Interview with Graeme Gilbert, Talk Tonight 2SM on Household assistance
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GRAEME GILBERT: We’re told that Australia’s 3.4 million pensioners will receive compensation at least equal to cost of living price rises under the Gillard Government’s carbon price. My next guest who’s responsibility to make sure that happens and I tell you what nobody would envy her job at the moment, it’s a pretty full on role she’s got already, and now with this tweaking of pensions etcetera it is going to be heavily looked at I guess almost under a microscope. Jenny Macklin joins us now, she’s the Minister for Families and Community Services. Good evening Minister.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you.
GRAEME GILBERT: Well I tell you what and I mean it without tongue in cheek, I don’t envy you at the moment because you really are about to face the eye of the storm aren’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: Ah I don’t think so Graeme because the compensation or the assistance that we’re providing to households and particularly to pensioners and those self-funded retirees who are on the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is going to make sure that it more than covers their expected average price rises that will come from the carbon price. And we’ve of course done that because we do understand that people who are on fixed incomes are very careful with their money and find it much harder to move and change. So that’s why we’ve done it this way.
GRAEME GILBERT: I certainly wasn’t having a go at the fact that they’re going to be compensated, Minister, I was simply saying that you’ve got some big sums to get around over the next year.
JENNY MACKLIN: We’ve done that work and we’re ready to start rolling it out as soon as we get the legislation through.
GRAEME GILBERT: Now we talked about adequate compensation, how do we come to that figure because we’ve spoken to a few guests tonight and just in the last year we’ve come out of drought in some areas, we’ve had floods, we’ve seen massive fluctuations in the cost of living, just basic basket of groceries and necessities around the house. So how do we come to these adequate compensation amounts?
JENNY MACKLIN: That is a really good question. We’ve had the Treasury basically look at what different groups of households in Australia spend in an average week. And so for pensioners they’ve done exactly that and what we can say from the work that the Federal Treasury has done is that the expected average price impact for a single pensioner over a year is around $204. So that’s made up of a whole range of things of course that people need to buy and spend their money on. But that’s how they’ve done it. And they’ve compared pensioners to other pensioners so that we get a different number for pensioners compared to families because of course we know pensioners’ spending habits are different, they are more likely to spend more on health related costs than a family that might be just starting out, and of course they’ll have big child care costs, just to choose two obvious differences.
GRAEME GILBERT: But even earlier this year, New South Wales went to a State election in March, and prior to that the Premier, a former colleague of yours Kristina Keneally, and she argued quite forcefully that there should be a different pay scale and a whole range of different scales for people living in Sydney for argument sake because it is the most expensive city in Australia. In fact, I think the latest modelling showed it’s the fourth most expensive city in the world. So is it easy to say that a person living in, I don’t know, Campsie in Sydney gets the same as somebody living up in the Clarence in northern New South Wales, or in Coburg in your part of the world, or what have you? Is it hard to balance those out?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well what we have to do of course is make sure that we provide the assistance as efficiently as possible and as fairly as possible. And using the pension system or the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, or in the case of families, of course, the family payment system, the tax system, all of this does apply to people right around Australia and we have decided to use the tax and payment system, the pension system, because it is the easiest way to get it out to people and the most effective way.
GRAEME GILBERT: Yeah, as I say, I don’t envy you having to do these sums. Now another thing, just before I ask you, I just need to tell people they’ve just gone full time in the Monday night National Rugby League, Cowboys have defeated the Knights 22-12, that’s the full time score. Now, with these adjustments to pension and we’re talking what aged, carers, disability, we’re talking all pensions aren’t we?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct. So aged pensioners, disability support pensioners, those on the carer payment, and veterans’ pensions as well.
GRAEME GILBERT: Now they will all get an upfront as it were, payment?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes.
GRAEME GILBERT: Just so it’s very clear Minister, when will the upfront payment apply and for what period is that expected to cover?
