Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Budget, support for families, Craig Thomson, same sex marriage – Interviewer: Barrie Cassidy, Program: ABC1 Insiders

Program: Insiders

E & OE – Proof only

BARRIE CASSIDY: Jenny Macklin, good morning, welcome.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you, Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Why did the Prime Minister have a go at the people living on Sydney’s north shore?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think, let’s cut to the chase, on this issue. What happened last week is that the Government got through the parliament a new schoolkids bonus that’s going to help families who’ve got children at school, $820 a year, if you’ve got a secondary school child. Mr Abbott did everything he could to oppose that schoolkids bonus and next year we are going to increase family payments up to $600 a year extra if you’ve got a couple of kids and Mr Abbott is saying, is threatening that.

BARRIE CASSIDY: That’s the advertisement, but what’s the answer. Why did she have a go at people living on the north shore?

JENNY MACKLIN: Because we’ve got Mr Abbott on the one-hand saying parents don’t need this extra help, parents in fact shouldn’t get this money, according to Mr Abbott. I think it really shows how out of touch he is and now the real test for him is, is he going to take this money off parents? He’s saying that he may not support the family payment increases, which we’re going to put through the Parliament soon.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So she might be offended by what Tony Abbott said and he lives on the north shore, but only those on the north shore will fail to realise families need relief, now that suggests that at least some of them are uncaring and out of touch.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s no question that Mr Abbott is one of those, he says that the people who are not really benefitting from the boom in many parts of Australia, families who are finding it hard to make ends meet, shouldn’t get the schoolkids bonus. Barrie, they tried every single trick in the book to try and stop me getting that schoolkids bonus through the Parliament, wouldn’t give me leave to put the Bill into the Parliament, they cranked up the speakers list to try and stop the vote coming on. We got it through the Parliament, parents are now going to get this money at the end of June, and it’s only Tony Abbott who’s out there saying parents shouldn’t get it and if they do get it, is then, insulting them by saying they’ll just waste it.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Well it is true that they will get it, why is it then that opinion polls show the majority of people think that they will be worse off under this budget?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t think that they will be worse off.

BARRIE CASSIDY: No but they think they will, why is that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well give people a little bit of time to look through the detail. I think we managed to get one Bill through the Parliament last week on the schoolkids bonus amongst others but I think the important thing is for parents to be able to see the benefits that will come through, that will help them. We saw that the Liberals said no to the company tax cut that we wanted to put through the Parliament, so we decided to use that money to spread the benefits of the boom to families right around the country. He’s now saying he’s not sure what will happen to that money, whether or not he will take if off parents. So I think if you look at the real contrast between what we’re offering families and what Tony Abbott’s threatening, parents will have a bit of a think about it.

BARRIE CASSIDY: And could it be that they don’t get it already because a lot of static around in the Parliament or because government ministers are just lousy communicators?

MACKLIN: Maybe me? Um, I think the facts are that they’ve got to look at the detail, people have got to have time. One of the things we do know about families, even on this Mother’s Day, families are very busy and nevertheless I think that they will benefit from this money. We know that there are many many families finding it hard to make ends meet, that’s why we decided to add this extra money so that we could help them.

BARRIE CASSIDY: You call it a schoolkids bonus, and you call it extra money but it’s something that they’ve been eligible for all along. How is it a bonus?

JENNY MACKLIN: Because around a million families weren’t getting the full benefit of the education tax refund, which was the previous way we were providing help to families with the cost of education, families weren’t claiming their full entitlement , so they obviously didn’t like the paperwork, they didn’t have the money to put out in advance. So we wanted to make the policy change. That’s why we needed to get the bill through the parliament this week, so we can wrap up this year’s payment, get the money out to families , and of course from January next year we’ll pay it at the start of term 1 and then at the start of term 3.

BARRIE CASSIDY: And then the extra family payment next year, up to $800 or so, that would not have been possible if the Coalition had supported the cuts and company taxes, that’s right isn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct, it’s because the opposition opposed the company tax cut, that we have that money available to us so we decided to spread that money that is coming from the mining tax to those families who need it most.

