Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Nation Building and Jobs Plan – 5AA

Program: FIVEaa, Morning Program

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

LEON BYNER: Jenny thanks for joining us.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.

LEON BYNER: What do you say of the Opposition’s criticism that we’re going back to the days of Whitlam by spending $42 billion and going from a surplus of nearly $20 billion to a deficit of slightly more than that?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think this demonstrates just how out of touch the Federal Opposition is here in Canberra. They just don’t seem to understand the dimension of the global financial crisis and why it is so important for us here in Australia to act as decisively and quickly to deal with what’s coming at us from overseas, and that’s why we have made the decisions that we made yesterday and of course, also at the end of last year.

LEON BYNER: Jenny, let’s go through some of the aspects of this case by case. First of all the infrastructure projects from which South Australia will share, and I understand there is going to be a Premiers’ meeting on Thursday.

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, that’s right.

LEON BYNER: Okay, so we’re going to rebuild schools.

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, so every single primary school in South Australia will have access to money to do upgrades, maybe building a new multi-purpose facility in their school if they need that.

LEON BYNER: Probably get air conditioning if they choose to do so.

JENNY MACKLIN: It could be that. There will be money for the parent groups to decide what are the things that they think need to be done in their local primary school so every single primary school will be able to put more work in what they think is necessary to be done in their primary school, that’s with small amounts of money. But there will also be larger amounts to build things like multi-purpose schools if they need them.

LEON BYNER: Alright, now we’re going to give millions of Australians an opportunity to put insulation in their roof.


LEON BYNER: How will they access that?

JENNY MACKLIN: They will be able to access that by the Federal Department of the Environment, so anybody who’s actually got a bill for insulation in their roof can contact the Department of the Environment but it’s a very easy way that they can get access to that funding. It’s a funding amount that’s going to be able to cover insulation in most homes and so we would really encourage people to get on with that because this is also, and I understand it, material that’s made here in Australia so it would certainly help local jobs.

LEON BYNER: Now at that point, all this infrastructure spending, are we going to try and source most of what we are going to use locally to support the local economy?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s one of the good things about the package that was announced by the Prime Minister yesterday. When you think about building bathrooms, or multi-purpose facilities, sporting facilities in schools, when you think about building public housing, this is going to employ Australian people and that’s of course our number one priority, to make sure that we protect and support Australian jobs.

LEON BYNER: On the business of housing, there’s going to be, I think the numbers I saw yesterday where we would have in excess of 20,000 new homes built under this new amount of money

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

LEON BYNER: So we would share a proportion of that maybe 4 or 5,000?

JENNY MACKLIN: It will be done on a per capita basis so we spoke to the South Australian Housing Minister yesterday and made that point to her, and of course that will be finalised by the Premier, but it will in the first instance be done on a per capita basis but I made it clear to the Housing Ministers yesterday that we are very keen to get projects up and running as quickly as possible. So where State Governments have projects that are already through the planning process, we want to hear about them urgently so that we can do everything we can to really get this money into the housing and construction industry.

LEON BYNER: Now I know that one of the projects that the State Government would like to get up through the federal assistance is the electrification of our rail system. Does this stimulus package announced yesterday have any impact on that or is that going to be a separate decision?

JENNY MACKLIN: No that’s a separate decision. There is a small, smaller infrastructure fund and so there will certainly be some money going to smaller infrastructure projects that local governments for example might be responsible for but there’s a separate process through Infrastructure Australia where those larger projects are being assessed, and the reason for that is we’re really looking for immediate or as quick action in the infrastructure area as possible. But of course some of these larger projects take (inaudible)

LEON BYNER: Right, now there’s also been a one off payments to people (inaudible) just explain who will get what, so for those people up to $80,000 they’ll get just over $900?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right. For every taxpayer who is earning up to $80,000 they’ll receive a $950 bonus. For those with taxable incomes between $80,000 and $90,000 they’ll receive $650, and those with taxable incomes between $90,000 and $100,000 they’ll receive a $300 bonus.

LEON BYNER: When will this happen?

JENNY MACKLIN: In April, and it will be based on people’s 2007-8 financial year tax return.

LEON BYNER: If you’re looking for immediate hit, why April?

JENNY MACKLIN: Because it will take that long to get the Tax Office to get it round to people. We will get the Family Tax Benefit payments out from Centrelink before that, as long as we get this legislation through the Parliament this week we will be able to pay the Single Income Family Bonus and the Back to School bonus in March.

LEON BYNER: Why did you go for the one-off payment, which had an effect before Christmas but things after that have slowed so we might expect the same sort of scenario here, why did you go for the one-off payment rather than an ongoing tax cut?

JENNY MACKLIN: Because we need to get as much money into the economy as quickly as possible. The advice from the International Monetary Fund is to go down this path rather than to pay people small amounts of money over a longer period of time. We need to get more money into the shops, into the housing and construction industry, into the economy as quickly as possible.

LEON BYNER: As I understand it, the IMF wanted the amount of money to be about 3% of the Gross Domestic Product, which was going to be about $24, $25 billion, we’ve gone to $42 billion, so what outcome are we reasonably expecting from this spend?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s difficult to judge with the unfolding nature of this global financial crisis because we’re not immune from what’s happening overseas. All we can do is take every action possible here in Australia, that’s what we did last October, this $42billion package covers both infrastructure and payments and of course the Prime Minister has said if more needs to be done it will be.

LEON BYNER: Alright, now one point. A lot of these initiatives are going to require energy and much of that energy is going to be electricity, and you would be aware that Victoria and South Australia have had massive infrastructure electricity issues and they are not problems that are going to be less occurring because we’re expecting the effects of climate change. It’s interesting that there was nothing in this package at all that even talks about energy supply.

JENNY MACKLIN: But what we have done on the energy supply front is really address it through our package to encourage people to put insulation into their roof and we do know if we put insulation into the roofs of 2.7 million homes which is what this is targeted to do, we’re expecting that could see a cut to energy bills for these households of around $200 a year. And we’ve been informed that it’s also going to be the equivalent of taking around a million cars off the road, so that measure ……..

LEON BYNER: That’s in terms of green house gases you mean?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, that measure we’re advised one of the most effective things that we can do to reduce green gas house emissions and of course it will have a positive impact on energy bills as well.

LEON BYNER: So what you’re telling us is, you’re going to try this on as soon as possible, hope that it works. How long will you give it before you decide whether or not there is another package required, and if another package is, is that going to mean necessarily more deficit?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re constantly monitoring what’s going on in other countries. We’re seeing the International Monetary Fund do economic updates far more frequently than they’ve done in the past, and of course we’re going to just monitor these changes as you would expect very very closely so that if further changes are necessary we will take them. I think the Australian people expected that in this decisive way and understand the need for a deficit in these very very difficult times.

LEON BYNER: Jenny, thank you for joining us.

JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you Leon.

LEON BYNER: That’s the Families and Housing Minister, Jenny Macklin.