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Latham makes pitch to middle Australia -

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Broadcast: 07/09/2004

Latham makes pitch to middle Aust

Reporter:

KERRY O'BRIEN: And I spoke with Opposition Leader Mark Latham in our Sydney studio a short time
ago.

Mark Latham, if the Howard tax cuts of a year ago amounted - that's $4 - amounted to a sandwich and
milkshake, then I guess we're entitled to call your $8 cuts two sandwiches and two milkshakes which
doesn't sound all that generous, does it?

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: Well, Kerry, what's happened is the Government's had two Budgets to
deliver $4 a week.

We're delivering twice that.

Double the amount in this one effort, this one very comprehensive tax and family policy today that
eases the squeeze on middle Australia, so we've doubled the effort of the Howard Government when it
comes to tax relief and when it comes to filling the big hole.

People were shocked on Budget night when under $52,000 a year there wasn't a red cent of tax
relief.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But do you think $8 fills the big hole?

MARK LATHAM: Well, it certainly goes a long way ahead of the Howard Government.

It goes a long way ahead of the Howard Government.

Combined with the substantial benefits we're putting in place for middle Australian families in
this package they're a mile ahead compared to the quite lousy effort of the Howard Government on
Budget night.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You say nine out of 10 families will be better off under your package.

Is that still the case after you take away the Government's $600 family payment that you won't be
paying?

MARK LATHAM: It's an annual payment that's included in our annual tables.

It's riddled with problems.

For a lot of families who have the family debts.

They won't see that money because it's used at the end of the year to pay off the family debt
crisis, the 600,000 families with an average family debt of $1,000.

The other problem with it is the Government's changed the indexation arrangements so the effective
value of that $600 erodes over time and the real life truth for Australian families - they don't
sit around working out the household budget on an annual basis, they do it every fortnight and
that's the real relief we need to provide when it matters most when the bills are coming in.

We've got the fortnightly arrangements and a typical middle Australian family on $60,000, $70,000 a
year, is $70 to $80 a week better off under us compared to the Howard-Costello Budget.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But the real live truth for an awful lot of Australians just a couple of months ago
was getting $600 in their hand.

Are you suggesting that that $600 didn't mean anything to them?

MARK LATHAM: It didn't mean anything to the one in three families with substantial family debts
because the money was used to pay off those debts that didn't actually turn up in their hand.

That's the problem with the payment.

What we're doing today is putting in place measures to resolve the family debt crisis, to actually
solve that problem for the benefit of Australian families and in the future, under those
circumstances this band-aid compensation payment, it won't be needed to resolve the debts because
we have other measures that will ensure that they're not generated in the first place.

KERRY O'BRIEN: If it's true that one in three Australian families will be worse off, what about the
other two out of three Australian families?

Can you honestly say that those other two out of three Australian families will be better off under
your plan with the removal of the $600 allowance?

MARK LATHAM: On a weekly basis, nine out of 10 Australian families receiving family payments today
are better off.

We look at all those problems with the $600 annual payment, but if you want to take the Government
at face value, it's still true under Labor's measures that the strong majority of Australian
families are better off - around seven out of 10 Australian families better off, even if you try
and pretend as Mr Costello does that this $600 supplement is fair dinkum and the value is not going
to be eroded over time.

KERRY O'BRIEN: When you say eroded over time you say eroded over six or seven years, that's a long
time...

MARK LATHAM: It's a swindle.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That's two governments.

MARK LATHAM: A swindle on the Australian people because they changed the indexation base to CPI
away from the more generous wage base in the Budget.

They weren't telling anyone about it.

We found it in the fine detail of the legislation.

Labor is committed to restoring it to more generous indexation so that families have actual value
for money out of our better family payments.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you've introduced these pages and pages of tables to show how people benefit on
a weekly basis.

None of them include that $600 payment per child and for some families with three young children,
that could be as high as $1800 a year.

Presumably many people are likely to conclude, whipped along by Peter Costello, that you've
excluded it simply to make your tables look better?

MARK LATHAM: They're in the annual tables...

KERRY O'BRIEN: But not the weekly tables, which are the ones we're emphasising.

MARK LATHAM: We're emphasising the many problems with the $600 payment.

It's eaten up by family debts, it's eroded over time in terms of value and it's not paid
fortnightly when the bills come in.

The real life circumstance - I don't think many Australian families have the luxury to be like an
accounting practice where you do an end of year reconciliation, the electricity bill, the rates,
the expenses for the children, they all come in on a fortnightly or monthly basis.

On those arrangements you need to ensure you can pay the family support when they need it as the
bills come in.

We're entitled to say that this is an annual payment included in the annual tables.

Even if you take the Government at face value, those figures I quoted earlier on, a typical middle
Australian family on $60,000 to $70,000 a year, $70 to $80 a week better off, they're still
substantially ahead under Labor if you include this $600 supplement in the weekly calculation.

So families are better off.

That's the bottom line.

Not only financially, but because we're resolving the family debt crisis.

Not going to have a problem if in the first place that this requires the band-aid compensation from
the $600 lump sum.

KERRY O'BRIEN: If we work from another one of your tables, the annual table that does figure in the
$600, and you see the two different stories.

A single income couple with one child under five years on $25,000 or $30,000 a year under Labor's
scheme you show them getting more than they would under the Government on the weekly basis.

