ACT Regional Development Committee

The Regional Development Australia committee for the ACT is looking for community volunteers.
The Hon Simon Crean MP
Federal Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development
and Local Government

Minister for the Arts Andrew Barr MLA
ACT Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer,
Minister for Economic Development
Tourism, Sport and Recreation


Friday, 3 February, 2012


Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean and Acting Chief Minister of the ACT Andrew Barr today called for community volunteers to represent the Regional Development Australia (RDA) committee in the ACT.

Individuals with community, industry or government experience and knowledge of local challenges are encouraged to submit an expression of interest to represent RDA ACT.

“The RDA committees are more than the eyes and ears for government,” Mr Crean said.

“Their input is central to our place-based approach because it will help us better respond to the challenges and opportunities different regions face and enable us to embed regionalism into the way we govern in a way that can't be unpicked.

“Strong RDA committees are engaging with local communities to maximise economic growth, flexibility, diversity and resilience.

“We are looking for individuals with vision and drive – people who can use their experience, skills and local regional knowledge to build relationships between all levels of government and regional communities.

“Members of our RDA committees have strong relationships with their communities and bring a deep understanding of local issues.

“They volunteer their time and energy and work tirelessly for their regions, and we are committed to ensuring they have the support and resources to do their job well.”

People of all backgrounds are encouraged to submit an expression of interest, which will be considered against the skills and expertise required by the RDA committee.

Previous applicants and existing members whose terms are expiring are also encouraged to submit a new expression of interest.

Mr Barr said the RDA committee plays an important role in advising government on regional development policy.

“I would like to encourage anyone with a strong interest in the future development of the ACT and surrounding region to submit an expression of interest,” Mr Barr said.

“RDA ACT provides an important interface with other surrounding RDAs to support the work of the ACT Government within the broader region."

RDA is an Australian Government initiative which is jointly funded by State and Territory Governments and local governments in some jurisdictions.

For more information on the RDA network, the Expression of Interest Handbook and an application form visit

Additional information on the EoI process can be mailed to applicants, please contact 1800 505 938 (Mon–Fri 9am-5pm AEDST) or email rdaeoi<@>

Applications for the Australian Capital Territory are encouraged by Friday 24 February 2012.
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Sky AM Agenda - 2 February 2012

I appeared yesterday on Sky AM Agenda with host Kieran Gilbert and Liberal MP Kelly O'Dwyer. Our discussion focused on the strong Australian economy (inflation, interest rates, and income taxes are all lower than when Labor came to office in 2007), and the Gillard Government's commitment to equal pay.
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Public Sector Jobs

Along with Gai Brodtmann and Kate Lundy, I've put out a statement today regarding a claim in the Canberra Times that the efficiency dividend will cost jobs. See also a piece that I wrote for the Canberra Times recently on the negative impact that the Liberals' promised 12,000 job cuts will have on Canberra.

1 February 2012

Gai Brodtmann MP
Federal Member for Canberra

Andrew Leigh MP
Federal Member for Fraser

Senator Kate Lundy
Senator for the Australian Capital Territory


The figures presented in the Canberra Times today are not correct.

The Government believes it is important the public service continues to play its part in delivering savings to the Budget given tight fiscal conditions.

The Government expects agencies to continue to meet the efficiency dividend without resorting to forced redundancies.

We know the Liberal Party likes to boast about sacking 12,000 workers:

"For a start, 12,000 public servants in Canberra will be made redundant over a two-year period immediately upon us being elected."
HOCKEY – Q&A – 27 JUNE 2011

However we expect agencies to create savings in areas including: reductions in the use of big consultancy firms and contractors; replacing travel with the use of virtual meeting facilities; reductions in agency spend on hospitality and entertainment; minimising media and advertising expenditure; reductions in printing and publication expenditure, and more efficient and consistent delivery of training.

The future figures for wages and salaries used by the Canberra Times do not account for new policies that may be agreed to by government in future budgets.  Adjusting for this would change the projections.

