Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme

Program: 6PR


SIMON BEAUMONT: Jenny Macklin is the Family and Community Services Minister, she joins me on the program now. Jenny, hi, thanks for your time.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you, Simon.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Jenny, just before we get onto the green paper and its ramifications for Centrelink recipients, in particular, aged pensioners, disabled pensioners. I’ve been telling the listeners this morning that I was going to talk to you and I’ve had, well, more calls than I can count. Can you please ask Jenny Macklin why the invalid pensioners did not receive the $500 bonus payment. Has that not happened, can you shed some light on that?

JENNY MACKLIN: What people are talking about, this is people who are on the disability support pension…


JENNY MACKLIN: ..and they – as you know, they did get the utilities allowance extended to them for the first time so they certainly did receive the increased utilities allowance of $500 but it’s been the case in the past and we’ve just continued what was done in the past which is that the bonuses went to aged pensioners and carers so it really was a matter of us doing what’s been done in the past but as you and I have discussed on the phone before, all of these issues are being considered as part of our major review of tax and welfare and we certainly will be considering the adequacy both of the aged pension and the disability support pension.

SIMON BEAUMONT: All right. Well, I suppose the argument, the counter-argument to that, Jenny, with respect is the support payment to aged pensioners hasn’t always been there either.

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s been paid a couple of times before and so we were continuing that and the same applies to carers but we do understand that people on the disability support pension need extra support and so that’s why we did extend for the first time the increased utilities allowance so they are getting an increase of $500 through the utilities allowance.

SIMON BEAUMONT: How many pensioners, disabled pensioners would there be in Australia?

JENNY MACKLIN: About 700,000.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Okay. So it’s a significant payment, all right.

JENNY MACKLIN: A significant number of people, yes.

SIMON BEAUMONT: But it may be considered as part of the Henry Commission report.

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, it will be, yep.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Put simply, Jenny, it’s a complicated concept and it’s going to be complicated in its enactment, the carbon trading scheme that Penny Wong introduced us to yesterday. What are the ramifications for Centrelink recipients, particularly aged pensioners and disabled pensioners?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think the important message for everyone listening who’s on any form of income support whether it’s an aged pension, disability support pension, carer payments. What we’ve done in this green paper that we’ve launched yesterday about the carbon pollution reduction scheme is that we will make sure that people who are on pensions do have any increases in their cost of living met. Of course with the introduction of a scheme like this, it is about making sure that we recognise we have to do something about carbon pollution. We don’t want people on the lowest incomes hurt. So this is a very important commitment that we’ve made to protect them.

SIMON BEAUMONT: So will it just be a matter of flat payment, a few times a year? Will you just load it into one of the allowances? How will you do it?

JENNY MACKLIN: We haven’t decided which is the most effective method yet, that’s something that we’ll talk with pensioner and carers about but of course they are receiving pensions, they’re receiving the utilities allowance. So we’ve got a couple of different ways that we could make sure that the increases in the overall cost of living are met. Of course, you’d know and they’d be aware that there is already automatic indexation for their pensions.


JENNY MACKLIN: So increases in the cost of electricity for example will flow though their indexation arrangements but on top of the indexation arrangements we’re saying to people that we will provide other assistance to meet the overall increase in the cost of living from the carbon pollution reduction scheme.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Mmm, all right. It seems strange to me that for so long we’ve been told that petrol excise cannot be cut. We can’t fiddle around with the amount of tax that government applies to petrol because it’s needed in the budget and it’s almost been seen to be sacrosanct and yet in the last 24 hours Penny Wong has told us that petrol exercise – petrol excise can be cut to go from a cent to cent basis compensation in over the next – or from 2010 for the next three years such that if – if – as part of this scheme the cost of living does go up and people do have to pay more than petrol excise will be cut. For so long we’ve been told that you couldn’t touch it and – but it seems you can.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I think there’s two things I’d say, Simon. One is that we’ve made it clear that any money raised from the sale of permits as a result of the introduction of the carbon pollution reduction scheme will be used to help Australian households and businesses, so all of the money will be really put back in to make sure that people can cope with any increases in the cost of living and we are of course particularly aware that the increase in the cost of petrol at the moment is hurting people so we have wanted to make sure that fuel taxes will be cut as we’ve said, on a cent for cent basis to offset the initial price impact on fuel related to the introduction of this carbon pollution reduction scheme.

We al.. we know people are hurting as a result of what’s happening internationally with the price of fuel and I think most Australians understand that we can’t put our head in the sand about carbon pollution, greenhouse gases really are going to affect our prosperity if we don’t do something about it. But while we introduce this scheme to protect our future prosperity, of course, we particularly want to look after those who are on fixed incomes, pensioners, low income households and that’s why we’re introducing these commitments.

SIMON BEAUMONT: All right. Jenny, just finally, I probably should know this but is Centrelink, does Centrelink come under your control?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, Centrelink, the operation of Centreline is in the Department of Human Services…


JENNY MACKLIN: ..and Joe Ludwig’s the relevant minister…


JENNY MACKLIN: ..but that’s okay, you can ask me.

SIMON BEAUMONT: It does seem to me that this, given how complicated the Centrelink operations are in assessing pension payments as it is, this is going to add another significant burden to their assessment procedures and their payment procedures. It sounds like a bureaucratic nightmare for me, or to me at this early stage.

JENNY MACKLIN: I don’t think it will be because – because we have people who are receiving pensions and there’s a system whereby we can work out what the increase in the cost of living on average will be for pensioners or carers, we’ve got a couple of mechanisms available to us to either put up the pension or to use the utilities allowance so I don’t think it will be that complicated. This part of the scheme is actually, in my view, the least complex part of it.

SIMON BEAUMONT: All right, Jenny, thanks for your time today.


SIMON BEAUMONT: Appreciate that. The Minister for Family and Community Services talking to us today with some information, I guess, trying to reassure those people who received aged pension, disabled pension and people who look after people, carers, that this scheme will not impact on them, there will be no adverse effect there will be compensation made either in the ongoing pension payments or as a part of a – one of the allowances there’s – again it’s a reassuring gesture from the Federal Government.