Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Euthanasia, pension increase through indexation, Housing NSW, Gillard Government and security in New Delhi

Program: ABC2 Breakfast

E & OE – Proof only

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: Jenny Macklin thanks for joining us. Interesting that Bob Brown has put this on the agenda. I guess these are the kind of issues that could start distracting from what Tony Abbott is saying are the more bread and butter issues that you’ve got to be dealing with.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think it’s a bit unfair of Mr Abbott to say that given that it was the Member for Menzies, Kevin Andrews, one of Tony Abbott’s Shadow Ministers who raised this the last time, so let’s put that issue to one side. I think it is significant that we do have the opportunity for Members of Parliament right across the spectrum to put different issues that are going to be important to them on the agenda. There is going to be more time for Private Members Business and I think that will be good for Australia.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are we seeing this as the first part of the quid pro quo arrangement between the Green and Labor care of your new alliance?

JENNY MACKLIN: I wouldn’t say that. I think it’s more about people being able to put forward issues that they think are important, that their electorates think are important. I think you’ll see quite a range of different issues. Some like this that are intensely personal, others that will be more particular to people’s own electorates, so I think we’ll get quite a range.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: Do you expect to see this go as has been signalled by both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to a conscience vote, allow this to be a very personal issue for individual members?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well certainly that’s what happened last time. We did see this raised and of course in the Labor Party it was discussed whether or not there should be a conscience vote. It was decided at the time that there should be. So I expect that that debate will be had again and I would imagine there will be a conscience vote.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The first thing you have to do before having any sorts of votes in Parliament is electing a Speaker.


MICHAEL ROWLAND: Will Harry Jenkins stay on? He clearly wants to stay on, Labor Party Member as a Speaker, will he’ll be staying on?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you know these matters are still being discussed so I don’t want to get ahead of all that. But you’re dead right. We do need a Speaker so by next Tuesday this will be resolved.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: You’re a fellow Victorian MP, would you like Harry Jenkins to stay on?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, he is my neighbour in fact, so I know what a terrific person he is, as a Local Member and the job he’s done as a Speaker. But really there are other people who need to be consulted on this issue and I really need to let those separate processes happen.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Can having an Independent Speaker really work though given the even more complicated process of pairing and the like that that would entail?

JENNY MACKLIN: As you know the Government is getting some specific legal advice on these issues so all of that will be very carefully considered before making any decisions.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: Let’s look at the pension increase which takes effect from today and one of the main reasons you’re here to talk to us a little bit about this. Tell us briefly who is going to benefit from this increase from today?

JENNY MACKLIN: Around four million Australians, so aged pensioners, those adults on the disability support pension, the carer payment, veterans, income support recipients, so they’re the main people who will benefit. If you’re a single pensioner on the maximum rate you can expect to receive $15 a fortnight extra. If you’re a couple on the maximum rate of the pension, you can expect to receive just over $22 a fortnight for the couple combined. I think the important thing to note about this is that the pension rise is the result of the new indexation arrangements that we put in place last year. We knew really listening to pensioners that they have different costs of living to the rest of us, so we asked the statistician to develop a new living cost index for pensioners and that has driven this extra rise in the pension which means that their pension keeps up with their cost of living.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: Couldn’t you though, there are big groups that are left out, single parents that are supporting children. Why exclude them from that very same arrangement?

JENNY MACKLIN: They certainly do get a rise as a result of these indexation arrangements. They have a different indexation formula because they have different costs of living so they will receive a rise from today as well.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: But not as much.

JENNY MACKLIN: Not as much because we have different indexation patterns because their costs of living’s also different. For those on parenting payment though, it’s important to understand they also receive Family Tax Benefit so we’ve got plans to improve the delivery of Family Tax Benefit, particularly for older teenagers.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Now there appears to be a group of New South Wales disability pension recipients who are caught up in an apparent sting. There’s exemption…

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s all pensioners.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: All pensioners. The New South Wales Government is ending exemption of paying rental income to the State Government Housing. How many people are affected and how would you like New South Wales Government to reconsider it’s position on this?

JENNY MACKLIN: We certainly would. We’ve made it absolutely plain to the New South Wales Government that we do not agree with them clawing back the pension rise. We delivered an historic increase to the pension last year and we want to see that pension rise in the pockets of pensioners not going into increased housing rents. So we’ll be making our position very clear to the New South Wales Government.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Can the Government afford the cost of these pension increases because the Prime Minister was famously reported during the campaign, questioned the cost of the Government of funding pension increases?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we of course, went through all of that before we put the pension up last year and we know how important it is to deliver this pension rise and I’m very pleased that we were able to do so. We know it’s still tough on the pension but the rise last year and this increase today we hope will make a difference to the lives of pensioners.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: In terms of going forward now, Parliament’s going to start sitting again soon. What has been the message from the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in terms of as a team going forward?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, the most important thing is that we continue to focus on those issues that for us are right at the top. First and foremost of course, the state of the economy. We have been very fortunate here in Australia to come out of the global financial crisis in a better state than other similar economies to have lower levels of unemployment. But we really want to drive that home. For us that’s the biggest issue.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: Jenny Macklin, I’m talking more in terms of the workload, how you interact together as a group, because of course during the Rudd Government, it famously fell apart, so what has been the key message of keeping that cohesion?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well one of the things that Julia Gillard has emphasised is that she wants to run a traditional system of Cabinet Government so there will be a very clear expectation that we come together as a group, that we make decisions together, so she’s made that very clear. But I do think that that’s a process question. What’s really important is to be very upfront about our priorities, and our number one priority will be to make sure we do everything to get Australians working.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And I can’t let you go without asking you about the situation in New Delhi, it’s not your direct portfolio area. But as a senior Minister are you comfortable for sending more than 500 Australians into what is a clearly given the shooting last night a very tenuous security situation?

JENNY MACKLIN: These are of course very delicate issues and we are constantly monitoring the security situation. We of course have people in New Delhi providing advice and that advice is being made public. So the best advice that I can give everyone is to make sure that they keep up to date with the latest information that we are receiving from our security people on the ground. We will make that public. Anything that we receive that the public needs to know will be available.

BEVERLEY O’CONNOR: Jenny Macklin, thank you.