The figures also do not reflect the Government’s expectation that agencies meet the Efficiency Dividend from non-salary expenditure.  This means in future years the wage and salary figures are expected to increase at the expense of non-wage and salary departmental expenditure.

Unlike the Liberals, we believe that a strong public service is essential to support the community and deliver critical government programs.
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A Twitter Randomised Trial

I have a confession to make: I'm a twitter-sceptic. In a piece for the Australian Literary Review in 2010, Macgregor Duncan and I surveyed what politicians were reading, and concluded that federal politicians ought to read more and tweet less. It was the words of an armchair critic, but when I unexpectedly found myself transitioning from professor to politician later that year, I decided it would be hypocritical of me to tweet. So I refrained.

But over the past 17 months, enough people who I respect have made a good case for twitter that it seems churlish to base my decision on theory alone. In other contexts, I frequently complain about people who make decisions without looking at the evidence, so I figured I really ought to test the theory, and find out once and for all: does twitter make me happier and more productive?

So, following in the footsteps of my good friend Justin Wolfers, I'm embarking on a month-long twitter randomised trial. Each morning in February, I'll toss a coin. Heads, I'll tweet for the day. Tails, I shan't. At the end of each day, I'll record how happy I've been, and how productive. And at the end of February, I'll tally it all up.

If you're interested in joining me for the ride, you can follow me by clicking the button below.

// &lt;![CDATA[&lt;br&gt;!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src="//";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");&lt;br&gt;//
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UK Worries

Wondering what all the fuss is about Europe? Here's the scariest chart I've seen this year - from the 'Not the Treasury View' blog.

Bottom line: Four years into the recession, UK output is doing worse than at the same stage in the Great Depression.
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Overseas Same-Sex Marriage

A thoroughly sensible announcement from the AG today - the government will now issue certificates of no impediment to same-sex couples wishing to marry overseas.

27 January 2012


Australians seeking to enter into a same-sex marriage overseas will be able to apply for a Certificate of No Impediment to marriage for the first time from 1 February 2012.

“This important change will allow same-sex couples to take part in overseas marriage ceremonies, and be considered married according to the laws of that country,” Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said.

Some foreign countries require foreign nationals to present a Certificate of No Impediment before they are able to legally marry in that country.

These certificates confirm  there is no impediment to a person taking part in a marriage ceremony overseas and considers issues such as whether the person is over 18 or are already married.

“This change means the certificates, which were previously only available to heterosexual couples, will now also be available to same-sex couples.

“Yet again, this change demonstrates Labor’s strong commitment to removing discrimination in Commonwealth laws and policies.

“In 2009, we removed discrimination from 85 different laws that now provide equal treatment for same-sex couples in areas like taxation, social security, health, aged care, superannuation and more,” Ms Roxon said.

The Government will still not issue these certificates in circumstances such as proposed marriages to certain close relatives, people under 18 years old or for people already married.

Same-sex marriages conducted overseas are not recognised as a marriage in Australia but may be evidence of a de facto relationship for the purposes of Commonwealth, State and Territory laws.

This change in Government policy follows the resolution of the 2011 Australian Labor Party National Conference to provide Certificate of No Impediments to same-sex couples.

Couples seeking to marry overseas can find information about applying for a Certificate of No Impediment to marriage at from 1 February 2012.

For all media enquiries, please contact the Attorney-General’s Office.
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Opening of 'Snakes Alive' exhibition

[caption id="attachment_2114" align="alignleft" width="210" caption="Holding a snake at the 'Snakes Alive' exhibition"][/caption]

Today I opened the 'Snakes Alive' exhibition, an annual display of snakes and other reptiles and amphibians put on the the ACT Herpetological Association. As part of the opening event, they put a snake in my arms which was perhaps one of the more unusual experiences I've had since becoming a parliamentarian.

