Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Household assistance

E & OE – Proof only

STEVE VIZARD: So how’s the carbon tax going to affect you? Have you changed your view because of the compensation, the tax advantages you’re going to be receiving? Has any of this changed your view about it all? I’d love to find out, give us a call, 131 873 or drop us a line The Government knows that their future really is in the balance, they’ve staked everything on it, it’s a massive reform, it’s reengineering amongst other things, the tax system. On the line, Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin joins me. Jenny, thanks for your time.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure Steve.

STEVE VIZARD: Jenny, do you understand that when people voted for you, I guess eleven months ago, that they were voting specifically for structural reform of our taxation system, possibly the greatest taxation reform that we’ve seen in generations?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think people certainly did understand and do want to see us address climate change, and I think they also understood that we did a major inquiry into the tax system before the last election. And you’d be aware that there were a number of recommendations that Dr Henry recommended, and that it goes to making sure that we encourage people to take on that bit of extra work, and I think the increase to the tax free threshold is a very positive move to respond to that.

STEVE VIZARD: There’s always going to be anomalies in any sort of reform, but just to give you one…

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s true.

STEVE VIZARD: A single income family, two children aged under five years, earning $80,000 will be worse off, and a $100,000 of income they’ll be $3.25 a week behind. Would you regard these as rich families?

JENNY MACKLIN: No of course we don’t. But the important thing is to look at what that really means for families over their weekly budget and their annual budget, and as the figures that the Treasurer released yesterday shows, we do now know that the impact on people’s weekly budget will be relatively lower than I think people have thought it might be. So for their food budget it will be less than a dollar a week and I do think that that gets that into a better perspective than the sort of discussions that have been going on over the last few months. I think it is unfortunate that Mr Abbott has gone out and scared a lot of people into thinking it was going to be a lot worse than it actually is.

STEVE VIZARD: But you created a vacuum where he could do that?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re obviously pleased now to have the detail out there. There needed to be a lot of discussion with people to make sure that we can get this through the Parliament. That’s now possible. The information’s now available. I think the important thing is that we do talk about what the real impact will be and certainly the impact on people’s food budget will be I think something that most people will see as not too bad.

STEVE VIZARD: As Families Minister you have to look after families, that’s your portfolio.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

STEVE VIZARD: Yet some of the earlier analyses suggested there will be three million families that will be worse off. How do you reconcile those two facts?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I think that’s why I’d really draw attention to what it really means for people. So for those very important staples that I know every family make sure that they can budget for every week, bread, meat, fruit and vegies, milk – having had a couple of teenage boys myself you never know where all the milk’s going. And for all of those things in their food budget when you put them all together, we anticipate from the Treasury modelling that’s been done, it will be less than a dollar a week increase to people’s food budget. So I think that’s what’s important about getting these facts out to people.

STEVE VIZARD: One of the things people struggle to understand is, how given there’s compensation to many taxpayers and to some industries, is any change in behaviour going to be forced in terms of particularly using gas and coal powered products, resources of industry?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes. I think that is a really good question and of course it does go to the heart of why we want to put a price on carbon because that price will apply to the 500 biggest polluters. They will pay a higher price now or a real price for putting pollution into our atmosphere. At the moment they don’t have to pay that price and of course that will mean there’s an incentive on them to clean up their act, and there’ll also be an incentive on all of those industries that currently use a lot of power to find more efficient ways of doing their businesses.

And I think it’s true too for all of us. All families, even if we are providing household assistance, when we go to the supermarket we look at the prices on the shelf and we say, well I can actually buy something that’s a little cheaper, or I can put better light globes in my house, or I can turn the power off at the wall instead of using standby power, and I can keep the difference between what I save and what the Government gives me.

STEVE VIZARD: But why Jenny are they incentivised to do that now if they’re largely compensated, when they couldn’t have done that yesterday before the tax was introduced?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well because people will face different prices and even though it’s true they will receive increased pensions and increased family payments, and as you know that will apply for …..

STEVE VIZARD: I think we’ve just lost Jenny Macklin, have we lost her?….. we’ll try and get her back on the line because I’m interested in the answer to that question.

I’ve got Jenny Macklin, the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister back on the line. Lost you there for a second, Jenny.

JENNY MACKLIN: Sorry about that Steve.

STEVE VIZARD: You’re on the move today.

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re on the Geelong road so it could well have been me.

STEVE VIZARD: I was asking you and you were in the middle of answering. We were asking about why will people be dissuaded from continuing their absolutely current course of conduct if the relativity of their buying power and of the price of things, albeit it at a slightly heightened level, but the relativities are restored to them through the compensation package?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right and as I was saying I think there’s two things that I’d emphasise. One is that we are all sensitive to the prices that we face and we do change our behaviour in the face of whatever we see at the supermarket and elsewhere. But it’s also true that we did want to make sure that those people who are on fixed or low incomes, people like pensioners, are of course less able to manage increases in their prices because of their tight budgets, and that is why we’ve made sure that they have a 20% buffer. So we have wanted to particularly protect pensioners, low income households, and low and middle income families because of their tighter budgets.

STEVE VIZARD: I want to ask you about the Government being essentially in charge through a centrally controlled fund of around $10 billion of taxpayers’ funds. Can you assure people as to why they should be confident that the Government, any Government, this Government in particular, is going to spend our $10 billion of money in respect particularly of new technologies that are commercially unproven?

JENNY MACKLIN: We will have independent and technical advisers and of course there’ll be a proper board so I think people can be assured that we will have the best possible advice in that regard. What is important is of course that we get renewable energy, that we continue to encourage innovation, new ways of doing things that really do make sure that we’re able to be more effective users of electricity and that’s really what this is all about.

STEVE VIZARD: But why should people be assured that you’ll manage that $10 billion which is a massive amount of money better than it was managed, for example, on school halls, or cash for clunkers, or pink batts, or the like. Why should people be assured that a Government is the best repository of management for investments in anything to do with the commercial sector?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think you’re trying to suggest that we’re not able to do that. If I can use an example in my own portfolio, we delivered the biggest pension rise to millions and millions of pensioners back in 2009, and of course that was done on time, it’s been delivered into pensioners’ bank accounts, and has made a big, big difference to pensioners’ lives. We’ve delivered the first ever Paid Parental Leave scheme. That too, is meaning that tens of thousands of families are better off and can spend time at home with their babies in a way that they were never able to before. So I’ve certainly got some very good examples of ways in which the Government has been able to make a difference to families’ lives.

STEVE VIZARD: Jenny, it’s Gough Whitlam’s 95th birthday today. What are your favourite, earliest favourite Gough Whitlam memories?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I was a teenager back in his early years and so of course I remember those days of campaigning as an enthusiastic Labor member at the time, even though I was in a country high school, so that’s probably how I remember it.

STEVE VIZARD: Yeah, good on you. Really appreciate it, and you’re heading down to Geelong, what are you doing down there?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, we’re heading down to Geelong to talk to some families in Geelong.

STEVE VIZARD: Good on you, great to talk to you and I really appreciate your time today.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you Steve.