Carbon Pricing

I spoke in parliament last Thursday about carbon pricing.
Carbon Pricing, 7 July 2011

Labor's policy on climate change is grounded on three simple facts: (1) Australia is the largest per capita polluter of carbon in the developed world; (2) climate change is real; and (3) the market mechanism is the most efficient way of dealing with dangerous climate change. What is striking about what the member for Moncrieff likes to say about this is that Australia's emissions should not be taken into account; Australia cannot do anything about dangerous climate change. He neglects the fact that Australia's per capita emissions are the highest in the developed world. And what is particularly striking about the comments of the member for Moncrieff is that the coalition themselves are committed to a five per cent reduction by 2020. It is odd, isn't it? You would think if the member for Moncrieff really believed what he was saying, he would be arguing that Australia should not do anything and that the Liberal Party should walk away from the bipartisan emissions target. But he is not saying that. He just thinks that we should get to that target in a very inefficient way. That is the coalition's policy. By contrast, Labor recognises that we want to reduce pollution using market mechanisms. Business needs certainty, big polluters should be taxed and families deserve appropriate assistance. So our package targets the big polluters. It provides assistance to nine out of 10 households and it will cut 160 million tonnes of carbon pollution by 2020.

The Leader of the Opposition has gone into interesting territory in recent weeks. He has been repeatedly asked to name a single economist who will back him up, and he cannot name one. He cannot name a single economist who will back him. I have put that question to the member for Moncrieff from time to time and he will sort of shrug his shoulders and wriggle a little. But the Leader of the Opposition has decided he is going to come out punching on this. He said last week: 'maybe that is a comment on the quality of our economists'. Professor Joshua Gans, my good friend and co-author, who won the Economics Society of Australia award for the best Australian economist under the age of 40, put it best on his blog when he said: 'maybe that's a comment on the quality of our opposition leaders'.

You might well think, if you were to listen to the Leader of the Opposition, that he is talking about just Australian economists. There is something specific about the Australian economics profession. But as Professor John Quiggin pointed out in the Australian Financial Review today, overseas economists are just as hostile to the sort of voodoo economics that the coalition would have you believe in. John Quiggin reminds us that Greg Mankiw, George Bush's chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, established the Pigou Club dedicated to the notion that appropriate corrective taxes are the best way of dealing with environmental challenges. Who are the radical, low-quality economists that have signed up to the Pigou Club? There is Gary Becker, Paul Krugman, William Nordhaus, Kenneth Rogoff, Larry Summers. You would expect maybe there is a 'No Pigou Club' to go up against it. Well, actually there is not. Someone tried to form one and it turned out that they could not find any members for it.

Then you might think—and we have been making this claim a little—that the opposition's policy would have some supporters among command and control economies. We have been suggesting that their climate change is effectively Moscow on the Molonglo. The sad thing is I think we now have to withdraw that claim. Even in China, as John Quiggin points out, where central planning is still very much in vogue, the Chinese Communist Party's 12th five-year plan, the one that will run from 2011 to 2015, includes market mechanisms to deal with dangerous climate change. The Chinese, with all their central planning, are far more pro-market than is the current opposition.

Of course, the Leader of the Opposition has been hitting up businesses left, right and centre with his mobile scare campaign. This is a man who is pulling more stunts than Jim Rose. The great stuntman of Australian politics has been inflicting much of this misinformation upon my own constituents. That is the great cost of things. He has been taking his mobile scare campaign to some of the local businesses near this House. He went to David Smash Repairs in Queanbeyan and said that they would face substantial costs and substantial job losses. It is a little hard to see exactly how this is going to eventuate. They are a smash repairer. They fix people's cars. Are we going to be sending cars overseas to get fixed under an emissions trading scheme? I do not think so.

Of course, there is generous household assistance. This is exactly the sort of thing that the household assistance is for. More than half the carbon price revenue raised from big polluters will go to households to cover the very small price impacts.

The Leader of the Opposition then went to Ziggy's Garden Fresh in the Belconnen Markets. He walked around there telling any shopper who would listen to him that food and grocery prices were going up under a carbon pricing regime. We can go to CPRS modelling. What does it say about the impact of the former Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on fresh food prices? It suggests the impact would have been 0.6 per cent. Let us take a kilogram of apples or oranges. That means that the price impact would have been less than 2c. A kilo of broccoli would have been 3.5c. Once we take into account household assistance, many households will be well ahead under the carbon pricing package. They will not, however, be well ahead under the Leader of the Opposition's 'subsidies for polluters' policy. As the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has pointed out, the Leader of the Opposition's subsidies for polluters policy would cost an average family $720 a year which is, if you want to talk Ziggy's Garden Fresh numbers, 241 kilos of apples.

The Leader of the Opposition then took his mobile scare campaign to Capital Doorworks, a business owned by a former Liberal Party political candidate in the ACT. The Leader of the Opposition then began his scare campaign suggesting the price of doors would go up as a result of carbon pricing. Capital Doorworks is, I can assure the House, not one of the businesses to which carbon pricing will apply. Treasury modelling suggests that the prices of products such as those sold by Capital Doorworks would rise by 0.7 per cent under the former Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the government will provide generous assistance to deal with price impacts.

The Leader of the Opposition has been taking his mobile stunt campaign, his Jim Rose campaign, to Visy. He has visited a number of Visy plants, claiming that there will be massive impacts on Visy's business. Of course, he always neglects to mention the industry assistance that will be provided. Under the former CPRS, 94.5 per cent shielding from the carbon price would mean an impact of just $1 per tonne of product. Put another way, if you had enough boxes to hold 3,000 pizzas, the cost impact under the former CPRS would be $1. I think the household assistance will well and truly cover that.

It is very difficult to know the position of the Leader of the Opposition on this because he did write in Battlelines:

The Howard government had a preference for market mechanisms because these are generally most conducive to maximising choice.

A government member: He was right.

Dr LEIGH: He was right, as my colleague points out. The Leader of the Opposition also wrote:

The Howard Government ... proposed an emissions trading scheme because this seemed the best way to obtain the highest emission reduction at the lowest cost.

That leaves me with a dilemma. This was written down by the Leader of the Opposition in Battlelines and the most recent claims were things that he said. So, given the guidance that the Leader of the Opposition gave us in the last election campaign, I suppose we should probably favour the things that are written down. But then he sends out press releases as well. I am a bit confused by that because it is something he said but it is written down. Do I believe this or do I believe the book because it has a nice solid binding around the outside?

Frankly, the Leader of the Opposition is all scare and no facts in this debate. The carbon pricing scheme is the right scheme to deal with dangerous climate change. We will provide appropriate household assistance and Australia has a bright future ahead of us under a carbon pricing regime.
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Democracy in Malaysia

I spoke in parliament today about democratisation movements in Malaysia.
Bersih 2.0
7 July 2011

Elections are the best way we have yet devised to choose representatives of the people, and to hold leaders accountable. Malaysia has a parliamentary system, one that has now functioned for more than 50 years but without the ruling National Front ever having experienced defeat at the national level. Belief in the integrity of the electoral system is crucial for Malaysia's stability and prosperity.