It's a fun event with lots of hands-on activities and hosted by the Australian National Botanic Gardens. My boys came along with me today and were fascinated by the snakes and loved being told about the different species, what they ate, and where they live.

My media release for the event is below.

Opening of ‘Snakes Alive’ exhibition

Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh today opened the ‘Snakes Alive’ exhibition, an event conducted by the ACT Herpetological Association with the support of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

“The ‘Snakes Alive’ display shows snakes, along with other reptiles and amphibians, as part of Australia’s delicate ecological balance,” said Andrew Leigh. Dr Leigh handled a python as a part of the opening event.

“ ‘Snakes Alive’ provides an opportunity to safely handle suitable pythons, lizards and turtles to practically experience some of their characteristics. It’s a hands-on event suitable for all the family.

“Visitors can also observe snakes, lizards and frogs being fed, and have the animals’ requirements explained to them.

“My two young boys came out to see the display with me today and are very excited about being able to see some snakes. I encourage all Canberrans to bring their families along to this unique exhibition.”

The event is nationally recognised as the leading such display in Australia.  This year marks the 20th Anniversary of ‘Snakes Alive’ display by the ACT Herpetological Association.

The ACT Herpetological Association provides an important role in the ACT by informing the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate about local endangered species of reptiles and amphibians.
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Welcoming the Babies 2012

On 4 March, I’m hosting Welcoming the Babies - a community event for parents and carers of children aged 18 months or younger. This will be a chance to meet other parents, find out about community services for new parents, and enjoy a morning out with the whole extended family. All attendees will receive a Baby Pack including community information and a formal certificate.

Date: Sunday, 4 March 2012

Time: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Location: Stage 88, Commonwealth Park (Google maps)

Registration: Register your attendance by phoning 6247 4396, or emailing
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US Republicans Downunder

My opinion piece in today's Canberra Times looks at the local impact of the Coalition's promised 12,000 public service job cuts.
Abbott Plans to Cut APS Heavily, Canberra Times, 20 January 2012

If US politics is the greatest show on earth, then the Republican Primaries must surely be Comedy Central. And no candidate is more radical than libertarian Ron Paul, who believes that there should be no income tax, no foreign aid, and no unemployment benefits. Among Ron Paul’s promises is a plan to abolish five government departments, getting rid of 10 percent of US public servants.

If you think this sounds radical, you may be interested to know that Tony Abbott’s promises are only a little less extreme. In the last election, the Coalition committed to getting rid of 12,000 public servants – around 7 percent of the Australian public service.

Some in the Coalition have claimed that they will exclude front-line services from the cuts. If so, the impact is likely to fall hardest on Canberra. And with the Coalition $70 billion behind in their budget costings, 12,000 may be just the beginning. As Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey told ABC News Breakfast last year: ‘If you want to start with cuts we have said we will cut 12,000 public servants out of Canberra. That is the starting point.’

As many Canberrans will remember, this is what happened in 1996, when the Howard Government won office. Despite promising only modest cuts to public service job numbers before the election, the Howard Government slashed tens of thousands of public service jobs in 1996 and 1997.

The impact of Howard’s public service cuts stands out clearly in the statistics. Comparing economic indicators in the ACT with the rest of Australia over those two years, I estimate that the impact of Howard’s public service job cuts on the ACT was to:

  • Slash $25,000 from the price of the average Canberra home (in an era when house prices were much lower than they are today);

  • Increase the ACT unemployment rate by 1 percentage point; and

  • Increase personal bankruptcies in the ACT by around 100 per year.

Canberra’s home owners, workers and small businesses cannot afford a repeat of 1996-1997.

In a Groundhog Day moment, the Coalition is again assuring voters that cuts will only occur through ‘natural attrition’. Yet when pressed on the ABC’s Lateline program, Joe Hockey admitted that he was contemplating disbanding the entire the Department of Climate Change. It strains credulity to think that entire departments can be abolished without anyone being fired. (And because 3/5ths of the public service are women, a majority of those who lose their jobs are likely to be female.)

