Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Labor’s confusion leaves Australain families in limbo

Australian families have been left in limbo by the confusion and contradictory statements in Labor’s ranks over whether they would continue to receive the same level of assistance under Labor, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

“Labor is in chaos over its stance on family payments. Over the past few days senior Labor frontbenchers have been tripping over themselves with contradictory statements over whether Australian families would get to keep the record $19.2 billion assistance delivered by the Howard Government’s More Help for Families Budget package.”

Senator Patterson said the Opposition Leader Mark Latham, had pointedly refused to give an undertaking that Australian families would not receive less assistance under a Labor government when asked on ABC television after his Budget reply last week.

“His frontbench finance spokesman, Bob McMullan, let the cat out of the bag this week when he said families would not receive the new $600 increase for each child after the 2004-05 financial year.

“After that all bets are off. Labor would then withdraw the payment. The Government is committed to paying the $600 for each child on an ongoing basis – not just this year but at the end of every financial year.”

Of significant concern, potentially all FTB part A eligible families could be up to $600 per child worse off come July 2005. That is, a family with 2 children could lose $1,200 per year.

Senator Patterson said the Opposition treasury spokesman Simon Crean had added to Labor’s confusion by committing Labor to continuing to pay the extra $600 a year in the rates of Family Tax Benefit A for each dependent child.

“This appears to be at odds with Mr McMullan’s threat to withdraw the payment, while their leader, Mr Latham, has flatly refused to give any guarantee to Australian families that they would not be worse off under Labor.

“Australian families, which on average receive $7000 a year in Family Tax Benefit assistance, should be concerned with Labor’s lack of discipline, the confusion within its ranks and no clear direction on family policy.