Bersih—which literally means clean—is a coalition of organisations that believe that the government appointed electoral commission must urgently address policies, regulations and procedures that allow electoral outcomes to be corrupted and the wishes of the people to be no longer accurately reflected in parliament. Whilst it is understandable that the ruling National Front sees itself as 'the government' and utters forebodings that its defeat would harm the country, Malaysia is a much more prosperous and advanced country than its naysayers might suggest.

Bersih 2.0, led by a former president of the Malaysian Bar Council, has agreed to forgo the major street demonstration scheduled for 9 July and accept a compromise to hold its rally in a stadium. I hope Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will order the immediate release from detention of MP Jeyakumar Devaraj and all those who have been arrested simply for wearing yellow or expressing support for the process of electoral reform.
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Majura Parkway Funded

Terrific news today that the Majura Parkway is going to be funded, in a 50/50 split between the federal and ACT governments. This is something I've been pushing for since before I entered parliament, and I'm delighted to see it's now going to become a reality.

Here's the joint media release from federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher:

More than 40 years after the first line appeared on a map, construction of the long awaited Majura Parkway will finally start next year and be completed in 2016.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese today said the project had secured the backing of the Gillard Labor Government and would receive $144 million in Federal funding, matching the ACT Government’s contribution dollar-for-dollar.

“Recommended by Infrastructure Australia and set to be built with monies from our Building Australia Fund, the Majura Parkway will make it easier for Canberrans to get around their city as well as well as taking trucks off local streets,” said Mr Albanese.

“Construction of this new road is an investment in Canberra’s future, with Infrastructure Australia putting its long term economic, social and environmental benefits at close to $1 billion.

"Funding for the Majura Parkway builds on the record capital works program we initiated in our very first budget back in 2008.  Together with the Gallagher Labor Government, we’re building the modern, well planned transport infrastructure befitting Canberra’s status as our nation’s capital.

“This confirmation of funding for this project is the culmination of a persistent and passionate community campaign led by local MPs including Gai Brodtmann, Andrew Leigh, Mike Kelly and Senator Kate Lundy.”

The Majura Parkway will be an 11.5 kilometre long duplicated road with seven bridges and three interchanges at the intersections with Fairbairn Avenue, Federal Highway and Monaro Highway.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the Majura Parkway upgrade means increased accessability for motorists from Canberra’s north into the city and southern suburbs.

“It will also play a key role in distributing freight in a safer way by diverting heavy vehicles around the city and avoiding populated areas and on major arterial roads like Northbourne Avenue,” the Chief Minister said.

“Some 2,800 commercial vehicles and 18,000 passenger vehicles currently use Majura Parkway and this figure is expected to double in the next 15 years.

“There is no doubt Canberra is a growing city and the agreement between the ACT and Federal Labor Government’s shows a strong and constructive working relationship that can deliver for all Canberrans to improve daily life.

“This project of national significance will benefit Canberra as a freight hub and Australia’s national capital, but will also improve commute times in and out of Canberra on a daily basis for thousands of people who live and work in the ACT.”

More from the Canberra Times.
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Australian Student Prizes

Congratulations to the 12 ACT students who won Australian Student Prizes today - James Cribb, Thomas Emerson, Swaranjali Vijaya Jain, Harrison Steel, Daniel Steemson, Jessica Carly Thomson, Aisha Marie Woodruff, Luke David Heinrich, Daniela Lisacek, Judy Mengzhou Wang, and Wenray Wang. Here's a media release.
MEDIA RELEASE - Fraser student wins national education prize

Federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh today congratulated a local student whose academic achievement has earned them a 2010 Australian Student Prize.

The Australian Student Prize is awarded annually to 500 young Australians in recognition of their excellence in academic achievements, with winners nominated by state and territory education authorities.

Judy Mengzhou Wang was among this year’s winners.

“The Australian Government promotes excellence in our schools, and Judy is among the nation’s highest achievers,” Andrew Leigh said.

“The Australian Student Prize is a way of recognising and rewarding these students and I congratulate them for their achievements.”

The Prize is also awarded to members of the 2010 Australian Mathematics and Science Olympiad teams who won medals in mathematics, informatics, physics, chemistry and biology.

Each Prize includes a certificate and an award of $2000 from the Australian Government.

Winners for the 2010 school year included 12 students from the Australian Capital Territory, 154 from New South Wales, three from the Northern Territory, 97 from Queensland, 43 from South Australia, 11 from Tasmania, 132 from Victoria and 48 from Western Australia.

A full list of 2010 Australian Prize Winners is available at

Further information about the Australian Student Prize is available at:


7 July 2011
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Launching Jemma Purdey's biography of Herb Feith

I was proud tonight to launch Jemma Purdey's fine biography of the late Herb Feith. We had around 120 people in the Main Committee Room at Parliament House, which was testament to the number of people Herb's life touched.

Book Launch of Jemma Purdey, From Vienna to Yogyakarta: The Life of Herb Feith
Andrew Leigh MP
Parliament House
6 July 2011

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, and thanking those who have worked hard to organise today, particularly Louise Crossman and Nik Feith Tan.

Jemmy Purdey, family and friends of Herb, internationalists all – thank you for coming today to celebrate Herb’s life and Jemma’s fine book.

Let me begin with a story.

When I was in grade six, the teacher asked our class to do a history project. The aim of the project was for each student to do their own primary research. Some students interviewed their grandparents. Others wrote about how their suburb had developed. One student wrote a history of the Holden Commodore.

I interviewed Indonesian-Australians about the mass killings of communist sympathisers in Indonesia in the mid-1960s. My assignment wrote about the terror of neighbours using the purge as an excuse to settle scores, about bodies floating down rivers, and about how Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt noted with satisfaction that 500,000 communist sympathisers had been ‘knocked off’.

To this day, I still wonder what my teacher made of it.

Looking back, I don’t remember precisely how this topic came about – but I have a feeling that my parents Barbara and Michael (who are here tonight) might have had something to do with it. It wasn’t just that we lived for a year in Malaysia and another three years in Indonesia – it was also that ours was a household where batik shirts were normal, where Far Eastern Economic Review and Inside Indonesia sat on the coffee table, and where we talked non-stop about ideas. I thought of my childhood when I read in Jemma’s book an account of a Feith family holiday:

'Dad’s in a gay mood and we’re all having a merry time. There have been plenty of discussions too. Mum and Dad have been reading an extremely interesting work by Martin Buber on Jewish Mysticism and that’s been one of our many topics of conversation … then we’ve had a few more battles on the old subject of whether morality is prudential and relative or absolute … By and large I think we’ve managed to keep off politics.'

Reading Jemma’s splendid biography of the great Herb Feith, I feel like a movie extra watching a blockbuster. (Look, there I am – behind the potplant!)

