Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Stimulus Bonus Payments – 3AW Mornings

Program: Radio 3AW

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NEIL: Okay well the bonuses are going out and that is creating a lot of discussion, a lot of confusion as to people not sure what they’re entitled to or what they’re not entitled to. Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and is designated by the Government to answer questions directly on this 96900693. 131332 she’s in our Canberra studio, Jenny Macklin good morning.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you Neil.

NEIL: Well thanks for your time. On this matter of payments to people overseas how can somebody who lived here for five years 40 years ago stimulate our economy?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the important thing to remember is that we have 22 international social security agreements and of course that benefits a lot of people who live in Australia from countries like Greece and Italy and they receive overseas pensions that help them meet their standard of living, so I think we have to keep this in perspective.

NEIL: Is it true that it is 69,000 people or is it more?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s 69,000 people but if you think about how many pensioners were helped in our December payments, there were 4 million…..

NEIL: But how did you get money to 69,000 people living overseas stimulate the Australian economy?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as I mentioned before we have these 22 social security agreements with countries around the world…

NEIL: But there not giving them bonuses are they?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well they maybe giving increases in their pensions to people who are now living in Australia and of course those Australian residents from Greece or Turkey, or other countries benefit because we have these international social security agreements.

NEIL: Did you not have any option? I mean what it just no legal option to paying the bonus to people living overseas because there is no way that money can be spent or likely to be spent in the Australian economy?

JENNY MACKLIN: You remember that in December what we said was that we really wanted to pay these increases to pensioners as a down payment on pension reform. We really understand that pensioners are under significant financial pressure. This was a down payment on pension reform $1,400 to single pensioners, $2,100 to couple pensioners and that’s a down payment because we intend to do the significant reform to the pension in the Budget.

NEIL: So did you have a legal option?

JENNY MACKLIN: Oh we could have had a legal option to do it otherwise, but we wanted to make the point very clear to pensioners that this was a down payment on pension reform.

NEIL: Okay so is it correct that we’re looking at Robin Rudd, not Kevin Rudd, Robin Rudd looking at higher medical costs and the loss of superannuation in tax breaks to help fund the pension boost which means really, tax the supposedly rich and pay the pensioners?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you can imagine we are really just in the middle of thinking about all of the difficult issues facing us in the coming Budget. We’ve just received the Pension Review Report from Dr Jeff Harmer, we will now consider all of these issues very carefully in the lead up to the May Budget but we will deliver as we have committed to, the pension reform that pensioners are certainly expecting.

NEIL: But you are going to have to pay for it somewhere aren’t you, does that mean higher taxes somewhere else?

JENNY MACKLIN: We understand that it will be important to look at how we pay for this and to do it in a way that’s going to make sure that we deliver the increases to pensioners but deliver the way we pay for it in a responsible way.

NEIL: Does that mean higher taxes somewhere else?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you can imagine none of these decisions have been made yet Neil and…

NEIL: Well how else do you pay for it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well just wait until we’ve done the work, we’ll do that very carefully and all that will be of course decided by the time of the May Budget.

NEIL: So all options other than tax increases are under consideration as well?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’re going through all of these issues very very carefully. We understand that this is a very very difficult budget to shape because of the global financial crises. We’ll do it very responsibly but we will deliver to pensioners.

NEIL: Okay, let’s get some specifics on the package. If I’m a student who finished my degree at the end of last year, I might have worked part-time through the year but I was a full time student, and I’m now either in work or looking for work, do I get the $950?

JENNY MACKLIN: Let me go through the student arrangements. You had to have been eligible on 3 February this year. As you’d know with all of these sorts of payments or budget arrangements there’s always a date at which you’re eligible, all of those who enrol in and commence full time study this semester and who are granted one of the qualifying payments and they are Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy, that’s the Abstudy living allowance, on 3 February this year will receive the payment.

NEIL: But what if I was a student who last year, I’m not this year but I still haven’t got a job?

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JENNY MACKLIN: Well you won’t be entitled if you’re not enrolled and commencing full time study, if you’re not receiving any of those payments. You may however be eligible for one of the other payments, that’s the Training and Learning bonus that goes to those who are receiving or Youth Allowance but who are eligible for an education entry payment. So it depends whether or not you’re on those payments.

NEIL: Okay, we’ll take some calls, Chris, go ahead Chris.

CHRIS: Hi, good morning Neil, Jenny. I’m a pay as you earn worker. The bonus for workers, the question is if it’s based on last year’s tax return and I’m a little late, how long have I got to get it in.

JENNY MACKLIN: Till the end of this financial year.

NEIL: Okay, well how, so he can’t get paid till it goes in?

JENNY MACKLIN: Obviously not.

NEIL: Well fair enough.

JENNY MACKLIN: Just so it’s very clear to people listening, you had to have paid tax in the 2007-08 financial year, plainly you have to get your tax in. It will be an automatic payment from the tax office and people will receive $900 if they earned less than $80,000 in that year, they’ll receive $600 bonus if they earned between $80-90,000 and a $250 bonus if they earned between $90-100,000, and that’s per income earner.

NEIL: Well doesn’t that catch that student I was talking about who might have worked part time ..


