Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Schoolkids Bonus, Julian Assange, gay marriage, passenger movement charge, Tony Abbott’s $70 billion budget crater


SUBJECTS: Schoolkids Bonus starting today, Julian Assange, gay marriage, passenger movement charge, Tony Abbott’s $70 billion budget crater

TREASURER: It’s great to be here with Jenny Macklin, but also to be with the broader school community. We’ve got two parents here today, Elizabeth and Anthony, they’ve got two beautiful young children, Liam and Lauren.

The reason we’re here is because today 1.3 million Australian families start receiving the Schoolkids Bonus. Of course that is the case for the family with us today, it really helps a lot.

The fact is that having kids is a wonderful thing, but they cost a lot and the Schoolkids Bonus is going to be very important help for parents with cost of living; getting the kids to school, buying the school uniforms, getting the books, going on school excursions. All of those things cost a lot of money.

So the Schoolkids Bonus is going to be very welcome for many families around Australia that are eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A – so that’s why we’re here today to talk to this school community and to talk to the parents about what it really means to them to get this Schoolkids Bonus when it really helps, which is generally at the beginning of term. But I’ll go to Jenny Macklin.

MACKLIN: Thanks very much. If I can first of all thank everyone here at Hughes Primary, the principal Kate and also the family we met this morning. They’re going to be receiving their Schoolkids Bonus today. We are very pleased that along with this family, 1.3 million families will receive their Schoolkids Bonus from today until the end of June.

That will mean for families of primary school aged children they’ll receive $409 per child, for a secondary school aged child $818 per child. From the start of next year the Schoolkids Bonus will be delivered from the start of term one and the start of term three. So families will get the money when they need it and families won’t have to collect their receipts from now, they’ll be able to get the money straight into their bank accounts with the new Schoolkids Bonus.

Unfortunately what we also know is that Tony Abbott voted no to the Schoolkids Bonus. Tony Abbott would see the Schoolkids Bonus taken off parents. This Labor Government wants to make sure that families get extra help through the Schoolkids Bonus, Tony Abbott just wants to take it away.

BRODTMANN: 14,000 ACT families will benefit from the payment and 90 per cent of those who are eligible will get more money than ever before so this is a real boost for Canberra families. It’s a great pleasure to be here today at Hughes Primary.

TREASURER: Over to you.

JOURNALIST: Treasurer, are you concerned that Julian Assange has had to seek political asylum essentially in Ecuador?

TREASURER: Well I’ve seen those reports this morning and he’s receiving full consular assistance. He will continue to receive full consular assistance.

JOURNALIST: What sort of assistance is appropriate?

TREASURER: He’s being provided with the assistance that anyone overseas who requires assistance will receive and he’s continued to do that. Why he has taken this action today, I mean that’s a matter for him to explain. The Australian Government will provide Mr Assange, as we provide to all our citizens, the maximum assistance that they require.

JOURNALIST: Doesn’t it reflect a failure of the Government to provide him appropriate protection if he’s forced to go to another country?

TREASURER: No I don’t accept that at all. The Australian Government is providing full assistance to Mr Assange. He has taken this decision for his own reasons, but we will continue to provide assistance to him.

JOURNALIST: What guarantees have you sought from the US (inaudible)?

TREASURER: We have no information that would suggest this is the case, none whatsoever.

JOURNALIST: Would you support his move to go to Ecuador to seek political asylum?

TREASURER: That’s a matter for Mr Assange. What we will do is provide him with full back up, as we provide to any Australian citizen.

JOURNALIST: Has the Government specifically asked whether a sealed indictment exists?

TREASURER: The Government has no information about this alleged indictment. None whatsoever.

JOURNALIST: That is different to asking the US…

TREASURER: We have not been provided with any information about the indictment. The fact is Mr Assange will take decisions in his own interests as he sees them. What we will do is provide as much assistance as we can as is normal for any Australian citizen overseas. That’s what we’ve been doing and that’s what we will continue to do.

JOURNALIST: Will the ban on gay marriage be pushed forward in Parliament?

TREASURER: Look I couldn’t comment on that. This is a matter for the Parliament, not one that I control.

JOURNALIST: Is there pressure within Labor caucus to push forward the vote?

TREASURER: I don’t believe so.

JOURNALIST: Back on Julian Assange. Do you know specifically what assistance has been given to Mr Assange, if any at all this morning?

TREASURER: No I couldn’t give you a run down, I’m at this event. It’s only unfolded over the last couple of hours.

JOURNALIST: What can you tell us about the changes to departure tax under the budget measure? Is this a back-flip from the Gillard Government?

TREASURER: Those matters will go before the Parliament this morning. We put in place an increase in the passenger movement charge. That increase will go ahead. We’re not going to proceed with indexation, but we will substantially receive an amount of revenue that we had anticipated. It will be a little less because we don’t have indexation.

JOURNALIST: You don’t believe it’s an embarrassing back-flip (inaudible)

TREASURER: No, not at all. The budget and coming back to surplus is very important. The budget is in good shape and the budget legislation is passing the Parliament. That’s something we’re pretty proud of.

JOURNALIST: Do you know if Australia will make any representations on behalf of Julian Assange to Ecuador on this matter?

TREASURER: These are matters for the Foreign Minister to deal with in detail. The news has only come through in the last few hours. I’m sure the Foreign Minister will be making further comment later in the day.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott said to CEDA yesterday that you brought charges some forward, some back from the budget?

TREASURER: Tony Abbott is pretty embarrassed by the budget because we’re coming back to surplus and he’s got a $70 billion crater in his budget bottom line. He’s out there making all sorts of wild statements about the budget.

The fact is that we’re coming back to surplus, we’re doing it in difficult conditions because we’ve had revenue writedowns to the tune of $150 billion. Tony Abbott goes into the Parliament and then wants to attack important measures which build a surplus then goes out and says oh I don’t really accept a surplus.

He can’t bring his budget back to surplus, we have brought the budget back to surplus in difficult conditions. The challenge for Tony Abbott is to demonstrate to the Australian people how he is going to bring the budget back to surplus and I think we know the answer to that. He’ll be going out there and knocking off the Schoolkids Bonus and putting in place really big cuts to help with education.

JOURNALIST: Is it a technical surplus (inaudible)?

TREASURER: No, it’s not a technical surplus at all. It is a surplus which will build over time, which is there on the back of expenditure restraint, there on the back of a lot of hard work from this Government because we’re determined to make sure we come back to surplus, build a buffer against global uncertainty, give the Reserve Bank maximum room to move when it comes to interest rates.

If you’ve got a $300,000 mortgage at the moment you’re paying $4,000 a year less than you were paying when Mr Abbott was last in government.

JOURNALIST: The Greens are citing the treatment of Bradley Manning, which, there was a program on Four Corners, that exposes some of that again on Monday night.

As a reasonable reason for Julian Assange to be afraid as such, that he may not get fair treatment in the US if he was taken back to the US. Do you think that’s a reasonable concern or do you have full faith in the justice system in that regard?

TREASURER: I have full faith in what the Australian Government does, which is to provide full consular assistance to Mr Assange. We do represent their interests, and we will continue to do that. Over and above that, you should be directing your questions later in the day when we have more information about this matter to the Foreign Minister.