Herb’s friend Lance Castles – who crops up so often – was our next door neighbour in Banda Aceh. I remember Herb staying with us in Jakarta in the early-1980s. And it was Herb who encouraged my father to do his PhD at Cornell rather than ANU – opening my eyes to the chance that I might also study in the US, where I ended up meeting my wife Gweneth.

Incidentally, I can’t help noting that Herb and Betty met on the tennis court, the same place that my grandparents met. This struck me as coincidental until I realised that both Betty and my grandparents were Methodist – and when you don’t drink or dance, it rather cuts down the possible venues at which you might meet someone of the opposite sex.

Herb Feith was larger than life in so many ways. As a child, he would bend down – looking at you with his penetrating brown eyes – and ask serious questions. When someone made a joke, he would always be the last one still laughing. There’s something appealingly vulnerable about this – I noticed the other day that the Dalai Lama does it too.

And Herb was fabulously eccentric. Jemma notes that he became a vegetarian in the 1970s, but her book doesn’t mention a crucial fact: because he was making the choice for political reasons, he still ate chicken bones. As a child, I distinctly recall watching with wide eyes as Herb said ‘well, if you’re not going to eat those bones, I’ll have them’, and then devouring the bones.

Herb’s most famous achievement was to pioneer a volunteering scheme that has now become Australian Volunteers for International Development, sending more than 10,000 volunteers to developing countries in the past 60 years.

From a young age, Herb helped others. In high school, he went door-to-door collecting for war-ravaged Germans and other Europeans. With his friends from the Student Christian Movement, he collected for the Christmas Bowl appeal – perhaps causing his Jewish mother to raise an eyebrow.

While still at Melbourne University, Herb wrote to both the Indonesian and Australian governments suggesting that a voluntary technical assistance scheme, building on the goodwill of the Colombo Plan, might be a good idea. His own secondment in Jakarta to the Indonesian Ministry of Information showed that it was possible for an Australian to work in such a position. Back home, the Student Christian Movement – and subsequently the National Union of Australian University Students – were strong supporters.

In the end, the momentum for the scheme was overwhelming. Jemma recounts the story of Don Anderson – newly returned from seeing Herb at work in Indonesia – giving a speech in Canberra to an audience that included Robert Garran and Robert Menzies. Menzies is reputed to have muttered to Solicitor General Kenneth Bailey ‘How much will it cost?’. A figure was made up on the spot, and turned out later to be roughly accurate. In 1952, the Australian and Indonesian governments signed the agreement that formally created the scheme. Herb was then aged 22.

Yet there were still challenges.

  • Some officials at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta were patronising, while others even tried to talk Herb out of the idea (though some, such as Alf Parsons, were strong supporters)

  • The salary was modest – volunteers were given a bicycle to get around, and paid the same rate as a local working in the same position.

  • Finding new positions was a constant challenge – in the early days, volunteers had to find the posts that would be occupied by the next wave of scheme volunteers

There were also the challenges that Australians today still feel when going to a developing nation – whether to give to beggars, how to develop genuine friendships with local people, the feeling of being overwhelmed at the scale of the challenge, and the sense of what Herb once called ‘whitelessness’.

And yet, there really is an ‘Australian model’ of volunteering. Jemma tells the tale of Herb and some early volunteers joining a group of American volunteers on a day-trip to Bogor. While the Americans drove, the Australians and Indonesians piled together into a local bus. When they arrived, the Americans had brought an elaborate picnic, including tablecloths. The Australians had a simple meal of rice and vegetables, wrapped in banana leaves. It brought amusement from the Indonesians who joined them, but it was symbolic too. As Herb wrote in 1954, ‘these young people assert by the way they live, that racial equality is real. By having natural and friendly relations with Indonesians on the basis of mutual respect’. Indeed, Herb’s subsequent PhD thesis was dedicated to his friend Djaelani, a Jakarta servant who lived in one of the city’s many slums. Jemma’s account of Herb’s early days in Indonesia should be compulsory reading for every young Australian setting off to volunteer in a developing nation.

The other big theme in the book is the value of individual liberties. Jemma recounts Herb’s early years growing up in a Jewish family in Vienna. At the age of seven, his mother held him up to the apartment window to watch the city’s synagogues burn – the infamous Kristallnacht. During his life, Herb spoke out against anti-Chinese and anti-Communist attacks in Indonesia, against the hanging of Ronald Ryan, against apartheid in South Africa, and against the Vietnam War. Protesting against uranium exports, he was kicked in the stomach by a Victoria police horse. As pro-Indonesian militias began to wreak havoc the day after the East Timor referendum, Herb held the hand of an elderly village woman and berated the Indonesian militia men who were threatening her. The same Herb who had looked out upon the fires of Kristallnacht six decades earlier now stood up to protect a woman who might otherwise have fallen victim to another ethnically motivated atrocity.

Herb was fundamentally right on issues of human rights. And he was probably correct to criticise some economists for devoting too little attention to Suharto’s repression of democracy (indeed, the same could be said of some China scholars today). Yet, I think that he perhaps underplayed the importance of economic integration in reducing poverty and infant mortality. Contrary to what ‘dependency theory’ suggests, rising incomes in developed nations are a boon, not a hindrance, to reducing world poverty.

Indeed, I would have loved to engage Herb on the issue of economic globalisation precisely because he was so strongly in favour of immigration – an issue close to my own heart. Among the maiden speeches of new members of the House of Representatives, one thing that stood out for me was that nearly every Labor member spoke warmly of the migrant experience, and the benefits immigration has brought to Australia. Perhaps it’s that we instinctively regard the Australian project as an international one. Maybe it’s that we tend to identify a little more with the misfit and the outsider. Whatever the reason, it’s one of the things that makes me most proud to represent the Labor Party.

And yet – as you might expect of a party formed to protect the rights of Australian workers – our history is far from unblemished. Jemma reminds us that one reason Australia only took 5000 Jewish refugees before the outbreak of war was statements like that of Labor Senator John Armstrong, who said in 1938 ‘I urge the Government to take steps to prevent the unrestricted immigration of Jews to this country’. Jemma also reminds us of the way that the White Australia Policy was used to rip families apart. Indeed, Labor Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell was shocked when the High Court ruled that he could not deport an Indonesian woman who had six children with her Australian husband.

It was injustices such as these that Herb sought to right. As he once said ‘it is the changeability of every situation, the fact that at every turn there is the opportunity to help in a way which however small appears in some way fundamental’.

The wonderfully energetic and eccentric Herb Feith died too soon. And yet with this splendid biography, his ideas, his energy and his passion for making a difference are there for many to see.

As Tony Reid wrote, ‘He seemed to know everybody worth knowing in Indonesia and what’s more to be loved by them in a way that opened every door… whenever I was in the field I had the model of Herb in my brain as the way it morally could and should be done’.

May this be so for many generations of Australian volunteers to come.

Here's Jemma's speech:

  • Good evening everyone. It is wonderful to see so familiar faces here tonight including many of Herb’s friends, colleagues and family.