NEIL: And earned $10 or $10 grand or something.

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s hard for me to know without knowing their income but possibly that’s right.

NEIL: Well let’s say $10,000.

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t like to comment without knowing their details, Neil.

NEIL: Well I’m talking about a full time student and there’s plenty of them.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

NEIL: I’ve got a lot of calls there. The full time student who’s worked part time to help put themselves through Uni and to help support themselves and they might have made $10,000, do they get it?

JENNY MACKLIN: If they have paid tax they will get this bonus

NEIL: What, do you think, and this question from Chris sort of relates to this, do you think now we’re going to have a surge in people who haven’t previously put in tax returns, putting them in?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course, you’re supposed to put your tax return in

NEIL: Yes of course.

JENNY MACKLIN: So it would be a good idea if people obeyed the law and did it.

NEIL: Yeah, I just wondered if it mightn’t bring a few (inaudible) I wanted the 900 bucks or $950 I’d better get a tax return in although I haven’t done one for five years.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well if it encourages people to do the right thing it is a good result.

NEIL: Hello, Alex, go ahead Alex.

ALEX: Good morning. I was just interested to know, people that pay child support and are behind in payment, does their money from the Government go automatically on the child support as your tax return does?

JENNY MACKLIN: It can’t be used to pay child support debts. We have made that an explicit decision. As a result of this we do want to make sure that people get this money and are able to spend it in their local businesses or helping of course make sure that we support jobs in their local area.

NEIL: Self funded retirees, what is the benefit for them?

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JENNY MACKLIN: For self funded retirees of course if they paid tax, they will receive the tax bonus. Many self funded retirees those who receive the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card received the same payment as pensioners in December, so they received the $1,400 if they were single, or $2,100 if they were a couple.

NEIL: So they won’t get a benefit now?

JENNY MACKLIN: They won’t get the bonus, there aren’t any bonuses for those people in this round because there were very significant ones in the last payments.

NEIL: What about self funded retirees who might be getting tax offsets and credits and things which they could be in the position of relying on their pension to live but not actually paying any tax?

JENNY MACKLIN: If they have paid tax they’ll get the tax bonus, if they haven’t paid tax obviously they won’t, but if they did receive the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card last year on 14 October then they would have received the very significant down payment on pension reform that we paid in December.

NEIL: We’ll take a quick break and come back with more specific questions for the Minister in our Canberra studio, Jenny Macklin.

NEIL: Jenny Macklin is the Minister, she’s in the studio answering direct questions on the bonus because of the great confusion about it. Minister over what level do people get nothing?

JENNY MACKLIN: It depends on your particular payment arrangement. I just went through with you before the income cut off points for the tax bonus, so I won’t repeat those. But for the single income family bonus, to be eligible for that $900 payment you have to have been receiving Family Tax Benefit Part B on 3 February and that goes to families where the main income earner has an income of under $150,000 and the secondary income earner can earn up to just under $23,000, so that’s for that one. The other big bonus that is being paid in this fortnight is to 1.5 million families who are on Family Tax Benefit Part A and have a child, a school aged child that’s defined as between aged 4 and 18 and the income limits depend on the number of children that you have but it cuts out anything from $110,000 family income, so that gives you some idea.

NEIL: So if I’m under $100,000 and I’ve got three kids I may well be getting three times the bonus.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct.

NEIL: The $950.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s correct.

NEIL: Plus other bonuses as well.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, it’s paid per child. That one is paid per child. That’s correct.

NEIL: I wonder what the maximum amount anybody could get would be. If you’ve got ten kids you get nine and a half grand.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, not very many people have ten children of course but obviously if you’re in the tax bracket that will give you the tax bonus and you have a couple of children then you will receive a number of different payments.

NEIL: Fred, hello Fred.

FRED: Hi, how are you Neil.

NEIL: Well thank you.

FRED: Just a question for Jenny. It was reported in the Herald Sun yesterday morning disability pensioners would receive $950 in this stimulus package, is that correct?

JENNY MACKLIN: Ah no, we paid as you would be aware if you’re on a disability support pension, the people who received the down payments on pension reform in December included people on the disability support pension…

FRED: Yeah I received that one.

JENNY MACKLIN: So that was when people who are on those payments received them. There is a small group who will receive this back to school bonus and that’s those younger people who are on the disability support pension or on carer payment, if they’re on either of those payments and they’re in the age group that it applies to aged 4 to 18, then they will be eligible.

NEIL: Okay, bad luck Fred. Wendy, hello Wendy.

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WENDY: My question is, I earned just under $10,000 and I pay tax but because of the low income offset and mature age, I got it all back. Now reading The Age yesterday it means I don’t qualify, is that true?

JENNY MACKLIN: If you didn’t pay any tax that’s right.

NEIL: Even though she earned the money and then got it back?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes but she didn’t pay any tax, so I’m sorry to say that is the situation for you.

NEIL: What do you think about that Wendy.

WENDY: Not fair, but anyway.

NEIL: I can understand that.

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m sorry, you can imagine that we are trying to make it available to as many people as possible but these are the rules that have been set out.

