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Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Wayne Swan is a policy free zone!

Other than Mark Latham’s Reading Aloud to children policy, the Labor Party has not released one single policy initiative in Wayne Swan’s Family and Community Services shadow portfolio area.

I call on Mr Swan to stop the glib one-liners, the generalities and identifying what he calls “problems” without any so-called solutions and tell Australian families what he intends to do.

He has the perfect opportunity tomorrow when he appears on national television to reveal Labor’s policy stance on a range of family issues.

It is time that Mr Swan is accountable for his misleading and false accusations.

Claim:
The Government has clawed back $1.5 billion from family assistance. WRONG!

Fact:
Families receive nearly $2 billion more every year than under the previous system with families receiving $6000 a year, on average, in family assistance. The family assistance program is uncapped and families receive their payment if they qualify for assistance.

Claim:
Families pay 60-80% EMTR on every additional dollar earned. WRONG!

Fact:
An Effective Marginal Tax Rate (EMTR) indicates the rate of tax payable over one additional not every dollar earned.

According to modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) seven out of 10 Australians face an effective marginal tax rate of less than 40%. Only 8% of people face an effective marginal tax rate of more than 60%.

Added to this, Mr Swan also fails to mention that effective marginal tax rates are 30% lower under the Howard Government that they were under Labor.

Claim:
The average value of overpayments is $1000. WRONG!

Fact:
The average overpayment has never been $1000 on average. The latest data show that nearly 70,000 or 14% fewer families have incurred an overpayment for 2002-03 than for 2001-02. In addition, the average value of overpayments has dropped by 4%, from $803 for 2001-02 to $770 for 2002-03.

Claim:
Families received their fair entitlement under Labor’s family assistance system. WRONG!

Fact:
Under Labor’s system families which overestimated their income were short changed. Under the current system, families which overestimate their incomes receive a top up payment. More than 500,000 families receive an average top-up payment of about $800 if they overestimate their income.

I call on Mr Swan to guarantee that he will pay top-up payments to people who overestimate their incomes.

Mr Swan says he is considering going back to the old Labor policy of paying family assistance payments based on a family’s previous year’s income. This would ensure that families were considerably worse off.

If a family received $50,000 last year and this year one of the parents takes time off from work, that family faces being paid a lower FTB payment because Mr Swan wants to base the payment on the previous year’s income.

It is a recipe for unfairness because it will not match a family’s current needs to its financial circumstances. I call on Mr Swan to explain why he believes this would be a fair and reliable system.