Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

No families denied FTB because of Budget Estimate changes

No families eligible for the Family Tax Benefit have been denied payments because of changes in Budget estimates of the cost of the program, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

She rejected Labor’s misleading claims that families had received less assistance because of changes in the Budget estimation of the FTB program.

Senator Patterson said: “No one has lost their entitlement to FTB simply because of a change in the Budget estimate.

“There has been no clawback of entitlement from families as has been claimed by the Labor Party.

“Families get their entitlement based on their family income and the age and number of their children.

“The FTB program is uncapped and its payment to families has nothing to do with Budget estimates. If families meet the income test they are eligible for payment regardless of any Budget estimation of the program.”

Senator Patterson said the Opposition family and community services spokesman, Wayne Swan, had misrepresented the Budget figures by relying on the original 2002-03 Budget estimate figures for FTB.

He had conveniently ignored the downward revisions to that estimate at both the additional estimates and the 2003-04 Budget.

Senator Patterson said: “The revision from the first 2002-03 Budget estimate in May 2002 to the figure published in the FaCS Annual Report in October 2003 is $907.3 million.

“However, the difference between the October 2003 Annual Report and the final estimate for 2002-03 in May 2003 is around $184 million – or about 2%.”

Mr Swan has further misrepresented the facts by claiming that spending on family assistance has fallen in real terms since the GST was introduced.

Spending on family assistance payments has increased from the 1999-2000 level by about $2 billion, Senator Patterson said.

The main reasons for changes in the estimates of FTB payments were:

  • Refinement of the estimates through improved access to longer-term trend data
  • FTB is indexed to the CPI and incomes have grown faster than the CPI; this affects the rate at which families move through the FTB income eligibility range
  • CPI rose by 2.7% between the June quarters 2002 and 2003 while average weekly earnings rose by 5.7% from May 2002 to May 2003.