The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dr Andrew Leigh's first speech

Some great quotes from a friend who we all have high hopes for:

“What we need in Australian policy today is not more ideologues, convinced that their prescriptions are the answer, but modest reformers willing to try new solutions, and discover whether they actually deliver results.

This spirit of optimistic experimentation has deep roots in our nation. Manning Clark once said that Australia was an experiment for the multiple faiths of the Holy Spirit, the Enlightenment and a New Britannia. So you get the sense that in these early days, the Australian project was one of expansiveness, enlargement and possibility, where people were prepared to take risks and try new ideas in an effort to show that in Australia we did things differently, and better, than elsewhere around the world…

To me, the Australian project is about encouraging economic growth, while ensuring that its benefits are shared across the community. It is about making sure that all Australians have great public services, regardless of ethnicity, income or postcode. And it is about recognising that governments have a role in expanding opportunities, because no child gets to choose the circumstances of their birth…

Another important part of the Australian project has been democratic innovation. What we call the secret ballot is elsewhere termed ‘the Australian ballot’. We introduced female suffrage a generation before many other nations. We made voting compulsory, recognising that with rights come responsibilities.

Yet for all this innovation, Australians have increasingly become disenchanted with their elected representatives. The problem has many sources: the rowdiness of Question Time, too much focus by the commentariat on tactics rather than ideas, and a tendency to oversimplify problems and oversell solutions. I hope to help rebuild a sense of trust between citizens and politicians.

It starts with respect, and a recognition that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Working as associate to Justice Michael Kirby taught me that intellect and compassion together are a powerful force for change. Admit that most choices are tough. Listen to others. Be flexible. And remember that the fire in your belly doesn’t prevent you from wearing a smile on your face.

Australian politics isn’t a war between good parties and evil parties. At its best, it is a contest of ideas between decent people who are committed to representing their local communities. I am happy to count among my friends people on both sides of this house – and I am sure some of those friends will be happy to know that I don’t plan to name them today.”