Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Schoolkids Bonus, Budget, Craig Thomson – Interviewer: Fran Kelly, Program: ABC RN Breakfast

Program: ABC RN Breakfast

E & OE – Proof only

Subject: Schoolkids Bonus, Budget, Craig Thomson.

FRAN KELLY: Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Minister for Disability Reform. She’s particularly busy in this post-Budget period and she’s in our Parliament House Studios now, Jenny Macklin welcome to Breakfast.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you Fran.

FRAN KELLY: A bribe unrelated to education, that’s what the Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey called this schools kids bonus yesterday. Is he right?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think it just shows how extraordinarily out of touch the Liberal Party has become with ordinary families when they talk about increased help for families in that way. We’ve seen over the last two days the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives trying every single trick in the book to stop this schoolkids bonus going to families. We know that the current education tax refund isn’t delivering the level of support that families are entitled to, we want to change that, we want to give families the extra support that we know they need. And yet yesterday we saw Tony Abbott and all of his Liberals, not only vehemently oppose the schoolkids bonus, but try every, every approach whether it was put more people on the speaking list, not give me leave to first introduce the Bill and move the Third Reading, every single trick to try and stop this money going to parents.

FRAN KELLY: The concerns of some of the Coalition MP’s is that this money won’t be spent on school. It’ll be spent on the pokies, or be spent on alcohol. When we had the stimulus cheques in the mail, we know that some of that went into the pokies, we know some of it went to plasma TVs. Why will it be different?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we also know that it’s a real insult to parents to say if they don’t know how to look after their kids. We know that parents spent more than $410 a year on educating a primary school child, more than $820 a year on educating a secondary school child. This is help for parents who are doing the hard yards, educating their children, doing the right thing by them, and the Liberal Party just wants to stop it. You might recall that it was the Liberal Party that introduced the baby bonus. So for some reason thought it was all right to give parents of new babies $4,000 in a lump sum, and Mr Abbott when he was asked yesterday, well what’s the difference between that and $400 to parents of a primary school aged child, Mr Abbott just said, well it just is. I think it demonstrates that they have no argument whatsoever, they just have no commitment to supporting families right now when they really need it.

FRAN KELLY: Would your argument though that this payment for the school kids bonus is more than just trying to calm voters down about the carbon tax which is coming their way too. It was more generally an education bonus. If you say that till January next year, you send it out at the start of the school year, that’s when the costs come.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s what we’ll be doing on a regular basis but we’ve got major changes happening to the tax system on the 1st July. We’ve got a lot of people who will no longer have to put in a tax return because we’re tripling the tax free threshold, giving a tax cut to so many Australians, including many, many Australian families who are going to benefit from that tax cut. We want to get this education tax refund fixed, so it’s actually delivering the benefits to families that we originally intended it to. And what that will mean as a result of this change, around a million families will get the entitlement they were supposed to get and they’ll get it at the end of June.

FRAN KELLY: And when will they get it?

JENNY MACKLIN: They’ll get the first payment to clean up the education tax refund by the end of June.

FRAN KELLY: In their letterbox in a cheque or (inaudible)?

JENNY MACKLIN: No into their bank accounts because these are people on Family Tax Benefit so they’ll get that payment. It will come into their bank account and then we’ll make sure that at the start of Term I, the start of Term 3, each year parents will get a regular school kids bonus.

FRAN KELLY: Now we know from the past voters tend to take the money and run don’t necessarily give Governments a lot of credit for giving them money. This Government we know also has a bit of a trust issue with voters. If this is, and it’s been widely surmised that this is part of the Government trying to calm the voters down because of the fears about the carbon tax, the impact that’s going to have on their lives, beyond their electricity bills, the but electricity bills is enough. How convinced are you that the voters are going to be wooed by this at all, or calmed by this at all, and if they’re not Labor’s back to ground zero?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think you’ve also got to look at what families need and that’s really what I’m about. I’m about making sure that we provide the extra assistance to families at this time. That we get the schoolkids bonus out into their bank accounts so that parents can use the money. But the reason we’re giving the additional money through Family Tax Benefits starting next year is because we couldn’t get the company tax through the Senate. The Liberal Party opposed that as well. We’ve decided we do want to spread the benefits of the mining boom, the money that we’re getting from the mining tax will now be given to families. That’ll start rolling out in the middle of next year.