BARRIE CASSIDY: And so it wasn’t your preference to deliver it in this way, it was the second best option.

JENNY MACKLIN: We wanted to cut company tax. We recognise that that would be good for the economy. We couldn’t get it through the Parliament, and the reason we couldn’t get it through the parliament was because the Liberal party opposed it. Now, a sensible thing to do in that circumstance is to think well what should we do, how can we spread the benefits of the boom in another way, and we thought the best way was to give a family benefit increase.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Now, on the Craig Thomson matter, did you see the interview yesterday and what did you make of it?

JENNY MACKLIN: I did see the interview yesterday and I think what Mr Thomson will do in the parliament will be, as he has said, explain his point of view so I think that will be the next step in this matter.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Was it in any way convincing and plausible to you?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think the really important thing here and listening to everybody who is being careful about this issue, rather than people playing politics with it, they do understand how important it is that members of parliament are not the judge and jury on this, so it’s not a matter of what I think or what my judgment is, in the end that will be a matter for the police, and if it goes there a court.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So have you made some judgments at the time you were watching this, you don’t want to share those judgments with us now?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I just don’t think it’s appropriate, I really don’t. I think there’s probably a lot of people across the parliament who also don’t think it’s appropriate. I think these are serious allegations, so don’t get me wrong, but they are allegations and it will be a terrible thing if our Parliament becomes like a Kangaroo court.

BARRIE CASSIDY: There are actually findings which goes a bit beyond allegations doesn’t it? Like, the government authority looked at this for 3-years or more and came up with a whole list of findings.

JENNY MACKLIN: Sure they are findings from Fair Work Australia, that’s true, and they are serious as I have just said. But that doesn’t mean the Parliament decides whether or not a person is guilty. There has to be, it’s very important for our country, that that matter is dealt with, if it goes there, in a court.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Well that may be true that it’s not there for the Parliament to be judge and jury, but would it be fair for the Independents to join the Coalition and censure Craig Thomson based on what is already on the public record?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well let’s see what Mr Thomson has to say and what we do in terms of work on a code of conduct. I understand that there is already some work going on in the Senate on that matter. There’s no question that the public has high expectations about our behaviour and that’s right and proper, but as to what will happen I think we’ll just have to let Mr Thomson make his statement and see what happens.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So there might be a bit of sympathy there to raise the standards and then to apply those higher standards to all members.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think yeah, everybody understands that we have high standards expected of us and there’s work going on as I understand on how the code of conduct might be developed further.

BARRIE CASSIDY: And again I mention the censure motion, that’s quite separate to coming up with a motion to improve the standards. So my question again, do you think it will be justified on the part of the Independents to join the Coalition, and censure Craig Thomson?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t want to go into any of these hypotheticals, I think as everybody has said Mr Thomson is going to make a statement to the Parliament, let’s listen to what he has to say and I’m sure the House of Representatives will make decisions after that.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Now how do you feel as a senior member of the Labor party that Barack Obama and now the conservative Prime Minister of New Zealand is way out of head of your party of the issue of gay marriages?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well in fact the Labor party at our recent national conference of course made it clear that we would all have a conscience vote on this matter if it comes before the Parliament. I’ve made clear my person view, which is that as a matter of equality people should be able to choose to marry if they want to, so that’s my personal view, and certainly if it does come through to the Parliament that’s the way I would vote.

BARRIE CASSIDY: So how disappointing is it for members who share your view that Julia Gillard won’t budge on it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think what’s more disappointing is that right across the Parliament there won’t be a conscience vote. I think this is a matter that people should be able to make their own minds up.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Yeah but that’s a separate issue to what the attitude is towards Julia Gillard on this issue within the party, I mean you talk to people all the time, what do they feel about it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think people understand there are strongly held views right across the parliament and I have my views and I understand others don’t agree with it, and that’s why it has been agreed inside the Labor party that people will be able to make their own decisions based on their own conscience and I think that should be the case across the Parliament.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Jenny Macklin thanks for your time this morning.