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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7973

Mr SULLIVAN (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. How will the government support pensioners and low-income families as we move towards a low-carbon future? What challenges are there to this support?

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Longman for his question. He knows, like everyone on this side of the House, that the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will help create a low-pollution future for Australia. It is certainly the case that Australians want action on climate change. Yes, it is the case that action on climate change will mean that things will have to change. Treasury modelling released earlier this year, and available on the Department of Climate Change website, recognises that the price of pollution will add around 1.2 per cent to the consumer price index over two years. Of this, household food prices could contribute around 0.1 per cent. The government has always been very upfront about this. We have made it very clear, including in legislation that has gone through the House of Representatives, that we will provide low- and middle-income households with compensation. Reports in today’s Australian suggesting that there is no compensation for households are wrong. Through a package of cash assistance, tax offsets and other measures the government will help these households maintain their standard of living while moving to a low-pollution future.

Mr Tuckey interjecting

Ms MACKLIN —I want to say, so at least one person up the back knows what this compensation is going to be made up of, that the government will increase pensions and other income support payments by 2.8 per cent over two years, including upfront indexation, to fully meet the expected overall increase in the cost of living flowing from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. A single pensioner will receive compensation of up to $504 over two years. A pensioner couple combined will receive $760 over two years.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Wow, that will go a long way!

Ms MACKLIN —I hear the member for Mackellar commenting, but she can wait until I get to what the opposition’s views are. Low-income families will also receive compensation to fully meet the expected overall cost-of-living increase. Family tax benefits will be increased, generally by 2.8 per cent over two years, an increase of up to $175 a child on the maximum rate. The low-income tax offset will increase by $430 over two years. So, in specific terms, a single-income family, on average wages—around $60,000 a year—with two children under 12, will receive $861 over two years in extra assistance.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Wow!

Ms MACKLIN —There is a lot of wowing going on from the member for Mackellar. You might wonder how much wowing went on in the Liberal Party party room when they came up with that report last week. If you have a look at the report they put out last week you will see that low- and middle-income households would be worse off because there would not be any compensation. Whether it is their policy or not of course we do not know—

Dr Emerson —Even they don’t know!

Ms MACKLIN —Thank you. They certainly don’t know. But the report makes it clear in black and white—tell it to the wow factor over there—that household compensation would be removed. That is what is in there. Do we hear any wowing?

Government members interjecting—No!

Ms MACKLIN —Under the Liberals—if it is their policy, which of course we do not know—families under the report that was released last week would be hit with higher costs but with no compensation. So maybe that is where this story has come from. The Liberal Party policy is to deliver no compensation to low- and middle-income households; by contrast the government will make sure that they are protected.