The Asian Century

I spoke in parliament tonight about Asia-literacy, Ken Henry's Asian Century report, refugees, and the Canberra Multicultural Festival. The speech is below (and if you're at the Festival this coming Saturday, please come over to the Andrew Leigh stall and say g'day).
The Asian Century
7 February 2012

If there’s one prediction we can confidently make about the Australia of the future, it’s that our nation will become more ethnically diverse and more enmeshed with Asia. Since the end of the White Australia policy, the share of our migrants coming from non-English speaking countries has continued to grow. The effects of this immigration can be seen in the diverse cuisine now available in our restaurants, but this is really only a superficial picture of how migration has affected the nation.

In thousands of workplaces today, Australians are drawing on the culture and experiences of nearly every nation on the globe. At the same time, the growth of China and India is placing us closer than ever to the economic centre of gravity of the world economy. This isn’t just a mining story – in fact, Australia’s service exports to China exceed our coal exports. It’s a story that illuminates the evolution of our national character. The next generation of Australians will be more likely to have been born in Asia, travelled to Asia, worked in Asia, or married someone from Asia.

To look at the economic and social opportunities that this change provides, the Prime Minister has commissioned former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry to produce a report on ‘The Asian Century’. Dr Henry will be assisted by an advisory panel: Peter Drysdale, John Denton, Catherine Livingstone, Gordon de Brouwer, David Gruen and Heather Smith. Submissions for the White Paper close on February 26, and I encourage interested groups and individuals to make a submission.

Growing engagement with Asia means that the parliament needs to keep increasing our Asia-literacy. We can be proud to have a Mandarin-speaking foreign minister and representatives of Asian descent such as Senators Penny Wong and Lisa Singh. I hope we can welcome more Nguyens, Desais and Zhangs into this parliament over the years to come.

Some of us have spent time living in Asia. One of the things I’ve found since coming into parliament is that I’ve increasingly drawn on my own background growing up as a child in Malaysia and Indonesia, and had the chance to tell the stories of people like Jamie Mackie and Herb Feith, who helped forge our nation’s relationship with the region. Thanks to the encouragement of Melanie Tait, I even told the tale of my childhood as an ‘AusAID brat’ in Aceh as part of ABC 666’s ‘Now Hear This’ event last December. It was a daunting and rewarding experience.

As a local MP, a diverse Canberra is a great source of pride for me. This weekend, the annual Canberra Multicultural Festival will be held in my electorate. The festival celebrates differences by showcasing the art, music, dance and food of culturally rich Canberra.

The face of the festival is German immigrant Wolf Blass. Performers will include Troy Cassar-Daley, Anthony Callea and Joe Dolce. The event involves 200 community groups, local and national arts groups, up to 70 diplomatic missions, numerous businesses and tens of thousands of people who attend over the three day festival.

Over the summer months, it has been my pleasure to speak at a number of multicultural functions in my electorate. In December, I attended the launch of the new premises for the National Ethnic Disability Alliance in the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre. I have also had the pleasure of speaking at the Karen New Year celebrations in Cook, and the Mon National Day celebrations in at Merici College in Braddon. Both the Karen and Mon communities have proud histories, yet continue to be repressed by the Burmese government. I particularly acknowledge the valuable work of Karen community leaders Nai Shin Thu, Ester Kyaw and Saw Tha Wah, and Mon community leaders Nai Tin Aye, Nai Pe Thein Zar, Nai Loka Chanmi and Hongsar Channaibanya.

Canberra is fortunate to have many champions of multiculturalism, including Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Senator Lundy, ACT Minister for Multicultural Affairs Joy Burch, her director Nic Manikis, Kathy Ragless of Companion House, John Gunn of the ACT Multicultural Youth Services, and many others who work to resettle refugees, including Geoff McPherson, David Cran and Bevil Purnell.

Finally, I congratulate Sam Wong who was announced by the Prime Minister last month as one of only 40 ‘People of Australia Ambassadors’ for 2012. As an ambassador Sam will strengthen our capacity as a nation to bring people together and build bridges of understanding and respect.
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Talking Productivity

There's been a lot of talk about productivity lately, so I figured it'd be worth doing a short video to talk about why it matters, and what the federal government is doing to boost productivity.

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Talking Politics with Ross Solly

I spoke yesterday with ABC 666's Ross Solly. He was keen to talk about personalities, and I wanted to talk about issues. It was a fun conversation, and a link to the audio is below.

Talking Politics with Ross Solly - 6 Feb 2012
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ABC News Breakfast 6 February

I was on ABC News Breakfast this morning, my first time on this particular program but with the familiar antagonist Kelly O'Dwyer. Topics included Australia's strong economy and the Coalition's plans to deny personal income tax cuts, but instead give them to big miners and big polluters.
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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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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.