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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Families and Carers Get The Extra Help They Deserve

The Howard Government is committed to ensuring that families and carers get the help they deserve with the one-off bonus payments, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

By today more than 1.95 million Australian families eligible for Family Tax Benefit A will have received a total of $2.23 billion of the tax-free family bonus payments of $600 per child.

Senator Patterson said more than 380,000 carers had been paid more than $190 million in One-off Carer Bonus payments.

The payments have gone automatically into these families’ and carers’ bank accounts or have been sent by cheque.

Senator Patterson said the Labor Party was wrong to claim that the one-off Family Payment and the One-off Carer Bonus would leave some families with an overpayment or a debt.

If any recipient had fraudulently claimed the bonus payments, the Commonwealth would seek to recover the payment. As under general social security provisions, if Centrelink had made a mistake there would be no attempt to recover the bonus payments.

To ensure correct payments, Senator Patterson said it was important that families informed Centrelink when their circumstances changed to ensure they received the correct payments.

“This money is a bonus for families and carers because they deserve it. Strong economic management and stewardship of the economy has allowed the Howard Government to pay families and carers a social dividend derived from strong economic growth,” she said.

“This money is theirs to keep and use for the purpose which they believe suits their own circumstances. It is not offset against the payment of any other benefits. It is not reconciled when people put in their tax returns.”

Senator Patterson said Australian families would not only benefit from the one-off bonus payments.

“The Howard Government is committed to ongoing support of Australian families,” she said.

“Australian families will benefit from increased family assistance of an extra $19.2 billion over five years under the Government’s More Help for Families Budget package.

“The rates of FTB A are being increased every year and families will be eligible for an ongoing $600 per child every year.

“The Labor Party has not committed to pay this ongoing $600 per child beyond 2004-05. After that all bets are off.”