  • An occupational hazard of the biographer is that we can’t stop ourselves imagining our subject’s views on situations and events. So not surprisingly, I can’t help but try to imagine what Herb would have thought of this event this evening.  His biography - written by a woman he fleetingly knew as the postgraduate student of one of his early students and colleagues – being launched by a member for parliament he knew as a boy; in Canberra at Parliament House. As his biographer, I can only draw from the substance of my investigations of Herb through his letters, scholarly work and conversations with his friends, families and colleagues, to find the answer – as indeed I did so many times in the course of writing his life! I think he would have approved. Herb was not hostile to the idea of his biography being written – although autobiography was not something he was comfortable with so much. As I write in the introduction to the book, he threw little of his written records away (many boxes of which, reside just a short walk from here at the National Library) Indeed, Herb assisted his friend Bob Hadiwinata to begin such a project. I don’t think he would have considered it unimportant or insignificant either, that the author of this particular version of his life follows a generational line of Indonesia scholars that began with him and his peers in the 1950s in Australia. I would not be here, would never have taken the route to Indonesian Studies scholarship if not for the pathbreaking work of Herb Feith, Jamie Mackie, John Legge and others in the Australian academy in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. My teacher and mentor at Melbourne University, Charles Coppel (Herb’s own student and colleague at Monash in the 60s), not only encouraged me in my pursuit of deeper exploration and understanding of an Indonesia I became fascinated with as an undergraduate, but also encouraged me to undertake this special task – to write Herb’s life story. I’m so pleased his confidence paid off and he felt he could write the words that the publishers have featured on the book’s cover!

  • I think too, that Herb would have approved very much and indeed been extremely proud of Andrew Leigh’s involvement tonight (for which I personally thank him deeply). As he mentioned, Andrew also represents this generational progression of Australians who are Asia literate and dedicated to understanding our neighbours, following his father and mother, Michael and Barbara.

  • Andrew recently spoke in the parliament about Jamie Mackie, another foundational figure in Asian studies, and great mentor of mine. Jamie loved that he and I were both from small towns in northern Victoria who ended up studying Indonesia and was always a great encouragement to me during the process. As Andrew highlighted in telling Jamie’s story, and I hope my biography of Herb has also shown,  these two exceptional intellectuals and academics were not content to reside within the comfortable milieu of the academy, but like many others of their peers in post-war Australia they saw their roles as much as visionaries and activists walking in protest marches, writing petitions, supporting refugees and encouraging a new generation of Australians to experience and strive to better understand the world, its problems and our place within it.

  • So what of the chosen location, Parliament House in Canberra? Herb was a social activist and a political scientist and so a great deal of his time was preoccupied with what was going on in this place especially in terms of Australia’s foreign policy. In the course of my research, I must say I was somewhat surprised by how seldom he communicated directly with members of parliament, or with bureaucrats at DFAT. Indeed, for some periods of his life, it was not a place with which he wanted any contact at all – his assistance to East Timorese in support of their clandestine activities for example, required this sort of distance. As Andrew mentioned, as a young Australian in Jakarta in the 1950s he and his fellow volunteers preferred not to identify with the embassy and its activities. But as a political scientist, Herb was also aware more than most, of the power of the influence that could be brought by this place and never took lightly his approaches to senate committees, parliamentarians and ministers on various issues over the years, including on East Timor, West Papua and United Nations reforms on self-determination claims.

  • Moreover, key aspects of his life, as is the case for many of us, were directly impacted by decisions made here; including the founding agreement between the Indonesian and Australian governments here in Canberra, to support the Graduate Employment Scheme in 1952.

  • But going back even further than that, it was the debates that took place and decisions made here in Parliament House in 1938 concerning the granting of visas to Jewish refugees, that decided Herb’s fate as a young boy escaping the pending horrors in Nazi Europe with his parents, Arthur and Lily. On 22 November 1938 not long after Kristallnacht, the Minister for the Interior, John McEwen, confessed to the parliament that he was overwhelmed by the desperate stories he was hearing each day from those pleading for visas for their friends and relatives.  The government’s earlier decision to lower the monetary guarantee that must be put forward by applicants or their sponsors opened the gates a little wider for some and the refugee quota was increased to 15,000 Jews over three years.  A week after McEwen’s speech in parliament, the Feith’s visa application was sponsored and approved and Herb became one of only 5,000 Jews granted entrance visas to Australia before the war commenced in September 1939. The Feiths were remarkably lucky, but it was too little too late for Australia’s effort. The public debate and bureaucratic dragging that went on then and which prevented many more Jews from finding refuge in Australia in 1938-39 sadly reflects debates of today. Right up until the last day of his life Herb cared deeply about protection of asylum seekers and refugees and oppressed minorities, and was critical of the inaction of governments to take leadership in humanitarian ways to alleviate such suffering.

  • Can I conclude by expressing my deep thanks again to Andrew for launching the biography tonight and acting as our host here in this special place; and to his staff, particularly Louise, for making it happen. My most sincere thanks to Nik, who voluntarily took over a great deal of the coordination for the event and for his kind words earlier as family representative. I have taken the opportunity in the acknowledgements section in the book to thank the many who made this work possible and such an honour to complete over the years, but I must again thank Betty, David, Annie and Rob Feith for so generously sharing Herb and their lives with me. And the Australian community of world-leading Indonesianists for their ongoing work and deep knowledge of Indonesia. We have a wonderful resource in these scholars and their students in the Australian academy, which should not be underestimated. For making the research and this book possible my thanks also to the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies and Arts Faculty at Monash University, the Australian Research Council, National Library, and Australia Indonesia Institute. Finally, thanks to my family for their great support, some of whom, like all of you, have braved the Canberra winter to be here tonight.

  • Thankyou all for coming and I hope you enjoy reading the story of this remarkable life as much as I have enjoyed the privilege of writing it.

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Book Launch of Herb Feith's Biography - Wednesday, 6th July 2011

I was proud tonight to launch Jemma Purdey’s fine biography of the late Herb Feith. We had around 120 people in the Main Committee Room at Parliament House, which was testament to the number of people Herb’s life touched.
Book Launch of Jemma Purdey, From Vienna to Yogyakarta: The Life of Herb Feith
Andrew Leigh MP
Parliament House
6 July 2011
I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, and thanking those who have worked hard to organise today, particularly Louise Crossman and Nik Feith Tan.
Jemmy Purdey, family and friends of Herb, internationalists all – thank you for coming today to celebrate Herb’s life and Jemma’s fine book.
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Global Fund

I spoke in parliament last night about the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, 5 July 2011

Last week I represented Australia at the 2011 Partnership Forum for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This is a conference that takes place every two to three years and helps set the strategic direction of the Global Fund. The conference was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and included a group of around 25 parliamentarians. Established a decade ago, the Global Fund has spent US$22 billion and saved six million lives. In other words, for every $4,000 it spends, the Global Fund saves a life. Internationally, it accounts for two-thirds of spending on tuberculosis and malaria and a fifth of public spending on HIV. The Global Fund also works hard to bring down the price of drugs, with the prices of first-line antiretrovirals and malaria treatments for children falling by at least 50 percent over the past three years.

