Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Joint Doorstop Interview with The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister – Budget 2012-13; Schoolkids Bonus; National Disability Insurance Scheme; Mal Brough; Australian Labor Party


PM: It’s great to be here today with Jenny Macklin and with our local members Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann.

On Tuesday night when the Budget is delivered people will see a budget surplus. A budget surplus is the clearest sign we can send of the strength of the Australian economy.

It’s the right thing to deliver a budget surplus, so we create a buffer if the global economy worsens at some time in the future, and it’s the right thing to deliver a budget surplus, so we leave the Reserve Bank of Australia the maximum room to move on interest rates, if it chooses to do so, and we’ve already seen the RBA move last week to cut interest rates.

But at the same time we understand that many families look at the Australian economy, understand that our economy is strong, but for them they do wonder ‘Where’s this resources boom? Where’s my share of it? I’m under pressure making ends meet.’

We do understand that so many families struggle with the costs of raising children, which is why as a Labor Government we’ve delivered benefits like the Paid Parental Leave Scheme – a first in Australia – like more money invested in childcare than ever before to help families with the costs of care.

And today I’m able to announce a new measure to help families with the costs of raising kids.

Today I announce a Schoolkids Bonus, which will be about helping families meet the costs of all the things that the kids need for school.

The Schoolkids Bonus will be $410 for primary school students and $820 for high school students, that’s the annual amount. The money will be paid as an entitlement twice a year, in January and July. It will be paid at the time that families are preparing to get the kids back to school after the summer break and it will be paid at the time that families are preparing for the last two semesters of school, particularly around the time that the kids need all the things for winter.

The Schoolkids Bonus will help families with the costs of all of the things that kids need for school, including the school uniforms, books, computers, pens, paper, all of the costs that kids have getting to school and making sure that they’ve got the things they need during their school days.

This new entitlement, the Schoolkids Bonus, is replacing the Education Tax Refund and so we will introduce legislation in the Parliament next week and we will seek passage of that legislation by the end of the week, so we can start paying the Schoolkids Bonus this financial year.

Now we want to replace the Education Tax Refund because the evidence is telling us that families are not fully accessing this entitlement. Around a million families haven’t got the entitlement that they are due because they haven’t kept their receipts, or they found it difficult to spend the money upfront, and then wait ’til tax time to get their relief from the Education Tax Refund.

And so we are intending to move to this entitlement system, with the first Schoolkids Bonus paid before 30 June this year. 1.3 million families will benefit from this measure, those 1.3 million families are raising 2.3 million children. This is a helping hand for those families, because we understand that so many families are under pressure and this will provide some relief for helping with all of the costs that kids have at school.

I’ll turn now to Jenny Macklin for some comments and then we’ll be happy to take your questions.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Thanks very much Prime Minister and first of all I’d like to thank Woolworths for having us here today. We really appreciate it and also it’s great to see all the things that you can get here, that children need and I think for me personally it brings back memories from not very long ago, when I was trying to keep up with the cost of clothes and shoes for three growing kids.

PM: Growing feet.

MINISTER MACKLIN: Very true, Prime Minister.

So, I just think this new Schoolkids Bonus is going to be fantastic for families. It is going to mean that parents get money in their bank account when they need it, in January and in July, not have to do the paperwork, keep their receipts, put in their tax returns.

We know that it’s important to deliver money straight into people’s bank accounts when they need it most and that’s what’s so good about this Schoolkids Bonus.

So we’ll have the first payment by the end of June this year and then the new payment will start in full from January next year.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what guarantee, or how do you ensure that the families are spending it on those education (inaudible)

PM: Well, we’ve got a system at the moment where we know a million families have missed out on their full entitlement under the Education Tax Refund. Now, that’s a million families who would have spent a lot of money on getting the kids to school and getting the kids everything they need for school, but who haven’t been able to keep their receipts, or haven’t been able to spend upfront and get the money all that time later at tax time.

Now, a million families have got costs getting the kids to school, we want to help them with those costs.

JOURNALIST: This could be a plasma bonus again though, couldn’t it?

PM: Well, the costs for getting the kids to school are there. You’ve got to get the school uniform, you’ve got to buy the books, you’ve got to have the pens and pencils, you want your child to be able to go on the school excursions and not miss out.

All of the costs are there regularly for families, particularly when it’s back to school time and particularly when you’re preparing for the second half of the school year and you might need new winter uniforms, or the second set of shoes for the year because the kids feet have grown. So that’s what the money is going to enable families to afford.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, why didn’t you do it this way in the first place?

PM: Well, we decided that we wanted to help families with the costs of getting the kids to school and we thought that through the tax system was the best way to do it at that stage, but we’ve had a few years of that experience now.

We’ve reminded families of this entitlement, but of the 1.3 million families eligible, a million of them haven’t got their entitlement at all, or in full.

So when you see that, it prompts you to say ‘What’s a better way of getting this money into the hands of families, so it makes a difference for people who are struggling to make ends meet?’

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) to guarantee and ensure that this is spent on education costs and there are no safeguards, you must admit, with this cash handout?

PM: I don’t think anybody who’s got school aged children would say that the costs of having your kids in school all year are somehow less than $410 for a primary school student and $820 for a high school student. The cost of having the kids at school are more than that, this is a helping hand along the way.