NEIL: John, hello John.

JOHN: Good day Neil, Minister. Self funded retirees, my wife and myself drew an income from that low enough that we don’t pay tax but we have a family trust, small one, gives us a little bit of income each year, a few hundred dollars we pay some tax on that, do we qualify?

JENNY MACKLIN: I would have to double check on the family, the family trust tax issue, so let me double check that with the Treasurer’s office for you. Neil if you could get the caller’s details and we’ll get back to him.

NEIL: Is that okay John, you’re happy to give us your number.

JOHN: That’s fine thank you.

NEIL: Right hang on we’ll get it. Thank you and the Minister’s office will get back to you. Dianne, hello Dianne.

DIANNE: Yes good morning. My question is similar to the other lady. I used the tax bonus calculator at the ATO website. My income was $17,000 or just over $17,000 and I paid tax of $1600. I didn’t however pay any Medicare Levy and the message that I got back on the website said that I was not eligible, and said it was because I didn’t have an adjusted tax liability that is greater than zero. Now I read that in it because I didn’t pay the Medicare Levy I’m not eligible.

JENNY MACKLIN: But you’re saying that you did pay tax.

NEIL: Yes, $1600.


JENNY MACKLIN: Once again, let me take that one and get back to you if you wouldn’t mind giving your details to Neil’s producer.

NEIL: Hang on Dianne we’ll get your details off air. Ben, hello Ben.

BEN: Ah yeah, good morning Neil, good morning Minister. I just wanted to know if you’re a permanent resident?



JENNY MACKLIN: I certainly am.

NEIL: If you’re a permanent resident are you eligible?

BEN: Yeah, that’s right.

JENNY MACKLIN: Are you a pensioner, do you mind me asking?

BEN: No, no, no, no. Well I work, I’m 29 years old and I’m a permanent resident.

NEIL: So you paid tax last year?

BEN: Of course, yes.

NEIL: Okay.

JENNY MACKLIN: Right, I think you are eligible but once again let me double check because these are obviously all the complicating factors, but as I understand it if you are a permanent resident you should be eligible.

NEIL: Hang on Ben, we’ll get a number. I’d appreciate it if you could get your office to get back to us and I’ll repeat these answers on Air as well

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes we will do.

NEIL: As well as the individuals.


NEIL: Minister, I know you’re pretty tight for time, I wonder if there is something else I can ask you about quickly. Are you aware of a service in Victoria called “Grief Line”?

JENNY MACKLIN: I have heard of it.

NEIL: Runs out of Bethlehem Hospital. Been very busy because of the bush fires and the recession, it’s staff by a lot of volunteers, a lot of them are psychologists, but you wouldn’t be aware of this but it’s about to fold for want of Government funding. They need $250,000.


NEIL: Which isn’t much would you mind having a look at that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I will have a look at that. We have put some extra money into mental health services including grief counselling following the terrible bush fires so I’m very happy to have a look at that.

NEIL: I thank you for that and with the Aboriginal Affairs, Indigenous Affairs hat on, the former head of ATSIC Lowitja O’Donoghue, has described ATSIC, well it’s now disbanded of course, its male leaders were preoccupied with drinking, gambling and womanising. Is she right?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, she was there and she’s the one that is reported to have said these things, but I wasn’t there when she made those comments yesterday. I think the important thing to say is that the Government’s made it very clear that we will not be having a new ATSIC. We think it’s important to have a national indigenous representative body where we can have a high level interaction with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and that’s why we’re having this workshop at the moment to look at the best way forward but the Government’s made it clear we will not be having a new ATSIC.

NEIL: But is there, but she’s almost talking about a cultural problem of the male aboriginal leaders of drinking, gambling and womanising, is that a problem you’ve seen?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as you’re aware, we have problems with drinking in many parts of the Australian community and even in unfortunately some parts of Melbourne, so I think that these are issues that need to be dealt with where we find them. As far as the National Indigenous Representative Body goes we do need to make sure it’s a body of integrity and it has people who are going to be upstanding leaders for indigenous people in this country.

NEIL: Okay, I thank you for your time. Just one question, have you worked out whether you get a benefit?


NEIL: You don’t?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m sure you didn’t expect that I would.

NEIL: I don’t know, what’s the Ministerial salary?

JENNY MACKLIN: My salary is too high, my children are grown up. Okay?

NEIL: No, I didn’t know, is the Ministerial salary over $150,000?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, the limit for the tax bonus is $100,000 and yes it is more than that.

NEIL: Well thank you. No I wasn’t being silly I genuinely, it reaches much broader than most welfare type payments doesn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we don’t consider that Family Tax Benefits are too high we think that families with children need this support and the tax bonus is targeted to people who earn under $100,000.

NEIL: ‘Cause a $100,000 isn’t rich, is it, for a family?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the $100,000 is per income earner for the tax bonus, it’s more around $110,000 for an average family and there are certainly plenty of families on those sorts of incomes.

NEIL: Do you consider it rich, a $100,000?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well obviously we don’t consider it rich. We’re paying family tax benefits to those people.

NEIL: Thank you very much for your time.


NEIL: The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin in our Canberra studio.