Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Supporting and strengthening Australian families

The Howard Government has supported and strengthened families with a record $19 billion of annual assistance to help families with the cost of raising their children through family payments, child care assistance, and maternity and parenting payments, the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said today.

A single income family earning $40,000 a year with two children (one aged under five years and the other 13-15) is entitled to receive $156.50 a week in family tax payments. They could also be entitled to $55.40 in rent assistance.

Senator Kay Patterson rejected Mr Swan’s claim that the Howard Government had not done enough to help Australian’s balance their work and commitments; citing the Government’s record support to Australian families which has given families choice and flexibility to reflect the diversity of parenting arrangements.

“Under the Howard Government 1.3 million jobs have been created, inflation is below 3% and interest rates are at levels unimaginable under Labor,” Senator Patterson said.

“This is a long way from the days of Labor when unemployment reached crisis levels. In the ‘recession we had to have’ there were nearly one million Australians unemployed.”

Labor have not changed under Mark Latham committing to more than $8 billion worth of unfunded promises. A key thing Labor has failed to promise is to not raise taxes.

“The Howard Government have made family assistance measures fairer and simpler than the previous system,” she said. “About 2 million families with 3.5 million children – the vast majority of Australian families with dependent children – receive the Family Tax Benefit (FTB).

“Families receive around $6000 a year on average in FTB to assist them with the costs of raising their children.

“Under Labor more than half a million families who now receive a top-up payment of more than $800 were denied these payments because of Labor’s unfair policies,” she said.

“Government spending on family assistance has increased by around $2 billion a year. Low-income earners benefit the most from Government assistance, which is consistent with the principle that assistance is targetted to those most in need.

“The FTB replaced a system of 12 benefits with three payments.

“The income testing arrangements for the payments are more generous with more families receiving maximum levels of assistance and families able to keep more of each dollar they earn.

“Under Labor Effective Marginal Tax Rates were significantly higher than today. They were, on average, 28% higher.”

She said the Government aimed to help families to help themselves with more support for families, improved and increased childcare assistance and parenting support.

The Government aimed to support parents’ decisions about how they raised their children.

Since 1996 the Howard Government has funded an additional 210,000 childcare places, taking the total to around 518,000 places, helping families to balance work and family needs.

Senator Patterson said: “The Child Care Benefit has significantly improved the affordability of childcare, particularly for low-income earners.

“The Howard Government spends $1.6 billion annually on childcare support for families.

“Families can now better balance their work and family commitments. The Howard Government has spent more on child care than any Labor government ever did.”

“Mr Swan remained strangely silent on the benefits for Australian families from good economic management and strong jobs’ growth,” Senator Patterson said.

“Perhaps it is because the comparisons are none too flattering for the Labor Party. Since 1996 the minimum wage has increased by more than 8%. This is in stark contrast to the period between 1992 and 1996 when Labor was in office when the minimum wage fell by 5%.”