Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Household assistance – 3AW Afternoons with Denis Walter

Program: 3AW Afternoons

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DENIS WALTER: Joining me today to discuss the carbon tax, what it’s going to mean for pensioners and for families, is Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Jenny, Good Afternoon.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good afternoon to you.

DENIS WALTER: Thank you for coming on the program.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.

DENIS WALTER: Um, this is going to be hard to sell isn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think so Denis because I think once people actually get the facts rather than some of the scare campaigns that have been around over the last few months, they’ll actually see what the real impact’s going to be on them. And so for most people of course they want to know what it’s going to do to their weekly family shopping bill and to their food budget, it’s going to be less than a dollar a week. But I do think it’s important that people are informed of the real impact on their lives.

DENIS WALTER: But it’s impossible to know what the real impact is. I mean, Neil Mitchell this morning asked the Treasurer what affect it would have on a tin of tomatoes and even by his admission in his answer, he can’t be sure what it’s going to cost. And I think that’s what’s scaring people.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I don’t think people do need to be scared and I think it’s really important that we don’t do that. That we actually go through each of the different basic things that people do need to buy every day or every week. And if it’s milk or bread, meat and vegies, all of those really important staples for each and every one of our weekly shops, we’ll see an increase of around ten cents each. So really I think it’s terribly important that we look at the impact. There is a new website that’s just been created that people can have a look at. If you want to go online you can actually put your own family budget into that household estimator and figure out what it will mean for you. If you’re a pensioner you can ring up the new hotline that’s just been set up and you can talk through your issues with people who can take your personal details and respond to your personal concerns.

DENIS WALTER: You said then it’s important to look at the impact but to a certain extent, I mean even looking on that website, there is still a pile of sort of niggling unknowns. We’re not quite sure, even, Neil also asked about you know, what’s a Falcon going to cost, and we sort of agreed after a bit of coming and going that perhaps it might cost an extra $500. But the thing that is in my mind is that if the carbon tax is going to push that Falcon up by $500, together with other things that happen as a matter of course, extra production costs, the normal things that push the cost of a car up, then next it’ll be $1500 or maybe $2000 it’s going up.

JENNY MACKLIN: And of course we don’t all buy a new car every year. (inaudible) people can afford to do that. The important thing is to look at what this will mean for people’s weekly budget, and that’s exactly what we had the Treasury do. Look at the regular weekly budgets that people have, what it is that they will see go up. We certainly know that there will be increases in price as a result of putting a price on carbon pollution but when you look at it averaged across everything that we buy the increase will be around $9.90 a week, that’s on average. And the average assistance that we’ll provide will be $10.10 a week. So we have taken Treasury advice, so they’ve look at how the carbon price will impact across the economy and what we’ve done then is of course make sure that the assistance that we’re providing to households is going to go to the least able to manage those changes. So people on fixed incomes like pensioners, people on lower incomes, families on lower incomes. They’re the people who really don’t have any room to move in their budget, and that’s why we’re providing extra money for them, an extra buffer so they’ve got that extra help.

DENIS WALTER: Is it enough what you’ve done for them? I mean it’s $250 maximum (inaudible) lump sum payment, there’s a $140 annual payment, and for a single pensioner $6.50 a week, it just sounds so little.

JENNY MACKLIN: I suppose that’s why it’s important to look at the actual impact. These pensioners will in fact be getting a 20% buffer, 20% more than we expect them to have to pay out. And that is because we know that for many of them they might have slightly higher costs. So if a pensioner who might have to use their heater more than somebody who’s out at work, the pensioner who’s home during the day, that’s why we’re providing that extra support for pensioners. It’s also why we want to make sure, that as I say, for those families that have tight budgets, they do get the extra help.

DENIS WALTER: Is this blitz that’s going to happen over the next few weeks, is it more about trying to actually get what this is all about out there to people, because I’m not going to pretend sitting here, that I know exactly what’s going on. I’m confused to a certain point too.

JENNY MACKLIN: And I think that’s totally understandable, just like you say, the detail was only released yesterday and that’s why it’s really important that I talk to you and other people are able to make sure that people get the information and are able then to make a proper assessment, rather than be frightened by some people. Mr Abbott certainly has done his best to frighten people. And what I think is more responsible is to really get the facts out and people can see that we can reduce carbon pollution, we can address, do our bit to address climate change and we can do it in a responsible way.

DENIS WALTER: Has the Opposition frightened people more than, the fact that the tax has been brought in?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think they have been because they’ve just made up figures about prices that now are clearly totally untrue and that’s why I’d really encourage people to look at the website. I can give you the address (inaudible) if you’d like, and then people can make an assessment of how it impacts on them. I think that’s the responsible way to go.

DENIS WALTER: Jenny Macklin thanks for being with us.