FRAN KELLY: It’s twenty-two minutes to eight on Breakfast. Our guest this morning in the Parliament House studio is Families Minister, Jenny Macklin. Minister, your Budget and the good news stories of hand outs for Australians overshadowed already, day one, yesterday, by the continuing questioning about Craig Thompson. Is he drowning out your message?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well obviously there are issues that Mr Thompson has to answer and he’s made it clear that he’s going to make a statement to the Parliament when we come back. So I think we should all wait to hear from him. He’s made it clear that he will make that statement and I think he should be given that opportunity.

FRAN KELLY: What do you want to hear from Craig Thompson in that statement?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well he wants to say what his response is to the Fair Work Australia Report and he made that clear in the Parliament yesterday. So…

FRAN KELLY: What would he have to say though for you to welcome him back in the Caucus, to be relieved enough, to be assured enough rather?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think, let’s take it one step at a time. What’s very important is that he come into the Parliament and make a statement, and respond to the allegations that have been made. We do have to make sure that the Parliament is not the judge and jury in this situation. So let’s see what happens when the Parliament comes back in a week’s time.

FRAN KELLY: Well the Independents sitting on the cross benches are clearly disturbed by the findings of the Fair Work Australia Report. And it’s obvious the Government can’t count on their vote of confidence around this issue. If Craig Thompson is suspended from the Parliament then the Government can’t count on a majority to pass legislation can it?


FRAN KELLY: … It would be a Government in crisis?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well what we’re doing right now is getting legislation through the Parliament that is of great benefit to families, and we’re doing that in the face of serious opposition from the Liberal and National Parties who don’t want to give extra support to families. Tony Abbott last year talked about in his Budget reply speech, talked about forgotten families. Well they’ve certainly been forgotten by Tony Abbott. He’s got a test tonight, this is today that we’re talking about, Tony Abbott is going to do another Budget reply tonight. There is no way he can come into the Parliament and talk about forgotten families after his behaviour yesterday which demonstrates that the Liberal Party has completely forgotten about families.

FRAN KELLY: Just again though, I ask you the question. Yes, you did get your legislation through yesterday, you have been getting legislation through with the help of the cross benches. If those cross benches are not satisfied by what they hear from Craig Thompson, they’re clearly indicating they may support a motion to suspend into the Parliament. That would threaten your capacity to get legislation through into the future, to govern?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well let’s wait and see how Mr Thompson deals with this matter in the coming weeks.

FRAN KELLY: And through all of this as we’ve heard this morning, the ALP paying Craig Thompson’s legal bills up until a couple of weeks ago, why?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well once again, of course, that is a matter for Mr Thompson and the New South Wales Branch. Of course we know how important it is to make sure that you declare these things in your pecuniary interests. I understand that’s now been done. But really the other questions are for Mr Thompson.

FRAN KELLY: In the Parliament yesterday when it was clear that the Independents were telling Craig Thompson that were going to support the Coalition’s motion to have him, to make a statement. What was the mood like? Did it feel to you like the Government was teetering on the edge?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it was clear that Mr Thompson needed to make a statement, and he’s made it clear to the Parliament that he intends to do that. I think that is a good thing.

FRAN KELLY: Are you angry about this? Are you angry about the actions of one man putting such pressure on your Government and distracting you know, the Parliament from your Budget, from the fifth Budget?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you can see I’m spending an enormous amount of effort on trying to get families the extra money that I think they deserve. And actually the people who fought hardest against that yesterday were the Liberal and National Party. They were the people that were making me very angry yesterday. They tried every single trick in the book to try and stop families getting this money. We got it through the Parliament, through the House of Representatives yesterday. It will go through the Senate today, but the Liberal Party are totally opposed and shown now to not be the faintest bit interested in the needs of lower and middle income families.

FRAN KELLY: Minister, thank you very much for joining us.