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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Mr Swan’s Negativity Does Nothing To Help Australian Families

Compared with the same time last year some 12 per cent more families have received a top-up payment and 14 per cent fewer families have incurred an overpayment.

Similarly, the average top-up payment to families has increased from $740 to $785 compared with the same period last year. The average overpayment has fallen from $803 to $770.

In the first six months of this financial year, almost half a million Australian families received an average of nearly $800 in top-up payments – money Labor has not guaranteed will continue.

This is a positive outcome from the Government’s policy to provide families with more choices and increased assistance in deciding how best to receive their FTB.

It is disappointing to see that Wayne Swan, after having seven years to work on policy still chooses to adopt the old, flawed, complex and unfair family assistance system.

Under the previous family assistance system families who overestimated their income were not entitled to a top-up payment. Under the new family tax benefit system, introduced in 2000-01, more than half a million families were able to access a top-up payment for overestimating their income for the first time.

Mr Swan should stop playing politics with families’ incomes and encourage his Labor colleagues to pass FTB top-up legislation currently before the Senate. This would provide an additional 35,000 families with a top-up payment of about $800 on average.

If Mr Swan wants to help Australian families he should guarantee that under Labor families would continue to be entitled to receive top-up payments.

I challenge Mr Swan to drop the rhetoric and the negativity about a system that provides some two million families with about $2 billion extra each year. Australian families receive an average payment of $6,000 each year.

It is completely misleading, and shows a lack of understanding of the system, to say that the Government claws back any FTB from families.

Mr Swan knows that funding for FTB is uncapped and that under the Coalition Government every Australian entitled to an FTB payment receives their correct entitlement.

Labor were unable to manage the social security system when they were in government but are now attacking the Howard Government for using tax payers money responsibly to provide record assistance to families.

Despite unfunded promises already totalling $8 billion there has been no evidence of genuine policy ideas from Mr Swan to help Australian families.

Mr Swan can choose to misrepresent policy but the fact remains that families are getting an average of $6,000 per year under the Howard Government- almost $2 billion more each year.