JOURNALIST: The Coalition will argue that because you’re rushing it through this week and bringing those costs forward to this financial year, that it’s fiddling the books to ensure the surplus.

PM: Under Labor the Schoolkids Bonus will be paid this year, next year, the year after, the year after that, the year after that and so on into the future. Under Labor this is an ongoing entitlement, the Schoolkids Bonus, paid twice every year.

Now I would be incredibly disappointed if the Opposition let its usual negative tactics get in the way of getting money into the hands of struggling families.

JOURNALIST: Does the fact that you are seeking to put this before the Parliament next week though give you – and I’m not questioning the motive of the policy – but doesn’t it also give you an opportunity to pressure the Opposition politically to get them to support at least this aspect of the budget and presumably others?

PM: Well, having the legislation in the Parliament next week is just the practical consequence of wanting to get the money into families’ hands as soon as possible. So that’s why the legislation’s coming to the Parliament – to make it possible to get money into the hands of families who need it.

JOURNALIST: How much is new money and how much is existing money that’s been rolled into this new scheme?

PM: Because of the difference between the claimant rates under the Education Tax Refund and this system, this is a system that requires more resources, so we provisioned around $2 billion over the forward estimates.

It is going to cost more, because it’s an automatic entitlement to families, to make a difference for those families, the one million families that are either missing out entirely, or in part, from the Education Tax Refund at the moment.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: The Schoolkids Bonus will be paid this year, so it will be paid out of the budget monies this year. The budget will return to surplus on Tuesday night, because that’s the right thing to do for the economy, but we’ve made the decisions necessary to also support working families and we’ve done that deliberately because, whilst our economy is strong, we understand this isn’t everybody’s boom.

We understand that there are families that aren’t in the fast lane of the economy, that get the costs for the kids in school and worry about how they’re going to meet then and wonder whether or not going to the movies on the weekend is ever going to be something that they can do, or always a luxury that they dream of.

We understand that people are struggling to make ends meet, so it’s the right thing to do, to get money to families, into their pockets to help with the costs of getting the kids to school and everything the kids need.

JOURNALIST: Is this a Robin Hood budget?

PM: Look, this is a budget in a traditional Labor fashion. A Labor budget where we are doing the right thing to keep the economy strong for the future, so people have got the benefits of opportunity and jobs, whilst we support working families.

And it builds on the way in which we’ve stepped forward to support working families as a government, over the life of the government.

It’s why we created Paid Parental Leave – first time ever in this country, to do something to help working families at the time you have a baby and with the costs of the baby and needing to leave work to look after your newborn.

That’s why we stepped forward with more money into childcare than ever before and why we’ve moved to paying it fortnightly, because we understood that it was rough for families to pay all of that upfront and wait a long time to get government support back.

And it’s why we’re doing what we’re doing today, building a new system which will better meet the needs of families for the times at which they’ve got to spend money buying the sorts of things we’ve looked at today, the school uniforms, the books, the pencils, the pencil cases. For the older kids the computer that they might work on when they’re at home, or they might carry back and forth to school.

All of those things are costs for families and we want to help with those costs.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on another matter Mal Brough has been, it’s clear that he’s had contact with Mr Ashby on the Slipper matter. Do you believe that that casts any doubt over his appropriateness as a candidate, or that if he runs it would cast a pall over his candidacy?

PM: Look, these are all questions for Mr Brough and for the Opposition. What I would note is that both Mr Brough and Mr Pyne have changed their stories about this matter and so I do think that the Opposition should be fully answering each and every question put to them on this matter.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) expect Mr Brough and Mr Pyne will be called by the Commonwealth lawyers to give evidence if they are not full and frank about what-

PM: -Oh, look, I’m not in the business, as Prime Minister, of dispensing legal advice. So, I can’t help you with that question.

JOURNALIST: You talked about the money flowing through on the carbon tax and now you’re putting money into people’s pockets through this education Schoolkids Bonus. Are you trying to buy back support?

PM: The only thing this is about is getting money into the hands of families who need it.

We’ve got a system at the moment – we created it, never existed before Labor – to help people with the costs of getting the kids into school and during the school year.

We’ve found a better way to make sure people get money when they need it, that’s what has motivated this Schoolkids Bonus today – that we’re looking at actually on some families who have stopped to watch what’s happening with this media conference – many of these families would find it pretty tough to buy all of the things out of these aisles to get the kids to school, that’s what the money’s for.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) the state treasurers from New South Wales and WA have said the funding just isn’t there for their states and they’re saying, accusing you of providing false hope by bringing it forward to (inaudible)

PM: As Jenny Macklin and I announced last week, we will be funding launch sites in the budget a full year earlier than the Productivity Commission recommended. That’s because we want to get on with the job of building a better system for people with disabilities and I’m looking forward to States and Territories joining us in that endeavour. We’ll be asking them to step forward to host one of the launch sites.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Paul Howes said in his column this morning – and I know this will be a difficult question for you, but I’ll ask anyway – he wrote-

PM: -Very, very last question.

JOURNALIST: He wrote in his column today that he believed that it had been the wrong things to do for the Labor Party to remove a leader and that that was why he would not be, he was very supportive of you because he thought I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. Do you think that it was a mistake in the first place?

PM: I’ve dealt with all of these questions a million times in the past. I’m not intending to today.

Thanks very much.