Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Carbon Price Household Assistance advances coming in May and June, ANZ, the Greens

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: From May and June this year 9 out of 10 households will be receiving assistance from the Federal Government – extra money that will go straight into your bank account to help make ends meet. We know that Australian families, pensioners, and many self-funded retirees are struggling to manage their family budgets and we will provide this extra assistance starting in May and June this year.

JOURNALIST: How is that possible?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ll pay families extra money if they are receiving Family Tax Benefit. We’ll also provide extra assistance to pensioners. All of this has been budgeted for in last year’s Budget. We want to make sure that families and pensioners get this extra assistance at a time when they need it.

JOURNALIST: Where does the money come from?

JENNY MACKLIN: From the Budget and of course the money that will be raised as part of the Carbon Price.

JOURNALIST: Will any families be better off?

JENNY MACKLIN: Some families, particularly those on lower incomes, pensioners on lower incomes, we do expect them to be able to receive more by way of assistance than the impact of the carbon price.

JOURNALIST: So can you give us an example of how a family might benefit?

JENNY MACKLIN: The figures are, for families they’ll receive up to an extra $110 a year for each child. Single pensioners will receive just over $330 extra a year and for pensioner couples they’ll receive just over $500 extra a year.

JOURNALIST: What about small business? How will they be compensated?

JENNY MACKLIN: Small businesses will be helped separately. There is a range of different forms of assistance through the tax system.

JOURNALIST: So as a Government, how are you viewing this scheme and the fact that you can announce it today?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re really wanting to let families, pensioners and self-funded retirees know that this assistance is coming. It will come straight into your bank account in May and June this year and of course in July the tax cuts will start.
JOURNALIST: How is this going to help people whose jobs might be affected by industries that might be affected by the carbon tax, who’ll lose their job?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is all about making sure that families and pensioners get extra money in their purses and wallets. We know that they will spend that money, that will help the economy, so it will be positive for jobs. We’ve also just seen the recent jobs figures. It was very positive to see that more jobs are being created in Australia – something that I think other countries around the world would be very pleased to see in their country.

JOURNALIST: Are there any sectors that won’t receive anything?

JENNY MACKLIN: There are some high income people who won’t receive the assistance. What we want to do is give the extra help to those families and those pensioners who really do need extra assistance to balance their family budgets.

JOURNALIST: There are some criticisms that there will be industries hit by the carbon tax, like manufacturing, there will be job losses as companies will have to move offshore, so how is this going to help people who will be essentially without a job?

JENNY MACKLIN: There is a range of assistance in the whole carbon package for different industries. Some like the steel industry have their own industry assistance package. So right across different sectors of the economy there are different sets of assistance. What I’m concentrating on today, as the Minister for Families, is the assistance that will go to households that will provide extra assistance to families, to pensioners, to self-funded retirees to make sure they get assistance to make ends meet.

JOURNALIST: The carbon tax is very unpopular in many marginal electorates, is it too late to buy back their support?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well this is all about making sure that we provide assistance to families who need it most. So those families, those pensioners, those self-funded retirees who are on the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, will get extra assistance and for those who are struggling the most to make ends meet they’ll get higher levels of assistance.

JOURNALIST: This has been controversial, is this a positive sign of it – that we can now see the benefits?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve always wanted to make sure that with this major change to our economy we help families and we help pensioners and we help those self-funded retirees who are on fixed incomes to make ends meet. That’s why we’ll also deliver a tax cut in July. We understand that this is a big change to the economy but we do want to make sure that 9 out of 10 households get the assistance they need as we bring about this change.

JOURNALIST: Last month (inaudible) badly designed, have significant costs to the economy and may not achieve its core aim. What do you say to that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think we have to remember that Mr Howard when he was Prime Minister went to the 2007 election with a proposal for carbon trading scheme very similar to the carbon price which will start on 1 July. What we want to do is make this change for the good of our country to make sure that we can address climate change but we also want to make sure that families and pensioners get the assistance that they need so that they can meet the costs they face in their cost of living.

JOURNALIST: Why is this system philosophically sound?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think you can see that over a long period of time in Australia we’ve had both sides of politics support a carbon trading scheme. Mr Howard took it to the 2007 election. We of course had many people in the Opposition supporting a carbon price. What we have now is this measure through the Australian Parliament. It will start on 1 July. We want to make sure that families and pensioners get the extra assistance they need as we bring in this major change to our economy.

JOURNALIST: And what can consumers expect in terms of power bills, how will this affect their hip pocket?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve got advice about the expected price impact of the carbon price. The expected price impact is 0.7 per cent. Most of the families that we want to help are going to get more than enough to cover the extra cost of the carbon price through this assistance that will come straight into their bank accounts in May and June.

JOURNALIST: Still on the cost of living, what do you make of ANZ lifting its interest rates?

JENNY MACKLIN: I can understand that any ANZ customer would be very, very angry today about the actions of the ANZ bank. I wouldn’t be surprised to see many ANZ customers looking around elsewhere for a better deal.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Bob Brown stepping down as the Greens leader?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’d just like to say that Bob Brown has made an incredible contribution over a very, very long time. Not just in the Australian Senate but of course right through his period as an activist and an environmentalist and I wish him well.

JOURNALIST: The Government will have to work very closely now with Christine Milne, do you think that that is a positive thing?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well our Government has a very clear agenda of our own. We are determined to introduce a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It’s a major, probably the biggest change in social policy since the introduction of Medicare. That will be done by this Labor Government just like Medicare was. Of course we’ll work across the political spectrum to make sure we can get our agenda through the Parliament.

JOURNALIST: Are the Greens are future party of government as Bob Brown stated yesterday?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think history would show that is not the case. I think it is much more likely that we will continue to have the two major parties dominate Australian politics. But that said, I think that we have to face up to the fact that we have a minority Parliament at the moment. We have to work across the Parliament and that is exactly what we are doing.

JOURNALIST: Is it good to see another female lead a party?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think women in Australian politics have really demonstrated over the recent past and now with Christine Milne that we have a big place in Australian politics and I wish her well in her new leadership position.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can I just briefly move back to rates. Is there anything that the Government can do to keep rates low?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the most important thing the Government can do is say to the Australian people we want to do everything we can to enable you to shift your bank if that is what we want to do. I want to say very clearly to the ANZ bank today Australians, especially ANZ customers, are very disappointed with your actions today. We won’t be surprised if many ANZ customers decide to go elsewhere.

JOURNALIST: Are you worried about the other three following suit?

JENNY MACKLIN: We certainly want to make sure that all Australians have access to affordable banking. That is why we want a good competitive banking system. But I’d just say again to the ANZ bank we won’t surprised if customers go elsewhere if this is the way you treat them.