Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Family Tax Benefit increases for teenagers who stay at school

JENNY MACKLIN: First of all I’d like to thank everybody from the Press Gallery for coming along to this barbecue today to support disadvantaged children. The money that’s been raised today will go to St Vincent de Paul who’ll make sure that those children who otherwise would miss out this Christmas will receive gifts and get the sort of support that they need during this festive time. So thank you all very much for your generosity to St Vincent de Paul.

On the issue that we’re here to talk about, Mr Abbott has just made some extraordinary remarks. He is saying, even though he supported the Family Tax Benefit Part A increase for older teenagers when it went through the Parliament. He is now once again being Dr No and saying that he would take this money out of the pockets of families. He’s saying that only certain children, only the right sort of children, should stay on at secondary school and other children should go out to work. Mr Abbott really needs to explain who it is, which of these teenagers that don’t deserve the support that we want to provide to all of our teenagers to make sure they get the chance to stay on at school or vocational education, so that they get the best chance for a good education and a good job.

JOURNALIST: Minister, wasn’t Mr Abbott simply saying that there are certain children who are better off in other areas apart from finishing their high school. Surely you accept that’s the case?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Mr Abbott actually supported this payment increase when it was in the Parliament. Now he’s back to his old habits of just saying no. Mr Abbott should recognise that teenagers once they turn 16, don’t cost less they actually cost more. Having brought up three kids myself I know they don’t cost less once they turn 16. And Mr Abbott should keep up, recognise that parents need that extra financial support when their children turn 16. We also know from the evidence that families from lower income brackets are less likely to see their children finishing school than families in higher income brackets. We want to support all children to stay on at school to get a vocational education if that’s what they want to do, to make sure that they will get a better job. Mr Abbott needs to keep up with the times and recognise that all children deserve our support.

JOURNALIST: Can you spell out Minister brief terms what the plan does from January 1?

JENNY MACKLIN: From January 1 Family Tax Benefit Part A for children aged between 16 – 19 will increase by up to $4,000 per child per year. At the moment the way that Family Tax Benefit works once your child turns 16 Family Tax Benefit goes down. That’s what applied all of the years under the Liberal Government. Plainly the Liberals are completely out of touch with the realities facing families. This Labor Government is delivering on an election commitment, delivering increased support to families when they really need it as their teenagers cost more money. And we’re also providing that extra support to make sure that parents are helped to keep their children, their older teenagers at school.

JOURNALIST: Will we be seeing a bit more of crack down on welfare ripoffs (inaudible) scope and (inaudible) for getting a bit more out of the cheats (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: You’ll have to wait until Mr Swan makes those announcements.

JOURNALIST: But this is (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: This is an election commitment. We made this announcement during the election campaign demonstrating our real concern for carers as they care for their teenagers. We also want to make sure that every child is supported to stay on at school. It’s worth around $770 million over five years and a very, very important investment. Now Mr Abbott is just saying ‘no’, saying that he wants to rip this money off certain parents. He thinks certain children shouldn’t stay on at school. He should really describe why some children are worthy of support and some children aren’t.

JOURNALIST: Does that apply to, does your plan apply to children who go to this so called trade school, who are doing an apprenticeship while they’re at high school, or they’re just doing an apprenticeship outside school?

JENNY MACKLIN: This does support those young people, 16-19 year olds who are continuing in fulltime education. So it might be at school, it might be at TAFE, so whichever they’re doing we want to support. We understand that it doesn’t cost less once your children turn 16, it generally costs more. And that’s why this Labor Government will provide increased support to parents at this important time.

JOURNALIST: So Minister, do you accept that there are some children who would be better off not finishing fulltime education after the age 16 or Year 10, and are you worried that this benefit might be rorted?

JENNY MACKLIN: We recognise how important it is for teenagers to finish their education. All the evidence shows if you stay on at school and finish your education or if you go off and get a trade, get a technical education, you’re going to be better off at the end of it. That’s why we want to support young people to stay on at school, get their education and we also want to support parents as they bring up their older teenagers. We know that teenagers don’t cost less when they turn 16, they generally cost more. And that’s why we’re providing this increased support.

JOURNALIST: And the second part of my question about rorting?

JENNY MACKLIN: We have no evidence that that will happen. We know that parents need this increased support. We know how important it is to keep young people at school and that’s what this increased money will pay for.

JOURNALIST: Does it cover children who leave school and start an apprenticeship?

JENNY MACKLIN: It will cover those people who are enrolled at TAFE, for example, on a fulltime basis.

JOURNALIST: Minister just putting your ALP cap on, which parts of the Faulkner plan do you support in terms of grassroots (inaudible)?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ll make my contribution about National Conference at National Conference. These are issues for the Conference. I don’t intend to make any comment about it today.