Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Schoolkids Bonus, Budget.

Program: Sky news AM agenda

E & OE – Proof only

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me on the program now the Minister for Community Services, Jenny Macklin. Minister thanks very much for your time.

JENNY MACKLIN: Great to be here.

KIERAN GILBERT: On the parenting payment or the school kids bonus as we heard the Treasurer refer to there. It is largely about inoculating the Government isn’t it on the issue of the carbon tax as much as anything. You keep talking about cost of living but that’s the big looming cost that everyone, the economy is going to face?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the cost that parents face especially at the start of every school year is making sure they’ve got uniforms that fit, shoes that fit, got all the school books. That’s why we want to make sure we deliver this new schoolkids bonus when parents need it. So they’ll get it half in January and half in July, and it’s all about making sure that we can help parents with the costs of kids going to school.

KIERAN GILBERT: There’s nothing to say it’s going to be spent on education as such. The previous education refund, you had to have receipts. This is going straight into people’s accounts. So it looks like a, you can forgive people for thinking it’s a sign or an effort to try and buffer people from the cost of the carbon tax?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well what we’re trying to do is make sure that parents get this money. We’ve had too many parents miss out under the old system partly because people couldn’t pay out up front, couldn’t pay out all the extra costs and then claim it back. We want to make sure that those million families that are missing out at the moment get the school kids bonus, and get it when they need it in January and June, to help with the costs of uniforms and all the other things that parents certainly know they face every single day their kids go to school.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Coalition’s raised concerns though that as to the nature of how this will be spent. The Government can’t say it is going to be spent on education costs though can it? There’s no guarantee there at all, there’s no way to monitor that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I just think it’s extraordinary that the Liberal Party thinks that they know better than parents. The Liberal Party are so out of touch. It just astounds me that they would insult parents in this way. Parents have got costs of their kids going to school. We want to make sure that we help them with those costs. That’s why we’re making sure that we introduce this new schoolkids bonus and we pay it when parents need it. The Opposition will have the chance this week to support or oppose the legislation. I’ll be putting the legislation into the Parliament. It needs to get through this week and I’d call on the Liberal Party to stop insulting parents and support the legislation.

KIERAN GILBERT: And you’re telling us this morning that the carbon tax did not factor into the Government’s consideration on this policy matter?

JENNY MACKLIN: No it didn’t. This is all about making sure we provide extra support to parents. Making sure we give it to them at a time that is going to be helpful for them to meet the costs of living that they face when their kids go to school.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Treasurer said this is going to be a surplus Budget but a fair go Budget as well as we heard in his comments there to the media this morning. But is it, is it really a fair go Budget when it comes to single parents? ACOSS, the Council of Social Services has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Government to rethink the measure to remove parenting payments for parents when their youngest turns eight as opposed to sixteen.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well you’ll have to wait for the Budget to see the detail of all the different measures that are in it. But I would just say one of the things that this Government is absolutely determined to do more than anything else is to help people into work. And whether you’re a single parent, whether you’re parents with one, two or three kids, it’s much better if you’re out working, and we’re doing everything we possibly can to help people into work, to provide the training that’s needed to get people into work, to provide additional subsidised child care for parents who are getting back into work.

KEIRAN GILBERT: And for single parents, when you’ve got a number of children and they’ve got to take their kids to school, say nine o’clock in the morning, what jobs are there that are that flexible for them to work till two or three at the latest when they’ve got to pick the kids up again. It’s not easy surely?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the good thing is lots of single parents are of course taking up the opportunities that the Government’s offering for increased assistance with training, getting the jobs that are available in our strong economy. But what we’re also doing for all parents, is providing this new schoolkids bonus, so it’ll be there for single parents, it’ll be there for couple parents. We know that all parents need this extra support. I’ll just say once again it’s up to the Liberals this week to decide whether or not they will stand in the way of parents getting this extra money when they really need it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Is that going to be an ongoing part of the Budget that bonus or is it just a one-off?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, it’s an on-going part of the Budget, so the first payment will be made in June this year, and then for the years to come it will be paid in January and June.

KIERAN GILBERT: But for the single parents who are going to lose, they’ll lose $60 a week when their youngest turns eight, moving from the parenting payments onto Newstart. If they can’t find a job, that’s quite a hit isn’t it, $60 a week for a struggling single parent at home?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I say you’ll have to wait for the Budget to see the details of what is actually decided. But I would say to all parents we’re here to make sure we provide additional assistance that’s why we’ve changed this education assistance to be a schoolkids bonus that’s paid when parents need it. It’s paid for every single child where the parents are on Family Tax Benefit Part A. The vast majority of single parents of course are getting both Family Tax Benefit Part A and Part B and they’ll get this additional schoolkids bonus.

KIERAN GILBERT: This Budget is going to be critical isn’t it for the prospects of the Government as well, as much as anything?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well our objective is to do two things. One is to make sure we continue to build a strong economy and that’s why the Treasurer’s determined to bring the Budget back to surplus. But it’s also why we’re making sure we help low and middle income families with the schoolkids bonus, with the extra money that we’re putting into dental care for people who’ve been on the dental waiting list.

KIERAN GILBERT: But it’s vital for the Government’s survival thought isn’t it? The numbers are awful and it’s shocked a lot of your colleagues in the Labor Caucus, just despair across your Party. It’s vital for a number of reasons.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I can tell you my focus is really on making sure we get this legislation through the Parliament that we don’t see the Liberal Party just block it and say no to parents getting this extra help that they really need.

KIERAN GILBERT: Jenny Macklin I appreciate your time this morning. Thanks a lot for that.