The Global Fund's country programs are developed locally and assessed by an independent panel of health experts. Last year the Global Fund treated eight million tuberculosis cases, distributed 160 million insecticide treated bed nets and 890 million condoms, and provided antiretroviral therapy to three million people. A majority of pregnant women now receive antiretrovirals to prevent the transmission of HIV to newborn babies.

These achievements would have been unthinkable a decade ago, when the main malaria treatment was chloroquine, when bed nets were rare and when hardly anyone in developing countries received antiretrovirals. Indeed, since 2007 the number of AIDS deaths worldwide has been falling, prompting The Economist magazine to run a cover story last month titled 'The end of AIDS?'

In an opening session to the conference, a young South American woman, Jacqueline Lima, told us her story. Jacqueline's father left when she was very young, and her mother was unable to take care of her, so she found herself living on the streets from the age of seven. At the age of nine she fell ill and found out that she had HIV, contracted from her mother when she was born. Jacqueline has been on antiretroviral drugs ever since. A few years ago she fell in love with a man who was willing to accept her as an HIV-positive woman. She has since given birth to a baby boy, Hector. Because Jacqueline was on the right drugs, the virus did not pass across to Hector; her son is HIV free. Jacqueline broke down in tears as she told the conference that Hector finally made it all worthwhile.

Australia can be proud of the part we have played in the success of the Global Fund. Since its inception, we have given $182 million to the fund and pledged another $238 million. The fund's focus on results ensures that the Australian taxpayer gets good value for money. In its recent multilateral aid review, the UK Department for International Development rated the Global Fund as making a 'strong' contribution to that country's development objectives. With the fund's independent Office of the Inspector General, no international development agency in the world is more vigilant about corruption than the Global Fund. Rigorous fraud investigations, such as the one the Global Fund is presently undertaking in Papua New Guinea, reflect its high standards in ensuring money is well spent. We should root out corruption wherever we find it, but we also need to recognise that the countries with the worst disease burdens also tend to have the most problems with corruption.

Australia has played a leading role in the fight against AIDS. In New York last month Australia co-chaired the UN panel that produced a new political declaration on HIV, with specific references to at-risk groups. I acknowledge the important work done by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd; Senator Louise Pratt; Bill Whittaker; Andrew Cumpston; Murray Proctor and other officials.

I thank Bill Bowtell, Svend Robinson, Karmen Bennett, the rest of the Global Fund organisational team and the many participants I engaged with for providing me with fresh insights into the work of the fund. It was a particular source of pride for me to see so many Australians at the meeting, working in international agencies, in non-government bodies and with the Global Fund itself. Our nation has a great tradition of altruistic engagement with the world, and I pay tribute to those Australians working overseas who continue that today.

To them I say, on behalf of people like Jacqueline: you are making our world a better place for people endangered by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Incidentally, Australia's independent aid effectiveness review and the government's response were released this morning, and are available here. The #1 objective of our aid program is now officially to alleviate poverty (with national security and trade being spin-offs, but not goals).
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I spoke in parliament yesterday about one of the pieces of legislation that will enable the building of the National Broadband Network.
Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill, 4 July 2011

I would like to begin by telling a story that comes from one of the many mobile offices that I enjoy running through my electorate of Fraser. I was standing one morning at the Kippax shopping centre and a woman came up to me and said: 'There are two issues I want to talk to you about. The first one is that I am retired, I am now in my 80s and I'm concerned about the local bus network.' So we talked for a while about the local bus network, where the stops were located and how that worked for her. Then she said, 'The second issue that concerns me is superfast broadband.' She said: 'I like to communicate with my daughter using Skype, and the picture is really patchy at the moment. You keep on talking about this superfast broadband thing, but when are we going to get it? When am I going to get a video connection that allows me to connect with my daughter?'

What this brought home to me is that those opposite are just so out of touch when they think that superfast broadband is about tweens playing video games. Superfast broadband is a technology that will fundamentally transform Australian society, and it will do that wherever you are on the age spectrum. That is why there are pensioners in my electorate, there are working age people and there are students who are enthusiastic about superfast broadband.

We know some of the ways in which superfast broadband is going to begin transforming our lives. We know, for example, that it will allow access to medical specialists. If you live in an area which does not have a particular medical specialist and you want the chance to see a podiatrist, say, then you will have the option through superfast broadband to do an online consultation with a specialist. Otherwise, you might have to wait in pain for weeks or months until a specialist comes through your town or you have a chance to travel to a place where they are. But with access to superfast broadband we will be able to use technology to deal with the challenge of distance.

With education, of course, superfast broadband is again a transformative technology. I know from the institution where I used to work, the Australian National University, that we initially experimented with what it would be like to have experts do a video seminar. It turned out that the existing technology just was not snappy enough. It really did not feel like you were in the room with the presenter. We tried it once with my friend John Quiggin, who is at the bleeding edge of technology. John's presentation was great, but it just did not work for those of us not in the room in the way it would have worked if he had been there. But as the connections get faster, as we get those 100 megabits a second speeds that are promised by some of this technology, we will get to technology where it will feel like you are in the room. That will fundamentally transform the research enterprise. It will change for the better the experience of being in an academic seminar. No longer will we need to rely on seminar speakers being in the same city; we will be able to immediately have a presenter from the best universities, whether they be in Boston or Beijing, brought in by superfast broadband. That will make Australian researchers more productive.

Superfast broadband will also transform the employment experience. At the moment, it is a challenge if you are a part-timer working in a team. People sometimes say to me that it is okay having one part-time worker in the team, but if you have two or three it is really hard for the team to get together and have a team meeting once a week. But one can easily imagine a situation under superfast broadband in which it is possible for a member of that team to be brought into the conversation, to join the team meeting, maybe for just half an hour in order to be part of the team, and to improve their promotion opportunities at the workplace. It allows the opportunity for part-time workers to be far more integrated into the workforce than they have been before. It offers the potential for people, rather than burning up time and putting out all those CO2 emissions when they fly to a meeting interstate, to use superfast broadband be part of that meeting, to use that new communications infrastructure to have quick conversations with people in other states and to make their small, medium or large business even more productive.

I was at a forum in Gungahlin, in the growth heart of my electorate of Fraser. The questions the Gungahlin Community Council asked about NBN Co. were not, 'Why we are having it?' or, as the member for Wannon might have asked, 'Couldn't wireless do the job?' Those questions were not asked. They asked, 'When are we going to get superfast broadband and could we speed up the process?' They are enthusiastic about the opportunities it offers for improving economic growth and the standard of living in Gungahlin. They recognise that we should, as the member for New England once said so pithily: 'Do it once. Do it right. Do it with fibre.' They recognise, as the member for Wannon and many of those opposite do not, that wireless has saturation problems. It is all very well if you are the only person connected to the wireless signal—then the speeds might be alright. But as other people come onto the network, as we get the crowding that happens as more people join the network or the crowding that we get over the day as more people log on at peak times, then the network slows down, becomes congested and ceases to be effective. That is the real challenge of wireless. It is a fundamental technological point. I am always mildly surprised when those opposite seem to be unfamiliar with the simple idea that wireless signals have saturation problems. We on this side of the House are committed to a National Broadband Network which will transform Australia for the better and be a key economic reform which sits alongside the major economic reforms that the government is putting in place.

