Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Economic Security Strategy payments


JENNY MACKLIN: Today we are starting the major Economic Stimulus Package. The Economic Security Payments will begin to be paid from today for senior Australians, for aged pensioners, for those on a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, for those receiving the carer payment and the disability support pension. The payment will be $1,400 for singles, and $2,100 for a couple. Those payments will be made over the next fortnight and you’ll see them ramp up by about Wednesday we expect about $4 billion to have been paid out. For families, those families receiving Family Tax Benefit Part A will receive $1,000 for each eligible child in their care, and for carers if they are on a carer allowance, they will receive $1,000 for each person who they are caring for.

These payments are all about making sure that we can both protect Australian jobs and see new jobs created. We’d encourage people as they receive these payments to spend them, to spend them in the ways that older people here for example, have said they’re spending theirs on a new barbeque, a haircut, an awning to stop the hot sun coming in. These are just some of the suggestions of things that people here are spending their money on. Other people are going to spend it on getting their car fixed, doing jobs around the house, buying a new washing machine. These are the things that will make sure that we see jobs in Australia protected. We know there will be some criticism over the next few days but as far as the Government is concerned, we intend to do everything we need to do to make sure that we protect Australian jobs. The global financial crisis is serious. We’re seeing that in the United States of America, Germany and Japan, and in the United Kingdom. We want to do everything we possibly can to protect jobs in our country and that’s why we’re delivering these payments over the next fortnight.

REPORTER: Minister, Bob Brown said it’s irresponsible for the Government to advise people to spend these payments all at once. Is it irresponsible?

JENNY MACKLIN: We think it’s the responsible thing to do everything we possibly can to protect Australian jobs. As I said, we expect some criticism over the next few days, but I say to members of the Greens, members of the Liberal Party, I see some comments from some Liberals today suggesting that we shouldn’t be doing these things. I would say to the Liberal Party, get real, recognise that the global financial crisis is having an impact in Australia. We intend to do everything possible as a Government to help Australians, protect their jobs, to make sure that we soften the impact as much as possible of the global financial crisis. That’s our objective and that’s what we intend to get on with.

REPORTER: Minister, what data will you use to measure if this Stimulus Package has been a success, and how soon can we expect to see the results?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course, it’s all about jobs, so we’ll be looking at the level of employment, it’s all about economic growth. We want to make sure that we keep our economy growing. We’re working in tandem with the Reserve Bank. You’ve seen the Reserve Bank significantly cut interest rates over the last little while to encourage economic growth. You would have seen the Council of Australian Governments make substantial commitments to increase funding for health and education. We’ve just announced increased funding for Local Government because we want to stimulate the Australian economy. We intend to do everything possible to protect Australian jobs and to make sure that families and pensioners are protected as much as we can from the global financial crisis.

REPORTER: So if unemployment keeps rising has this been a failure?

JENNY MACKLIN: We know that the global financial crisis is going to have an impact on Australia, that’s why we’re acting in the way that we are, that’s why over the next fortnight we’re going to deliver significant increases in payments for families, for pensioners, and carers. That’s why we’re encouraging people to spend that money, and you can hear from the older people we’ve spoken to today they intend to spend it responsibly. We encourage people to spend it responsibly but to spend it to protect Australian jobs.

REPORTER: Do you see that by encouraging a spending splurge you may also be encouraging people to go into great debt?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re actually handing out major increases in payments, 1,000 per child to eligible families, significant increases for pensioners and carers, for veterans. This is money that we expect the vast majority of Australians will spend responsibly. I understand there may be some criticism but we’ll take that criticism because we want to act strongly in the interest of Australian jobs.

REPORTER: Are you worried that some people might blow it on the pokies?

JENNY MACKLIN: Of course we hope that people will spend it responsibly and I think the vast majority of Australians will spend it responsibly. Of course, I can’t decide what everybody will do but listen to what people are telling you and us and you will see that most people will do the right thing.

REPORTER: When you’ve got all these other measures going in though how are we going to be able to tell that this (inaudible) make any difference?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re acting in many directions because the level of the global financial crisis is so acute. We can see how serious it is in the United States. We can see how serious it is in other countries that we trade with. We have a responsibility to act decisively, to protect Australian jobs, and to protect the Australian standard of living.

REPORTER: On to another issue, Cabinet met this morning, I understand? Can you tell us how much of that conversation was about emissions trading next week, and if you take into account what Green groups are now saying fearing that you will lower your target in 2020?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we don’t, and I certainly don’t, comment on what’s discussed in Cabinet so you’ll have to wait till public announcements are made about our White Paper and the design of the carbon pollution reduction scheme till it’s finally announced.

REPORTER: Was it raised, and are there a lot of concerns?

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t discuss what’s talked about in Cabinet.