Andrew Leigh leaves the blogosphere

… and a ton of other stuff; hopefully temporarily. Andrew is going to Treasury for six months to try his hand as a public servant. On the one hand, I see this as a terrific opportunity, rarely afforded Australian academics, to see government from the inside. For what Andrew does that is essential and so long as it is temporary, his academic career will not suffer for it.

But for me personally, this is a big change. Andrew and I have written many papers over the past few years and continue to do so. Some of those are in the publication train but there will inevitably be a pause to the creation of new ones. But Andrew’s blog was the reason I got into this business and I get so much from reading both it and his AFR columns that were, by far, the best in the country. Many will miss that.

There is, however, another role Andrew was playing. For media commentary (not just on our joint work), we were each other’s fall-back. For instance, recently, I decided not to comment any more on the baby bonus and the timing issues that this would create today and tomorrow. Andrew stepped in and was there to save me from having to explain my decision to journalists. I’ll have to do my own wriggling now.

It is not all cost. One of the biggest mysteries Andrew and I had to deal with was why our push to have the baby bonus installment stopped failed earlier this year. The evidence and economics were compelling and it was a new political party in office. But yet we failed. Interestingly, one clue on that has come to light and it turns out that the policy we will have from 1st January, 2009, is in fact an original Latham era policy to do with parental leave. We had not been aware of this. The original policy involved fortnightly payments and a more stringent means test. But it was not motivated like Costello’s ‘one for the country’ absurdity but about parental leave. Hopefully, it will morph into that.

As a (temporary) insider, Andrew will likely get to learn more about what makes policies get traction and what doesn’t. This will be a valuable for all of us.

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