The bill before the House, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Fibre Deployment) Bill 2011, will require developers that are constitutional corporations to install fibre-ready passive infrastructure—infrastructure that makes it possible to quickly install fibre networks. It requires passive infrastructure installed in new developments in the long-term NBN fibre footprint to be fibre ready. This of course is a common-sense reform, one that is important to have in place to ensure that as many Australians as possible are able to get access to the National Broadband Network. The legislation allows carriers to access fibre-ready passive infrastructure owned by non-carriers and provides for the ACCC to have a role as the default arbitrator. The legislation creates a power for the minister to specify, by legislative instrument, developments in which fixed lines must be optical fibre. Giving the minister that power will be important in ensuring that the fibre network works as well for Australians as it can. It will provide for exemptions from the requirements to install fibre-ready facilities for optical fibre lines, it will provide for ACMA to develop technical standards that will cover interoperability, performance standards, and design features for superfast broadband rollout.

This legislation is critical to the government's policy of rolling out the National Broadband Network. It will ensure early and less costly access to fibre based broadband for residents in new developments. New developments, of which I expect to have many in my electorate—Fraser having most of the growth suburbs in the ACT—will experience cheaper superfast broadband. Getting that superfast broadband will be absolutely critical to those new residents feeling that they are part of the fibre network, that they have the benefits of superfast broadband network and that they are part of a community.

I have doorknocked some of the outer suburbs of the Fraser electorate. I know that, sometimes when you are doorknocking a growth suburb, you get a sense of frustration from people. Whether it arises from the bus networks, the road networks or the electricity networks, the sense of frustration of those in growth suburbs is keenly felt. This legislation accepts that that is a real issue and it steps up to the plate. Through this legislation we are saying that residents of new developments should get access to superfast broadband and that they deserve access to superfast broadband, with the e-health, e-education and teleworking benefits that superfast broadband will provide. It will give us reduced costs for the deployment of fibre by access to non-carrier duct work, ensuring that, to the greatest extent possible, we can use existing ducts and pipes rather than having to dig new ducts. There is no point in digging up footpaths that do not need to be dug up. If there are ducts in place, we want to create the opportunities for NBN Co. to use those ducts. Of course, this bill is implementing measures announced almost two years ago. The financial impact is expected to be small and it will be met from NBN implementation funding. In conclusion, I stress that the legislation before the House today is very much of a piece with a set of reforms that the Gillard government is committed to. We are committed to making policy not for the snappy grab on the evening news but for the long game—long-term reform, not simplistic three-word slogans. Those long-term reforms contain things such as compulsory superannuation—superannuation that will provide retirement security for millions of Australians, ensuring that Australians have the security of knowing that they can retire in dignity. We are putting in place a set of education reforms that will transform productivity—reforms such as providing school accountability through the MySchool website, rewarding the best teachers through performance pay, moving to demand driven university funding, and providing trades training.

All of these root-and-branch reforms of the education system are about ensuring that in the long run we have an education system that delivers productivity, because we on this side of the House know that long-term growth in living standards comes fundamentally from long-term growth in productivity. That is why we are so committed to these productivity-enhancing reforms such as superfast broadband and education.

Climate change is, of course, another area in which we are committed to the long term. We listen to the scientists. We listen to the economists. Of course, when the Leader of the Opposition does not like what he hears from the scientists, he is willing to go out into crowds of sceptics carrying unusual placards. When he does not like what he hears from the economists—and he is, of course, yet to find a single economist who will back his scheme of so-called direct action rather than a market based mechanism and carbon pricing—he says, 'Maybe that reflects on the quality of the Australian economics profession.' My former co-author, Joshua Gans, who won the medal for the best Australian economist under 40 a couple of years ago, put it best on his blog when, in response, he said that, no, that actually reflects on the quality of Australian opposition leaders.

Those opposite are opposed to fundamental long-term reform in the area of climate change. They are concerned instead with slogans. We on this side of the House are concerned with the long game, with ensuring that we price carbon and make the steady transition to a low-emissions Australia. We are committed to the highway network of the 21st century—the National Broadband Network—laying down an infrastructure that will be as critical to future generations as the road network and the rail network are to ours, an infrastructure that those opposite will oppose now but, I suspect, will look back upon in their dotage and think: 'How did I do that? How did I find myself on the wrong side of that debate? What was I thinking in saying that Australia should be stuck in the slow lane of the information superhighway?' I commend the bill to the House.
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Education Funding

I spoke in Parliament yesterday on education funding, opposing a motion put by the Coalition's education spokesperson, Christopher Pyne (the member for Sturt).
Education Funding, 4 July 2011

I rise to speak against the motion moved by the member for Sturt. The member for Sturt is continuing a tradition, one that we have seen all too often in this House, of those opposite running a mobile scare campaign. We have seen this strongly in the carbon pricing debate with the Leader of the Opposition trawling the country and coming into this parliament arguing that petrol prices were going to go up under an emissions trading scheme. It is simply not true. The Leader of the Opposition has misled parliament over this issue. We now have the member for Sturt moving a motion on funding for non-government schools which seeks to spread fear and misinformation.

It is important to return to the basic facts. The Gillard government is committed to delivering a quality education to every student in Australia. Those of us on this side of the House believe that the public versus private debate is one that can be put to rest. What is important is focusing on students and student needs, not trying to reopen ideological wars which are done and dusted.

In my electorate there are many non-government schools of which I am extremely proud. I spoke recently at the opening of a new school building as part of Burgmann Anglican College, a low-fee school that serves the area of Gungahlin. At that opening the students expressed a great sense of pride in Bishop Ernest Burgmann, who the school is named after and who carried on a great tradition of social justice. I spoke at that opening of the work that Bishop Burgmann did throughout the community, work which was really critical to building a stronger community in the post-war decades, work that I am glad to say has been carried on by his granddaughters, Margaret Watt and Meredith Burgmann, among others. I am also proud to have visited Holy Spirit Primary School, a non-government school that shares playing fields with Gold Creek public school and whose teachers on duty in the playgrounds have decided, much in the spirit of doing away with unnecessary public-private divides, that children should be encouraged to play sport, that every time there is a sporting team it should not be Gold Creek versus Holy Spirit and that any sporting games that are played at recess or lunch need to have mixed teams involving some Holy Spirit kids and some Gold Creek kids on each side. They are showing how you can break down these artificial public-private divides, much as it would be nice to see those in the House doing the same.