JENNY MACKLIN: It will start in May and June next year. So in May-June 2012, and if I can just explain why it is we know that it will take that period of time to deliver it rather than just on one day, it will be going out along with family payments to millions and millions of Australians. So, of course, it takes Centrelink a little bit of effort to get it out to so many people. So it’s not a complicated reason but just so people know that that’s why. So people will get the advance payment, the lump sum payment in May-June next year. That will be worth $250 for a single pensioner and $380 for couples. Now that will go until March 2013 and the changeover then will happen because as your listeners who are pensioners would know, that’s the normal indexation day for pensions. So pensions are normally indexed in March and September, so March 2013 will be the date on which they get their next indexation payment, and from then on pensioners will receive their assistance, their household assistance, coming as a result of the carbon price, on a fortnightly or quarterly basis. So it will be up to them to choose. As you would know, people at the moment who are on a pension can get, they get a pension supplement, and they can choose now whether they want it quarterly or fortnightly. Some people like to get it quarterly because it fits in with paying their bills.
GRAEME GILBERT: So the March 2013 normal indexation tweaking as it were, am I to take it that there will be no September 2012 indexation?
JENNY MACKLIN: There’ll be the normal indexation in September. So whatever the consumer price index goes up by, the pension supplement will go up by that amount in September. But after the 20th of March in 2013, it will take into account the impact of the carbon price.
GRAEME GILBERT: Yeah, now probably a really dumb question from me Minister, but with what’ll be quite a sizeable amount of money going into the economy over May-June of next calendar year 2012, is that likely to have any effect on interest rates?
JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think so. The Reserve Bank is aware of course of all of the changes that we’re proposing. They of course are also aware of the impact of the carbon price, the projected impact of the carbon price on the consumer price index, so I think these things will be anticipated.
GRAEME GILBERT: So, just so it’s very clear for people listening to you and I at the moment, and I had been promoting the fact we’d have you on so that people could tune in and hear how it is all going to work, we need to stress to people, nothing will change until they get the upfront pension payment in between May and June of next calendar year 2012?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, that’s right.
GRAEME GILBERT: So people shouldn’t go panicking and saying, I haven’t received it, we are talking May-June 2012?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes
GRAEME GILBERT: Nothing will happen till then, there’ll be the normal September indexation depending how CPI is travelling at that stage?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
GRAEME GILBERT: The rate up front will be $250 for a single pensioner, $380 for couples.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes.
GRAEME GILBERT: And that will be in play until March of calendar year 2013?
JENNY MACKLIN: Correct.
GRAEME GILBERT: Now will people Minister be receiving written information from Centrelink or will they be getting some hard copies as it were as to how this will affect them?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we’ll certainly want to provide information to people through their normal seniors magazines, but what I’d also suggest is that if anybody’s wanting to get further information over the next little while, if I give you the phone number that people can call…
GRAEME GILBERT: Please do.
JENNY MACKLIN: It is 1800 057 590.
GRAEME GILBERT: And if people didn’t get that just have a pencil and paper, I’ll give it to you at the end of our discussion tonight with Mrs Macklin.
JENNY MACKLIN: And then there’s also a website, www.cleanenergyfuture.gov.au and that’s up and running so if people have any queries, particularly people who might be interested in other parts of the whole climate change reform, then they can get online and have a look at all the different fact sheets that are available.
GRAEME GILBERT: yes, so that 1800 057 590 is that a 9 to 5 number and is that operating (inaudible?
JENNY MACKLIN: I’m not sure about that, good question.
GRAEME GILBERT: But at the moment we’ll tell people to be safe call between what 9 and 5?
JENNY MACKLIN: Probably a good idea.
GRAEME GILBERT: Yeah, alright but the website that’s open as of now but people could go either tonight or tomorrow or whenever?
JENNY MACKLIN: They can logon and have a look. Yep.
GRAEME GILBERT: Alrighty. As I say it’s a busy time ahead but you’re always willing to come and discuss these issues.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes we certainly are and so if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to contact us.
GRAEME GILBERT: Just one before you go and I’m saying this with tongue in cheek, I noticed you on television today at McDonalds with the Prime Minister, I won’t ask what you had, that’s for you to know.
JENNY MACKLIN: We had a coffee.
GRAEME GILBERT: A coffee. So I was just going to say, probably in that row of shops and all I saw was the shot inside McDonalds, I’m probably guessing here, but a property or a row of offices or what have you, McDonalds was probably the biggest polluter in that entire street?
JENNY MACKLIN: It was out in Werribee and we were actually talking about paid parental leave, so quite a different issue.
GRAEME GILBERT: Who paid for the coffee or shouldn’t I ask?
JENNY MACKLIN: The Prime Minister.
GRAEME GILBERT: So she should, she’s on the bigger wicket. Minister, thank you for your time tonight.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.