Family Tax Benefit, Labor Party Tax Policy – Doorstop Interview, Albany Creek

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Family Tax Benefit, Labor Party Tax Policy – Doorstop Interview, Albany Creek


Doorstop Interview

ABC Learning Centre, Albany Creek

Friday, 21 May 2004

10.50 am

SUBJECTS: Family Tax Benefit, Labor Party Tax Policy


One of the important things in this Budget was to provide more assistance

for families, the Government has announced an increase in the Family Tax Benefit

of $600 per child per annum. And that is to assist parents with the costs of

bringing up children and also to particularly assist mothers that might be returning

to part-time work because so many families now are juggling work and family

responsibilities and we think it is important to help them. And one of the benefits

of economic management over recent years has been the ability to help families

and to give some relief to families that are juggling work, paying the bills

and raising Australia’s future, the children of Australia and Australian



You looked very comfortable in the sandpit.


I have built a few sandpits over my life, as we moved house it was always

my duty to build a new sandpit and I quite enjoyed it actually, and that experience

comes in handy.


And you were talking to that little girl who was very good at sharing her

toys, John Howard is not very good at sharing his toys is he?


Well, I have raised three children and I have found that sharing toys is not

something that comes naturally to children so…


What about politicians? Prime Ministers?


…well, they don’t play in sandpits, but if you can find a young

daughter that shares toys with her little sister, she is a national treasurer.


Has John Howard indicated to you what the milestones he is talking about,

that he wants to pass?


Obviously we are running down to the next election and we are determined to

win it and we think for the sake of Australia it is important that we do win

it and that is what the Government is focused on at the moment.


Well, the election is one milestone, he said milestones, what is the other

one after that?


Well, let’s, we don’t take anything for granted, we don’t

start working on the election after the next one until the Australian public

have decided the next election, and that is all we are focused on at the moment.


Based on last night, it looks like Mr Howard is not leaving the Lodge any

time soon, does that mean you will be having that discussion with your family

at Christmas time as to how long you stay in the job?


Well as I said, we are absolutely focused on the next election, we don’t

take anything for granted, the future of the Government, the future of me, the

future of John Howard is in the hands of the Australian people, nobody else.


Does it bug you that you may never be Prime Minister?


As I said, I am focusing on the next election and we are not speculating about

anything other than winning the trust of the Australian people at the next election.


You mentioned the child payments there. There seems to be a bit of a wrangle

in the ALP about whether those payments can be quarantined if the Latham Government

wins power. What is your response to that?


Well, there is now utter confusion in the Labor Party on policy. We have a

situation where Bob McMullan, the Finance Minister, told the press that the

Labor Party reserves the right to take back family assistance after the next

election, and he has reiterated that. Mark Latham says: “Oh, he didn’t

really mean it,” that we don’t intend to take back family benefits

after the next election. Earlier in the week we had David Cox, the Shadow Assistant

Treasurer saying that Labor reserved the right to take back tax cuts, and then

we had Mr Latham coming out and saying he had “no plans” to do so.

Now, clearly there is utter confusion on the Labor side as to policy, and until

such time as Mr Latham announces his tax rates, his tax thresholds, the amount

of money that he wants to spend and where it is coming from, you can’t

believe anything that he says. If he can’t tell you the detail of what

he is proposing, how can you possibly believe what he is proposing? And it is

time for this charade to finish, we have had enough waffle from the Labor Party,

enough confusion, now is the time for them to announce a policy. And we will

be going back to Canberra next week. Mr Latham has got to announce a policy

because until such time as he does, all you get is contradictory statements

and utter confusion from the Labor Party.


The $3000 payment, is it fair that someone like a high paid backbencher like

Mr Dutton here is going to get that when his wife gives birth after July?


It is a universal payment because everybody incurs the cost of child rearing

and having children. Now you can set up a new department that can administer

income tests and asset tests and require more forms to be filled in, but I will

warrant to you at the end of the day the administrative costs of administering

such a system will outweigh any savings, so we think it is better to have a

universal payment. It is simple, it doesn’t involve the same kind of bureaucratic

costs and it recognises the fact that all families incur costs when they have



But do you think most other Australian’s would say look, someone like

Mr Dutton gets paid enough, he doesn’t need that kind of thing?


No, I think most Australian’s would say it is a wonderful thing to introduce

a new maternity payment, why hasn’t somebody done it before, I think that

is what they would be saying.


Do you think it is going to be enough to get more people having babies?


Look, it we didn’t introduce it to convince people who wouldn’t

otherwise have children to have children, I don’t think anybody in their

right mind would say, I will have a baby for $3000. A baby is with you for a

very long period and, believe me, it costs a lot more than that on an annual

basis as I know…


What about a confused teenage girl?


…so I don’t think anybody would in their right mind would do that

and that wasn’t why it was introduced. It was introduced to cover some

of the costs of having a baby. You have a baby you have to buy the nappies and

the bottle and the bouncinette and the capsule for the back of the car and the

cot and you have got to have a room to put the baby in, you need the formulas

and all those things. It is a very expensive business.


And is $3000 enough?


Well, that is another way of looking at it, I am not saying that it is going

to cover all of your costs by any means, it will go some way to helping with

the costs, but as we all know that children are with you for life and they are

a wonderful thing to be with you for life.


Can I just say that there has been some genuine concern expressed that this

$3000 could send the wrong message to confused teenagers, particularly in those

sort of outer suburbs with battling families. I have actually heard some grandparents

and mothers saying, do politicians have any idea what goes through a young girls

mind, $3000? They have had grandkids say to them, “Nanna, we get $3000

if we have a kid.” There is some genuine concern out there about this

policy direction.


I don’t think anybody is going to have a child, anybody in their right

mind is going to have a child just to get the maternity payment…


Even a disturbed teenager?


…well, bear this in mind, a maternity payment already exists. All we

have done is we have brought together the amount and increased them, so if that

is the case it must have been the case before. But having said that…


You are paying it in a lump sum aren’t you?


…having said that, we have also said that where there are mothers at

risk, where a lump sum would not be appropriate, we would put in place other

arrangements. There might be mothers at risk, mothers who are not well, for

example, but they will be a minority of cases. You can always look for the hard

cases, but I think the more important thing is to acknowledge the overwhelming

majority of cases which is parents are doing it tough. They are struggling with

a lot of costs and if the Government can help them, then they should. Last question.


You said that children are always with their parents for life, what about

Natasha Stott Despoja and her mother who is reportedly has been travelling at

the taxpayers expense under the travel payments?


Well, it is, Natasha’s mum still has Natasha with her I suppose. But

look, at the end of the day you have guidelines, the guidelines say as I understand

it, you can nominate somebody to travel with you within Australia, I believe

there are different rules within Australia and outside of Australia and as I

understand it Natasha wasn’t married at the time and so she nominated

her mother, as I understand it that is within the rules…


Do those rules need to be changed?


…and if you want to know about those rules, you had better speak to

Senator Abetz, the Special Minister of State. Thank you very much.