Merici College, in my electorate, is involved in a trades training centre, ensuring that students have the opportunity to begin trades training before they finish their school education. Merici is working with a group of non-government schools to ensure that students have the chance to get trades training. These are, perhaps, students who would otherwise have left school a few years earlier and now stay on and get that essential trades training. Through these important non-government schools, as through the many government schools in the Fraser electorate, quality education is being delivered day in and day out. I pay tribute to the great principals, teachers and administrative staff who are involved in that effort. Much of their work often goes unthanked but certainly should be recognised here in this House.

As part of the government's commitment to recognising that the divide between government and non-government schools should be broken down whenever possible, we have put in place a low SES national partnership and we have put in place an improving teacher quality national partnership. Part of those national partnerships are being delivered through non-government schools. For example, the Charnwood-Dunlop government school in Charnwood receives assistance through the low SES national partnership and the St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Charnwood receives assistance through the literacy and numeracy national partnership. These partnerships recognise that we need to focus on need and not simply focus on the system that runs the school.

We are a government which has delivered $64 billion worth of investment and reform in Australia's schools. That is almost double what was delivered by those opposite in the last four years of the Howard government. This investment has been delivered, in large part, through a historic nation-building school infrastructure program.

Often, when I visit schools and have the great opportunity to open new school infrastructure, principals and members of the school community say, 'This really is historic, isn't it? It is hard for me to ever have imagined in my working life that we would see a federal government that would have the vision and the foresight to invest in the school infrastructure of the future.' And they speak to me about the impact the new school infrastructure is making on the educational achievements of their schools. There are schools like Amaroo School which is now able to engage in team teaching thanks to newly designed rooms with walls that open up between the classrooms. For example, a teacher who is a superstar in literacy and one who is doing great work in numeracy might be placed in classrooms side-by-side so that they learn from each other in a team teaching environment.

The new school infrastructure allows investment such as in Black Mountain School where, for the first time, a student in a wheelchair who is receiving an award does not have to stay in front of the stage to receive the award, but can go onto the stage and receive the award just like the students who are able to walk onto the stage. It is a simple piece of infrastructure that provides dignity to the school and to the school community.

The member for Sturt has really become increasingly hysterical over the school funding issue. It is another scare campaign and it is a divisive and inflammatory scare campaign. It is not something that, sadly, we should be surprised about from the current opposition which is opposing absolutely everything that is put forward. The member for Sturt is at odds with his former Liberal Party colleague Brendon Nelson who has acknowledged that the system needs reform and that the funding maintenance was a transitional measure put in place a decade ago.

The member for Sturt is, of course, committed to the Gonski review, but is also committed to continuing the current SES funding model. It is a particularly confused approach that the member for Sturt is pursuing. The Gonski review is a once in a generation chance and an opportunity to really think hard about the best school funding model for the future. That is what a responsible government does. We pursue policies aimed at the long game, policies aimed at getting school funding right for all students. The government has provided some certainty in the parameters that sit around this review. We have said that no school will lose a dollar of funding as a result of the review. We said that current funding arrangements for non-government schools will be extended to the end of 2013 and to the end of 2014 for capital funding. The panel has been asked to provide advice on appropriate transitional arrangements to help schools move easily and fairly to any new funding arrangements. As I noted earlier, the Gillard government has made record investments in these schools. These schools have benefited to a large extent through the record investments made under this government.

The Smarter Schools National Partnership is yet another form of investment that has been put in place. In the ACT schools national partnerships for low SES school communities and improving teacher quality have led to more than $500,000 in facilitation funding. On 28 June more than $1.9 million in reward funding was provided to the ACT for its progress in achieving the targets set under the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy. I am particularly proud to serve in a government which has invested so much in public and in private schools across the board.

Unfortunately, the coalition has continued its scare campaign. The member for Sturt told the House of Representatives on 3 March of this year that:

'It has long been the coalition's policy to maintain the existing SES funding model ...'

Yet, he said to the Christian Schools National Policy Forum on 23 May:

'This review process is welcome and needed. ...'

So, it is very hard to see where the member for Sturt sits on this issue. Of course, we in the Gillard government will continue the long work of reforming and investing in our schools because we know that a great education is great economic policy, great social policy and, of course, great education policy.
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Indigenous Education

I spoke in parliament yesterday about Indigenous education.
Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Bill, 4 July 2011

The 13th of February 2008 was a historic day for Australia. On that day, for the first time, an Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, officially apologised to the stolen generations. This was a historic moment for Australia—a moment when we acknowledged the tragedies of the past and looked with a fresh eye to the future, a future in which there is no gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in life expectancy, educational achievement or economic opportunity.

When the Labor government took office in 2007, we inherited an appalling legacy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inequalities. In the areas of housing, poverty and health, large gaps persisted under the Howard government. We know that Indigenous Australians have a substantially shorter life expectancy. When a young Indigenous baby is born, he or she can expect to live a decade or two fewer than a non-Indigenous baby. It should be simply unacceptable to all of us in this place. It is something that must change—something that will be changed.

Another main issue is improving the educational levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Improving education is fundamental to improving welfare and improving living standards. This government has set out to close the gaps in Indigenous disadvantage. We have set out to close the life expectancy gaps, to close the child mortality gaps, to close the gaps in employment opportunities and to close the gaps in access to early childhood education and educational attainment.

Horace Mann, the early 19th century US congressman and education reformer, whose personal political persuasions were actually more closely akin to those of members opposite, once stated:

'Education … beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery.'

This Labor government shares those sentiments, regardless of the political alignment of their initial spokesperson. The importance of education extends well beyond partisan politics.

Education's place in helping to overcome inequality and disadvantage was reinforced for me when I visited Cape York last year and earlier this year, travelling with the House Standing Committee on Economics. Our task was to consider Indigenous economic development, so I used the chance to ask some of the witnesses about the local schools. It was an issue that had come up when we were chatting outside during the coffee break but which did not seem to be getting air time inside the room. Phyllis Yunkaporta, a witness appearing before the committee, told me:

'The education system, as I knew it before, has been of low standard. The curriculum in the past, as it is in all cape Aboriginal communities, has been of very low standard. By the time our children go out to mainstream schools they are hardly there—a child in grade 8 still has the understanding of a child in grade 1. Speaking for Aurukun, I was one of the persons who were invited to the States last October; I went to New York and Los Angeles visiting African-American schools. What we have brought back to Aurukun is a new kind of teaching method and we are having that implemented in the school. Of course it took time. At the beginning it pretty much had been, in my words, chaos before that. Since having this new program come in, if you come to the classrooms in Aurukun the kids are fully focused. This new method of teaching has got them going. The teacher is full-on with the tasks given and you cannot believe it when you enter those classrooms—it is as if some of those kids are play-acting. They are not; they are just full-on, focused. I guess in time we have to have expectations for our children to be educated in a way where they have to balance both worlds—the Western world and the traditional way. Of course we want them to hang onto the traditional way because that is where they are going to be identifying themselves for the future. And with them having to venture out into mainstream, we want them to compete. It is a competitive world out there. We want our black little kids to start taking on the world. That is the aim of all this.'

