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Prime Minister criticises ALP family payment plan.

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Tuesday 18 April 2006

Prime Minister criticises ALP family payment plan


MARK COLVIN: The Prime Minister's delivered a strongly-worded attack on the Opposition over the fam ily payments system, accusing it of planning to take an axe to the system if it won government. 


John Howard's target was Labor's plan to put a means test on Family Tax Benefit Part B and take it away from families earning more than a quarter of a million dollars a year. 


The Prime Minister calls this the thin edge of the wedge. 


But the Opposition says he's running a loopy scare campaign and failing to explain why millionaires should receive welfare payments. 


Louise Yaxley reports. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: John Howard calls the speech "Taxation keeping faith with Australian Families," and it's a straight pitch to the nation's parents - and would be parents - a prime minister selling his Government's credentials as a family friendly administration. 


He's the leader who leaves nothing to chance, putting down a foundation for an election still 18 months away by painting himself as the one with the right policies for people with children. 


JOHN HOWARD: A taxation system that fails to recognise the costs of raising children, that adopts an antiseptic economically neutral view of the responsibility carried by Australian parents is a taxation system without a social vision. 


My Government faces the low and middle-income families of Australia squarely in the foreground of our policy lens. We make no apologies for that. That is how we said we would govern, that is how we are governing, and that is how we intend to go on governing. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: But the point of this speech is to tear down the Opposition, even more than it is to build up his own side. 


Mr Howard argues that Labor wants to strip back the family payments system. 


JOHN HOWARD: The Labor Party has exhibited only unremitting hostility to the family tax benefit system. It has become a very small-minded political outfit, almost resentful when the Coalition looks after low and middle-income families better than they do. 


Time and again Labor has signalled its intention to take the axe to the family tax benefit system. At the last election its family tax plan would have left some of the least affluent people in Australian society worse off, including single mothers, and large single income families on modest incomes. 


Last November the architect of this vicious policy and now the ALP Treasury spokesman, Mr Wayne Swann, said that family tax benefits for what he terms, and I quote, "high income single income families," end of quote, should be rolled into a reformed tax system. 


In January Labor's family and community services spokesman Senator Evans complained that the Government, and I quote, "has been gradually and quietly pushing up the value of family benefits, and that there has been no real debate on the implications of this." 


You don't have to be a Blexley Park codebreaker to see where they are going. Labor wants to undermine the family tax benefit system.  


LOUISE YAXLEY: Labor's families spokesman Chris Evans says the Prime Minister's falling back on a trademark scare campaign, and this one, he says, is filled with conspiracy theories. 


Chris Evans says Labor supports the family tax benefits system, but it wouldn't apply a means test for those earning more than a quarter of a million dollars. 


And he says, in launching such a strong defence of the current system, the Prime Minister shows he's not prepared to deal with any of the flaws in it. 


CHRIS EVANS: John Howard really has to answer the challenge we put down to him in the May budget. There are real inequities in the family benefits system, terrible tax imposts on middle Australia, and John Howard must use his authority to change those inequities, to make the system fairer for middle income families.  


He must do that, otherwise he's failing those families. It's not reasonable to expect people to lose 70 cents in the dollar for every extra dollar they earn by going back to work or doing a bit of overtime. We should be rewarding hard work, encouraging participation in our economy, and currently we're taking 70 cents in the dollar of every extra dollar people earn, and instead we're paying millionaires over $3,000 a year because their partners don't work. It's not fair, it's not Australian, and it ought to be fixed. 


MARK COLVIN: Chris Evans ending Louise Yaxley's report.