If you include the Government's $600 payment with your annual table, those people are then worse
off under Labor?

MARK LATHAM: That's if the $600 payment actually gets in their hand on an annual basis if it's not
eaten up by debt.

Our plan for those people at the lower end of the scale is not permanent welfare.

Our plan is to get them into work.

The participation announcements reforms we've set out today are going to be one of the greatest
things that's ever happened to the jobless families in this country, the people who need extra
support to do more work or get into work in the first place.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That will be good news, I would think, because there are people with one, two, or
three children who don't have jobs, Mr Latham, who are actually worse off by at least $500 a year
and maybe more under these proposals.

Is that the Labor way?

MARK LATHAM: The Labor way is to bring people into work.

The Labor way is not to leave people on permanent welfare.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What about those...

MARK LATHAM: Welfare is not a way of life.

We're lifting participation by 72,000, we're providing an extra 80,000 training and child-care
packages, so we can move these people from welfare to work.

Now I invite you, or anyone from the Government, to come and visit public housing estates where you
can find families that have had unemployment that passes from generation to generation, where
you've got children growing up in families where they haven't known work in the family - not from
their parents, not from their grandparents.

The national shame, Kerry, is this, we have got 800,000 Australian children growing up in families
without work, without jobs in the home.

We lose the positive role models.

We lose the energy and the incentive and the drive to work and climb the ladder in life and do
better for yourself.

That's not a fair society.

That's not social justice, and that's why Labor is dedicated to doing something about that problem,
to build a fairer Australia where we have a prosperity that all Australians get a chance to share
in.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But you also had that problem with the previous Labor government.

You quote estimates that 71,000 people will come back into the labour market as a result of your
measures which will mean a cut to welfare payments to help offset the tax cuts.

Will there be jobs available for those 71,000 and what sort of jobs will they be?

How are they going to be credited?

MARK LATHAM: We're providing 80,000 training and child-care places to ensure that as people come
back in they've got the incentives to come back into the labour market and look for work.

They'll also have the services available to find a job.

KERRY O'BRIEN: What jobs will they find?

MARK LATHAM: The jobs will be those available in the Australian economy in a growth environment and
at the moment you've got to understand this about the 72,000 we're talking about - they're not even
looking for work.

They've given up on the prospect of ever having a job, let alone joining the labour market, getting
some new skills, getting the child-care arrangements where they can get themselves into work.

Work is a better life than welfare.

KERRY O'BRIEN: No-one's going to argue that.

MARK LATHAM: We're doing something about that sound argument to try and break the poverty traps
left by the Howard Government.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Let's say you are elected on October 9.

You start to run the economy the Labor way.

When do you start generating those 71,000 jobs you say these people are going to be looking for?

And how?

MARK LATHAM: Our package comes into effect from July 1 next year.

That's obviously going to follow our first Budget.

The participation impacts will start up from there.

It's a serious problem where the Howard Government has left 800,000 Australian children growing up
in jobless families.

Won't solve that overnight with a snap of the fingers.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mr Howard also says...

MARK LATHAM: We're going to make an immediate start on the project and over the first term of our
government we will lift participation.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mr Howard says that by going back on his work place reforms you'll cost jobs to the
economy.

MARK LATHAM: Our work place reforms are about productivity.

You get the balance right between work and family - you're happy in life, you're going to be happy
in work and more productive.

We put an emphasis on enterprise bargaining, which is all about productivity and flexibility at
work place level.

I mean, Mr Howard says a lot of things.

He says there were children in the water.

He said we'd never have a GST.

He says a lot of things.

It doesn't mean they're true.

I'll tell you what is true.

He has left a lot of problems for middle Australian families that we're now solving.

We're easing the squeeze on middle Australia and the squeeze is on because of the Howard
Government.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've chosen to sit on this package for weeks in order to release it within the
campaign.

What advantage do you really think that's given you?

MARK LATHAM: We've taken the time to get it right.

These are big problems that the Howard Government couldn't solve in eight years.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You mean you didn't have this finished weeks ago?

MARK LATHAM: We've been working on it to get it finalised and right.

And election campaigns are about positive solutions for the benefit of the Australian people.

This is the biggest one you'll see in the campaign.

The biggest positive solution resolving a whole bundle of problems affecting middle Australian
families, the great core and backbone of our nation, where the Howard Government has given up.

KERRY O'BRIEN: If this is at the centre of your campaign to win government - there's a clear sense
that you've lost ground in the first week of the campaign.

Presuming that this is this very important centrepiece, do you agree that if we don't see you claw
back in the second week, that that's a significant in the end kick in the guts for your campaign?

MARK LATHAM: That's a sense of deja vu.

For some reason every time I come on your program, you say that about the polls.

We all know they bounce around.

We do!

Every time I come on, we can go through the tapes, you put that same proposition to me, and then
something happens.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Probably because it remains a consistent...

MARK LATHAM: I'm not here as a poll analyst, I'm not here as a commentator, I'm here as an
advocate.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now you're sounding like John Howard.

MARK LATHAM: I'm here as an advocate for solving the problems he's left behind.

You're a smart man.

That's why you know about the polls.

I know about better public policy and that's what I'm advocating.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mark Latham, thanks for talking to us.

MARK LATHAM: A pleasure, as ever, Kerry.

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