on our continent

But there is also an economic argument for constitutional recognition. Put simply, policies work better when policy makers listen to those people who are affected.

This isn’t just a theory. When schools are updating playgrounds they talk to the P&C committee. When councils are considering new developments, they speak with neighbours to get their views. When state governments are updating bus routes, they ask commuters to find out the underserved areas. When the federal government is designing tax policies, we meet with stakeholders to avoid unintended consequences. The point is decisions and outcomes are better when we listen to people.

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National Press Club Address Q&A 29 August - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Australian Centre for Evaluation, multinational tax transparency, competition in the airline industry, supermarket prices, matters to be included in the Competition Review, Intergenerational Report, evaluation and public service capability building, industry policy, local manufacturing.

ANDREW TILLET (MODERATOR): Thank you Dr Leigh, unfortunately we’ve gone a little bit over time for this speech so we might have to get straight to the Choose Your Own Adventure part of the proceedings and go to questions from our colleagues. First up is Paul Karp.

PAUL KARP: Thanks very much for your speech Dr Leigh, Paul Karp from the Guardian. Could I ask on a different topic about country by country multinational tax transparency? Has Australia been warned that other countries might actually share less information if we enact these rules in their current form, and is the government preparing to water down the reforms so that we collect information in the same format as the EU?

ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Thanks very much for your question, Paul. Our multinational tax agenda isn't just closing loopholes, it's about boosting transparency. The House recently passed one transparency measure, which will require all public firms to report on the country of tax domicile of their subsidiaries. So if a company is doing business in a tax haven, then their investors will know about it. Another part of it as you rightly point out is country-by-country reporting. We're going to make sure we get that right, so that the information that is currently reported to the Australian Tax Office by its counterparts in other countries isn't diminished. The European Union moves to country-by-country reporting on the first of July next year. And our view is that aligning the Australian timetable with European Union makes sense. We're keen to ensure that the maximum amount of information is out there, while guaranteeing that the ATO still gets the data it needs in order to do its job.

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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.