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.Read more
THE ECONOMICS OF CORRUPTION
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’. 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.’
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.
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. 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.
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’.
When corruption really gets into the bones of a society the damage it does to institutions can take generations to heal.Read more
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.Read more
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB ADDRESS
TUESDAY, 29 AUGUST 2023
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.Read more
EVALUATING POLICY IMPACT: WORKING OUT WHAT WORKS*
National Press Club, Canberra
Tuesday, 29 August 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 that all four are perfectly wrong. Let me explain.
In Britain, pilots of social workers in schools showed that 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 (Westlake et al 2023). As a result, the planned national rollout has now been scrapped (Molloy 2023).Read more
MONDAY, 28 AUGUST 2023
SUBJECTS: Pat Farmer's Run for the Voice; Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Welcome, everyone. Thank you so much for being here at the aptly named reconciliation place. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fenner and it's a real privilege to be here this morning.
We've got the remarkable Rob de Castella former World Marathon record holder and founder of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation.
ROB DE CASTELLA AO: Good morning everyone and thanks Andrew. Pat, you are amazing. Isn’t this man amazing? (Applause) You’re two thirds of the way through the journey. The conviction and the drive and the effort to highlight the significance of this referendum that acknowledges First Nations people and gives them a seat at the table is absolutely amazing.
Opinion Piece - Canberra Times 25 August 2023
A century ago, Banjo Paterson wrote in his poem ‘Boots’:
They called us ‘mad Australians’;
they couldn’t understand
How officers and men could fraternise
Paterson’s poem captures Australia’s fundamentally egalitarian ideals. We prefer the word ‘mate’ to the word ‘sir’. We’re likely to think of ourselves as more country pub than country club.
It doesn’t matter who you talk to across the political spectrum; almost everyone believes in a society where a child’s outcomes aren’t predestined from birth.
How well does Australia live up to that ideal? One way of answering that question is to look at how much parents’ incomes affects the incomes of their children, a measure known as the intergenerational elasticity.
On this metric, Australia is more socially mobile than the United States, but less mobile than Scandinavian countries. We do ok, but we could do better.
One of the ways Australia can improve social mobility is by understanding the drivers of disadvantage, and the pathways out of poverty.Read more
ABC MELBOURNE WITH RAFAEL EPSTEIN
WEDNESDAY, 23 AUGUST 2023
TOPICS DISCUSSED: Competition review, Noncompete agreements, Productivity growth.
RAFAEL EPSTEIN (HOST): 22 minutes after 4 o'clock on ABC Radio Melbourne. Andrew Leigh is the Assistant Minister for Competition, also Charities and Treasury. Good afternoon.
ANDREW LEIGH: Good afternoon, Raf, great to be with you.
EPSTEIN: Should I fear this competition review will lead to something as significant as the sale of the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas?
LEIGH: We’re not aiming to break up firms or divest them, Raf. We’re just aiming to get more competition into the market, to make sure that new entrants are coming in not just for the ambition of being bought by the monopolists, but by the ambition of actually taking them on. Whether it's banking or baby food or beer, the Australian economy is a pretty concentrated one and it's become more concentrated over recent decades.
What the review about is in the short‑term, making sure we've got competition that puts downward pressure on prices and helps with the cost‑of‑living challenge, and in the long‑term making sure we have the sort of dynamic productive economy that creates well‑paying jobs and lays the foundations for productivity growth.Read more
NEWS RADIO DRIVE WITH GLEN BARTHOLOMEW
WEDNESDAY, 23 AUGUST 2023
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW (HOST): Australia has one of the most concentrated economies in the world and a lack of competition is seeing many of us pay more for goods and services. As the cost‑of‑living continues to rise the Federal Government today moved to explore tougher laws to stop monopolies and protect consumers from big companies with too much market power. The Assistant Minister for Competition and Treasury Andrew Leigh announced the review today, alongside Treasurer Jim Chalmers, and he joins us now. Andrew Leigh, good afternoon.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Good afternoon, Glen, great to be with you.
BARTHOLOMEW: You've told this program in the past that you think there's just not enough competition in our economy. Is it failing consumers? Are we losing out as a result?
LEIGH: It's not just hurting consumers; it's also hurting suppliers. So you think about our farmers who are squeezed between concentrated suppliers of their fertiliser, and concentrated producers who are buying their products. You think about workers who have too few choices about where to work, particularly in regional markets, which can often mean they don't earn a fair wage. And of course to think about consumers who are hurt in areas from banking to baby food to beer, where there's often just a couple of big players. Market concentration has gotten worse over the last couple of decades. We've seen a rise in mark‑ups, we've seen a fall in the new business formation rate and in the rate of workers shifting to a better job. So all of that's the context in which we've set up this competition review aimed to take a broad approach to find practical reforms across the economy that will boost competition.
SKY NEWS AFTERNOONS WITH TOM CONNELL
WEDNESDAY, 23 AUGUST 2023
TOM CONNELL (HOST): Let’s bring in the Minister for Competition Andrew Leigh, right now, to talk more on this. So there’s an issue here with the size of some companies in some sectors. What are the sectors that you look at, you’ve experienced, that you’ve seen that you just think they have players that are simply too big, something needs to be done about them?
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: It’s a great question, Tom. And, really, if you look right across the Australian economy from banking to baby food to beer, you see too little choice and too few competitors. Australia’s economy is often characterised by being the land of the duopoly. We need to make sure that there’s more vibrant competition. That’s important for consumers because more competition puts downward pressure on prices. But it matters too for suppliers. It matters for our farmers. It matters for workers who need choices as to where they can work if they’re going to earn a wage that reflects their productivity.
So this reform review really is looking right across the Australian economy at opportunities to put in place the sorts of competition reforms that increased living standards by $5,000 per household under the Keating-Hilmer reforms of the 1990s.
CONNELL: So when this review was being sort of scoped with what it can do, how bold can it be? Is it free to say there might need to be government-enforced demergers? And I’m thinking of those areas you mentioned – beer and banking just for a couple of them. Massive amounts of mergers have happened over the past, not so much few years, but the past couple of decades. Does the review need the power to say "We’ve got to actually split some of these companies up?"
LEIGH: No, that’s not something that’s been a priority for us, Tom, but we are looking at merger reviews, as was brought to the government by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Originally when it was headed by Rod Sims and then again by Gina Cass-Gottlieb. And the Commission has a range of recommendations which the competition taskforce will consider.
We’re also open to bright ideas, whether they’re coming from states, territories, business, from the communities sector, from academic experts. We don’t believe we’ve got a monopoly over wisdom in this reform space. This is an area where we want to see a vibrant competition of ideas as we seek to deliver reforms that will in the short term help address the cost of living crisis and in the long term lay the foundations for productivity growth and living standards growth.
CONNELL: So this review is only going to look at laws that happen in the future? It essentially won’t be free to say competition is so bad we might need demergers? It can’t go into that area? Is that what you’re saying?Read more