No words could be closer to the truth. In work that I did as a professor of economics at ANU with Xiaodong Gong, which was published in Education Economics, we looked at the educational attainment gap in Australian schools. We found that when Indigenous children first enter school they are about a year of educational achievement behind their non-Indigenous peers. We also found that by the time Indigenous children have got to the end of primary school the gap has widened—it is then about two years of educational attainment. Our view is that, perversely, that is something to be optimistic about, because there is something going on in the school system—a system which I think government policies are far more amenable to fixing than would have been the case had we discovered that, for example, the gap was already there when the children first entered school. So that work gives me optimism; it gives me a sense that we can do something about closing the gaps between the performance of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

But those gaps, make no mistake, are substantial. In 2006, 58 per cent of Indigenous children were rated by their teachers as having low academic performance. In contrast, only 19 per cent of non-Indigenous students were rated as having low academic performance. Of those who started year 11, only 22 per cent of Indigenous students went on to complete the year 12 certificate, compared to 62 per cent of non-Indigenous students. These figures provide some sense of the magnitude of the task faced by this Labor government in addressing the gross inequality in educational attainment in Australia.

Since 2008, the Gillard government has invested over $51 million in Indigenous literacy and numeracy projects. Over 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in over 670 schools across the nation have benefited directly from this assistance. Over the 2009-12 period this government has invested $56.4 million nationally to expand literacy and numeracy programs for Indigenous students. We have provided professional support to assist teachers to develop personalised learning plans for their students. We now have 200 additional teachers in the Northern Territory. The $2½ billion Smarter Schools National Partnerships, which holds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education as a key focus, has been introduced to target disadvantage and to contribute to improving literacy and numeracy outcomes. We have also approved more than $25 million for 17 projects, over 2011-12, to continue these efforts.

We have seen the early results of such initiatives. The share of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders obtaining year 10 and year 12 certificates has gradually grown, as has the number of Indigenous students undertaking university education and achieving bachelor degrees. It is important that we continue to track these measures and hold our higher education institutions to account to ensure that the educational outcome that we want—boosting bachelor graduation—is actually achieved. It is my view that we should ask universities to publish as much data as they can not only on the number of Indigenous students who are accepted into the institutions but also on the persistence of those students through the system; the ability of our universities to hold on to Indigenous university students at the same rate as they hold on to non-Indigenous university students. Improving the standard of education among Indigenous communities is at the heart of this government's endeavours to affect broad social and cultural change and break the cycle of disadvantage that plagues these communities.

There are three initiatives that I am particularly proud of in my electorate of Fraser—Learning Journeys, the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program and the Indigenous Youth Mobility Program. Learning Journeys, which is administered by the Northside Community Service, is a $359,000 program which started in May 2010 and is expected to finish at the end of June 2012. It focuses on the development and implementation of creative and innovative approaches to improving educational outcomes for young Indigenous people as well as on improving parental engagement in schools and with education providers and on the engagement of parents with children's education at home. The project focuses on motivating and encouraging adults within families to play an active role in their children's learning journey. This is the kind of active role that we know is so important to educational success. It aims to strengthen the capacity of communities to become active in the school community and to feel respected and empowered to comment on and contribute to the development of schools. It has been a little over 12 months since the program's commencement but already we can point towards a number of outcomes: 82 per cent of parents involved have reported a greater engagement with the local schools; 76 per cent of parents have reported increased presence in the local school community; and 58 per cent of parents say they attended extracurricular events at their school.

The Indigenous Youth Leadership Program likewise is helping to close the gap in Indigenous education disadvantage through support for disadvantaged Indigenous students, mostly from remote and regional areas. There are now six tertiary education students studying in my electorate of Fraser with the support of an Indigenous Youth Leadership Program scholarship. I would like to pay tribute to those students and wish them all the best in their continued studies.

Thirdly, the Indigenous Youth Mobility Program supports young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students aged 16 to 24. This program is administered in the ACT by Auswide Projects, which was originally assisting around 16 participants and due to an increase in demand has now increased its number of places to 24 participants within the ACT.

It is absolutely imperative to the welfare and the quality of life of Indigenous communities that we maintain these efforts. The Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Bill will ensure the government's good work to date will continue. The current Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act provides funding over the 2009-12 period and this bill will extend the current quadrennium to incorporate the 2013 calendar, bringing it into line with the recently extended Schools Assistance Act. This will coincide with the timing of the review of funding for schooling, allowing the government to consider the findings of that report and determine the future structure of funding run under that program.

By re-aligning the legislation to reflect the Schools Assistance Act, we can make sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education programs are afforded the attention they deserve. It allows us to engage in close consultation with Indigenous communities and create a cooperative and inclusive learning environment. Such a learning environment has been brought home to me in my own electorate of Fraser, which includes the Jervis Bay Territory. In May I visited Jervis Bay Primary, a school for the children of Defence Force personnel serving at HMAS Creswell and the children of the Wreck Bay Indigenous community. The school has the lowest ICSEA score of any school in my electorate but, when you do a like-schools comparison—as is possible under the government's terrific MySchool website—you actually see that on a like-schools basis Jervis Bay Primary is one of the top performing schools in the ACT system on pretty much every measure you look at.

Jervis Bay Primary is also one of the most beautiful schools in the electorate of Fraser. The oval looks out across the kangaroos to the Pacific Ocean. You get a real sense that this natural environment is part of what builds a strong sense of community in the local school. There are only 84 students, 63 per cent of whom are Indigenous, but everyone seems to know everyone else. As I walked through the K-2 room with two women from the P&C, I heard behind me one of the boys say, 'What are you doing here, Mum?'

I would like to pay tribute to the principal, Bob Pastor, who coordinated a Learning 4 Life meeting, a really valuable initiative which brings together representatives from the local school community as well as Vincentia High School, the main school into which Jervis Bay Primary feeds, the University of Wollongong, Noah's Ark, Booderee National Park, and local preschools and childcare centres. The group promotes the value of education to Indigenous parents and students, with involvement right through the education spectrum from early childhood right up to TAFE and university. It is that lifelong learning philosophy that pervades the bill that is before us today.

The existing range of programs funded under the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act are aimed at improving educational outcomes for Indigenous people, taking a well-rounded approach to improving education outcomes and life opportunities for Indigenous students. The programs are designed to build strong relationships between Indigenous communities—children, parents and teachers—and the government to ensure that specific needs are met with targeted and effective attention. Such programs include the Sporting Chance Program, the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program, the Indigenous Youth Mobility Program, and the Parental and Community Engagement Program. These programs that are delivered under the act are complementary to mainstream schooling activities. The extension of funding for such programs until the end of 2013 will ensure providers, as well as the Indigenous communities, have certainty of continued program operation. I would like to use this opportunity to commend the bill to the House and extend my praise to all those who have worked in its drafting.
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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.