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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17378


Mr SIDEBOTTOM (9:20 PM) —Tonight I would like to take issue with the Minister for Family and Community Services on two subjects. The first is related to the family tax benefit scheme, the flaws that are contained within it and the litany of complaints, which I am sure all members in this place have had raised with them by families, that the system unfortunately does not correct itself in time to stop the accumulation of debt by families who do the right thing and report on time changes in circumstances, particularly changes in their income. I will quote from an email which was sent to the minister and to me and many other members of this House by Mr Rod Fielding from 78 Barrens Road, South Riana, in my electorate of Braddon. I think this demonstrates the flaws within the system. Mr Fielding writes:

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment in the way my family have been treated by the Family Tax Benefit system.

Jarrod, one of my sons began the 2000-2001 financial year as a full time student and on January 21st he began full time employment.

My wife was receiving fortnightly FTB payments for him and also our youngest son.

When Jarrod became employed, my wife notified Centrelink and FTB payments for Jarrod were stopped as from her payment on 25th February.

When my wife received her tax return she found that $626.04 had been retained for FTB overpayments, money she had already budgeted for. When she inquired about this she was told that even though Jarrod was a dependant for over half of the year, he was not considered a dependant for any of the year, because his income was over the limit.

This limit is listed as being $8079, Jarrod's taxable income for the year was $8357, a mere $278 over the limit.

Because of this $278, my wife not only had to repay the $626.04 but also would have been entitled to a further $355.32 after Jarrod's FTB payments were stopped, had his income not exceeded the limit.

In short Jarrod's earning of $278 cost my wife over $980 in FTB!!

This situation is even more shameful considering that $1682 of Jarrod's income was earned working nights while a student.

For him to earn this money we had to run our car from South Riana to Bernie & return 3 nights a week, to pick him up, sometimes at 11 or 12 PM (75 km round trip).

The money he earned by working nights was less than many of his friends were receiving through Austudy allowance for doing nothing. Even though our travelling expenses were probably more than Jarrod's income for this night's work, we encouraged him to do it, because we wanted him to experience earning his own money and to develop a work ethic.

Something I believe our country needs from more of it's citizens.

This is how the tax system thanks us for it!!!

I thought it was really important we put that on the record because it demonstrates the flaws within that system. We have to do everything we can, all members on either side of the House, to make this a much more equitable and fairer system so that families who do the right thing are not plummeted into debt.

The other issue I would like to quickly take up is that the people of King Island have been rezoned for taxation purposes to a special zone B. I had great pleasure in helping them achieve that status. The Australian Taxation Office recognises that—it has allowed a rebate going back to 1990-91 as payback for this remote area allowance—and so does the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Unfortunately, the Department of Family and Community Services, through Centrelink, does not. It is unfair and those people receiving income from the Department of Family and Community Services should also be able to receive a remote area allowance and be back paid for that. I call on the minister to do that.

I would also like to wish my son Julian a happy 17th birthday for Thursday, 26 June. I am sorry I will not be there. I never am for his birthday, but I will be thinking of him very much.