October 21, 2015

SUBJECT/S: Changes to Family Tax Benefits, Joe Hockey

JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Thanks everyone, this morning we see a major back down by the Government on cuts to families. In 2014 the Government announced huge cuts to families, including freezing the Family Tax Benefit rates and thresholds. Well today the Government will back down on those cuts, cuts that would have hurt 1.5 million families across Australia. This is very good news for families, and Labor is very pleased to have stood by families over the past two years to really put the pressure on the Government to back down on these cuts. That’s the good news.

What the Government is also going to do this morning is introduce new legislation that will see a new round of cuts to family payments. We’ve only just seen the legislation so of course we will have to look through the detail, but if the Government thinks they’re going to get a rubber stamp from Labor, they should think again. For example, one of the big changes that they’ve made from last year’s package is that they’re going to stop Family Tax Benefit part B when a families youngest child turns 13. For single parents and grandparent carers looking after teenage children, this will still mean a significant cut for these families.

JOURNALIST: Does the fact that it’s been raised though from 6 to 13 a positive sign of what Labor would have liked?  

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, Labor certainly fought hard against the cut that the Government wanted to impose on single income families. What the Government wanted to do was stop Family Tax Benefit part B when the youngest child turns 6, and that would have meant a cut of around $3,000 each year for those families with children of that age. This new change will mean that the age cut out is 13 years of age, so obviously for families with teenage children, particularly for single income families, single parents and grandparent carers, these are still significant changes.

JOURNALIST: Has the Government actually discussed this with Labor?

JENNY MACKLIN: All they’ve done is provide us with a copy of the legislation and a short briefing. We’ve asked for further information and obviously we will go through the detail ourselves.

JOURNALIST: Obviously this leaves a large amount of savings in the Budget that the Government will have to find elsewhere. Where do you suggest the Government find those savings that they won’t be getting from the Family Tax Benefits?

JENNY MACKLIN: Labor has already put forward two significant areas of savings, much fairer savings. Labor has announced that we think for those multinational corporations that are operating in Australia, they should pay their fair share of tax. For those people who have high income balances in their superannuation, they should pay their fair share of tax. We’ve put these propositions to the Government, we’ve offered to work with the Government on these savings approaches, and they’ve refused. So we want to say to the Government that there are fairer ways to save money to pay for important initiatives such as child care. We don’t want to see single parent families and grandparent carers made worse off.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the cut off age at 13, the Government is still prepared to offer $1,000 each year until that child turns 16. That’s not a bad compromise is it?

JENNY MACKLIN: So a cut of around $2,000 a year for teenagers. Anyone listening who’s got a teenager would know that for a single parent, grandparent carer having to look after teenagers, a cut of $2,000 will certainly hurt.

JOURNALIST: You were saying before that Labor won’t put a rubber stamp to this. How important will it be to have a bipartisan approach, given the numbers of people that will be affected and the savings that could be realised in the Budget?

JENNY MACKLIN: We are prepared to have a bipartisan approach on fairer ways to save money in the Budget, such as for those with higher superannuation balances. Let’s look at a fair way to save money, not saying to single parents that you have to face a cut of say, $2,000 a year, let’s make sure we find a fair way to save money, not hurt these single parent families.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

JENNY MACKLIN: On Family Tax Benefit A, what the Government was proposing to do was freeze the thresholds and the rates. The Government has backed down on those measures and we welcome that. What the Government is now saying that they will do over time is that they will abolish the end of year supplements for those on Family Tax Benefit part A and part B. So these two will be significant changes, we will obviously want to look very closely at the detail and what that impact will be on families.

JOURNALIST: Does Joe Hockey deserve to be the US Ambassador?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m not going to comment on that. This is a big day for Joe Hockey and obviously there were many things that I strongly disagreed with Joe Hockey about. I’m strongly opposed to his cuts to pension indexation, I’m strongly opposed to his cuts to family payments, but today I wish him well for the future, wherever it might take him.

Thank you.


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