October 28, 2015

SUBJECT/S: National Redress Scheme, Cuts to Family Tax Benefits

DAVID SPEERS:  Jenny Macklin, can I start by asking, who would be eligible for payments under the National Redress scheme that Labor plans?


JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND PAYMENTS: The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse estimates around 60,000 people would be eligible for redress payments and also support under the counselling and psychological assistance that people might want to access. The Royal Commission has also recommended that some individuals might seek a personal apology. As you would know there has been a national apology delivered a few years ago to Forgotten Australians and former child migrants and the Royal Commission is now recommending that people might like to seek a personal apology delivered by perpetrators or individual institutions.


SPEERS: Bill Shorten did acknowledge today that it could be more than the 60,000 that the Royal Commission has estimated here. I just want to ask you, would the Redress Scheme be available to people who, for whatever reason, didn’t go forward to the Royal Commission with their particular case?


MACKLIN: That’s really why the Royal Commission has recommended the establishment of a National Redress Agency, and as Bill Shorten has announced today, we do want to see the establishment of this agency. They would do the work to set out the criteria, work with the different groups of people who represent those children who had been abused in the past, work with those affected, work with their families to make sure we get those criteria right.


SPEERS: So there’s obviously a bit of work to be done on that front by the Agency that would be set up. I guess for anyone, it’s a traumatic thing to go through all of this, to bring up these issues, they would want to know that there’s something for them at the end of the tunnel here. Now, again, as you and Bill Shorten acknowledged, there are some institutions that no longer exist or don’t have the cash to pay what they should. Is there any guarantee that Federal and State Governments will be a last resort funder if you like?


MACKLIN: Well I think this is a very important point, and I want to say to anybody watching today, if they haven’t felt that they are able to, have been able so far to come before the Royal Commission or have felt that that’s too difficult, then that’s something that the National Redress Agency will need to do, to be open to encourage and support people who might want to come forward in the future. So that’s the first thing.


As to this issue of the funder of last resort, we do expect that all governments, states, territories and the Commonwealth will need to play that role. In the case of the Commonwealth, it might be in relation to an organisation that might have existed in the past in the Northern Territory when the Commonwealth was still responsible for the Territories, so that might be a case where the Commonwealth needs to step in.


SPEERS: Can I just turn finally, Jenny Macklin, to the Family Tax Benefit payments debate. Have you had any contact with the Government about their latest proposal to rein in spending?


MACKLIN: No we haven’t. I think the message back to the Government is that they’ve been saying for months that they want to have discussions about their child care package, that they want to put forward fairer proposals to fund their child care package than the very unfair cuts to family payments that they’ve had for the last 18 months.


We’ve asked lots of questions about the family and child care changes, who will benefit and who will lose. The Government has point blank refused to release any detailed analysis to Labor or to the Parliament about what their child care package contains. Malcom Turnbull has said that the test for him is fairness. Well there are too many families of single parents, grandparents, other families who are going to be very big losers from their family payment changes that they’ve just put into the Parliament. So I think that the Government should have a very close look at just how unfair these cuts are and how much they would hurt families.


SPEERS: Let me just ask you finally, you’ve identified your concerns about grandparents and sole carers, if they can be addressed then, in general, should parents still be getting Family Tax Benefit Part B payments when their youngest child turns 13?


MACKLIN: Well I think it’s important to understand that there are a number of parts to these cuts. One is that families will lose either all or part of their Family Tax Benefit when their youngest child turns 13. But the other part to this family payment cut that hasn’t received much attention is that the Government wants to abolish all of the Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B end of year supplements. So for some families that will mean thousands of dollars in cuts. So I think those cuts will hurt many families, millions of families in fact, and the Government needs to look very hard at how difficult that will be for millions of Australian families.


SPEERS: Well some concerns there from Labor beyond just grandparents and sole carers missing out, millions of families, she says there, Jenny Macklin, will feel the pinch if the end of year supplements go. A long way to go on those negotiations by the sound of it.