Faced with the facts about what the Coalition’s 12,000 job cuts will do to Canberra, the Coalition often resorts to scaremongering about the efficiency dividend, a policy that has been in place since 1987-88. What it fails to recognise is that since Labor came to office, the number of federal public servants has increased modestly every year, from 155,417 in 2007 to 166,495 in 2011. Even when the efficiency dividend was increased to 3.25 percent in 2008-09, the size of the federal public service continued to increase. As the population grows and the electorate demands more from government, this is as it should be.

Comparing the efficiency dividend to 12,000 job cuts is like comparing a scalpel to a chainsaw. An easy way to see this is to look at the Coalition’s own costings from the 2010 election, which estimated the ‘savings’ from 12,000 job cuts at $3.8 billion, compared with less than $1 billion from its proposal to boost the efficiency dividend.

When they’re not in the nation’s capital, Coalition representatives are proud to talk about their plans to cut 12,000 Canberra public service jobs. That’s because deep down, they regard government as the problem, not the solution.

But in my experience, that’s not how most Australians think about public servants. When floods and fires hit, we’re proud of employees in public service agencies like Medicare and Centrelink who help people back on their feet. When Australians get into trouble abroad, we look to consular officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to help out. One of the reasons that Australia avoided the Global Financial Crisis was the rapid fiscal stimulus put in place by Treasury and the Australian Taxation Office.

Unlike US Republicans, most Australians are fundamentally optimistic about the ability of government to create opportunities and provide much-needed services. In his attacks on hard-working public servants, Tony Abbott misreads the national mood. Australia deserves better than Tony Abbott and his commitment to 7/10ths of Ron Paul.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser.
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Forgotten Australians @ the NMA

My article in the Chronicle this month is about the 'Forgotten Australians' exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.
Australians No Longer Forgotten, The Chronicle, 17 January 2012

Hugh McGowan was born to a single mother in Scotland. Lacking any support, she gave him up to a boys’ home in Glasgow. One day the children were asked if they wanted to go to Australia. Twelve year-old Hugh initially agreed, but then changed his mind and told the ‘cottage father’ he didn’t want to go. He still remembers the reply: ‘Too bad, you’re going’.

Hugh is one of half a million ‘forgotten Australians’, who were raised in institutional homes. I met him at the National Museum of Australia’s exhibition, Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions, where he showed me through the gallery and told me his story. Hugh told me that there was a lack of warmth – tough physical labour, corporal punishment, and sometimes even sexual abuse. And at the harshest of times, Hugh said, there was never a father to gently put his arms around you.

If you don’t gasp a few times when going through the exhibition, you’re not looking hard enough. A video depicts young children at Bindoon in Western Australia doing dangerous jobs like blacksmithing and tiling. A hand-drawn map of the layout of Bentleigh Children Home in Victoria shows red crosses where terrified children would hide to avoid abuse. An official sign from another home tells visitors that they are not to hold the babies.

Institutions were sometimes run by well-meaning people, but even then vital parts of childhood could be lost. Ryszard Szablicki said that some time after he left the Melbourne orphanage where he grew up: ‘I heard … people standing singing around a cake that had candles stuck in it. I didn’t even know what was going on.’ As another boy said of the institutions, only ‘intermittent humanity was provided’.

In 2009, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered a national apology to the forgotten Australians. Mr Rudd admitted, ‘whatever I might say today, the truth is, I cannot give you back your childhood. … But what I can do with you is celebrate the spirit that has lived within you over the decades.’ He promised that the Australian government would help trace lost families, provide counselling, and hold this exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.

So if you have a spare hour this summer, head down to the National Museum of Australia, and help ensure that the ‘Forgotten Australians’ become ‘the Remembered Australians’.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser, and his website is The National Museum of Australia’s exhibition Inside: Life in Children’s Homes and Institutions runs until 26 February.
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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.