April 14, 2015

SUBJECT/S: Vaccinations, Tony Abbott’s unfair cuts to pension indexation.






KARVELAS: Now why take a position of financially penalising families rather than focusing on educating these parents who are refusing to vaccinate their children, sometimes on very ideological scientific unsound grounds?


MACKLIN: I think you need to do both. There’s no question that better education helps. But I think there’s another group of families who might be very busy, might have forgotten to get their regular immunisations done, so it’s important to be reminding them too about how important it is to be getting their children immunised. Labor in government did change the rules to make sure that there was a link between the Family Tax Benefit Part A End of Year Supplements and immunisation requirements and so we do support the Government’s proposals to tighten up the rules further to link immunisation requirements with Childcare Benefits and the Childcare Rebate. Anything we can do to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated is good for their kids but also good for all the children in our community.


KARVELAS: Do you think there’s any evidence as to what kind of impact it will have on immunisation rates when in some of these areas if you look at the demographics, they’re quite wealthy, affluent areas where some of these families are really taking an ideological position against vaccinations. Some of these families are so wealthy, I’m not sure $7,500 childcare rebate will mean that much to them. Are you concerned at least, I know you’re supporting it, but are you concerned that it won’t have enough of an impact?


MACKLIN: Well, fortunately the immunisation rates in Australia are already high, we just of course, like the Government want to make sure that it continues to be high. And one of the things they are proposing is to extend these rules out past the five-year old vaccination age arrangement, so I think that’s a good thing too. You may be right, there may be a group of higher income parents who just refuse and if that’s the case then in the end of course parents are responsible for their child’s health, but I do think that the measure that the government is proposing is worth supporting.


KARVELAS: Other than education on top of that, given a lot of these families as I say are pretty wealthy and you would imagine quite well educated as a result of that…


MACKLIN: I think what’s important Patricia is there’s not a lot. The number who are not vaccinating their children fortunately is quite small. But nevertheless it’s still worthwhile continuing to do everything we can to encourage parents to do the right thing by their children and of course most importantly by all the other children in the community and I think that’s the thing that we all have to remember that if some of these very dangerous diseases get hold in a community it can effect small, very small babies before they’re vaccinated in ways that can be truly devastating.


KARVELAS: On RN Drive my guest is Jenny Macklin, Labor’s Families spokeswoman.


Let’s move to this issue we’re seeing with WA, certainly we’re well and truly into the run up to the budget. What’s the ALP’s position on Western Australia’s call for more GST revenue?


MACKLIN: Well these are issues way outside my portfolio, Patricia, as to how the GST may be divided up in the future, I think I’ll leave those comments to Chris Bowen.


KARVELAS: Well on another budget issue that I know you do have some views on. The Government is carrying its pension plan to the next election?


MACKLIN: Yes so I hear. I hear the Treasurer has decided that he is sticking to the position that he and Mr Abbott had in last year’s budget which is to cut the indexation arrangements for pensioners and of course this will see pensioners lose around $80 a week over the next 10 years. Once again this is totally contrary to what Mr Abbott promised before the last election. He said there would be no changes to the pension at all and so now we have the Treasurer saying they are going to stick to this broken promise of cutting pension indexation.


KARVELAS: Well they’re going to take it to the next election, so actually it’s not...?


MACKLIN: Well it’s actually in the Parliament right now, it’s not only that they intend to keep it in the budget and take it to the next election, the Liberal National Party members have already voted to cut pension indexation, when it went through the House of Representatives last year, so they are all committed to cutting pension indexation and Labor will do everything we can in our power to stop that happening.


KARVELAS: There’s obviously been reports today, the Treasurer has spoken about a serious decline in mining royalties. Where’s the money going to come from to replace that mining revenue? The iron ore is falling quite dramatically it’s going to have a dramatic impact on the budget, you need to find savings, is there any way you need to look at bigger reforms on things like the pension? What other…


MACKLIN: It shouldn’t come out of the pockets of some of the poorest Australians. Pensioners live on around $20,000 a year. It’s not a large amount of money and Australia has one of the most tightly targeted pension systems in the developed world. We spend on average about half on Age Pensions compared to similar OECD countries so Australia is not overly generous to pensioners. If anything life is pretty tough on the pension and Labor will not be agreeing to cutting pension indexation.


KARVELAS:  How about the ACOSS proposal on the part-pension for wealthy retirees? Do you think we need to look at the assets test more?


MACKLIN: We’ve seen so many different proposals from the Government in the last few weeks and it seems now that the Treasurer has gone back to cutting pension indexation as his preferred position. I think they might have got the message that many part-pensioners are very frightened by the government’s ‘thought bubbles’ over the last few weeks about changes to the assets test, so who would know what they are actually going to do. But what Labor wants to make sure we have a pension that people can live on, that’s going to sustain…


KARVELAS:  Do you think that the pension, Jenny Macklin, is entirely sustainable? Do you think it needs any reform? Part-pensioners I’m talking about, wealthy retirees, do we need to have a look at some of these proposals coming from the social services sector, people willing to have a debate around this issue, do you think we need to start looking at this?


MACKLIN: I think the area that Chris Bowen has indicated we are prepared to work with the Government on is superannuation for those very high income superannuants who we think could receive less by way of tax concessions and Chris Bowen’s made it very clear to the Treasurer that he is prepared to sit down and work through these issues. That’s where our priority is, not hitting pensioners who are living on very…


KARVELAS:  But how about these wealthy pensioners? We’re talking about pensioners that actually have quite a bit of money - they’re not the pensioners you’re referring to. Accepting your views on indexation and that really is a broad brush policy that might effect a wide range of pensioners including very vulnerable pensioners. This is a reform that deals with the high end why not at least have a debate about it?


MACKLIN: Well we’re prepared to have a debate about the high end of the superannuation system. All the evidence from independent sources shows that Labor is right - that we do have a sustainable pension system if you look at the reports from the OECD, if you look at the report from an organisation called the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index – they found Australia’s retirement income system the second best in the world, Allianz Pension Sustainability Index says Australia has the most sustainable pension in the world. So I think we need to look at the evidence and realise we do have a sustainable pension system in Australia because it is carefully targeted and the place where we can make some changes to help the budget to make the system fair is at the high end of superannuation concessions.


KARVELAS:  Jenny Macklin, thanks so much for joining me again on RN Drive.


MACKLIN: Thank you Patricia.




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