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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21743

Mr SWAN (3:17 PM) —My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Minister, can you confirm the figures contained in the Department of Family and Community Services 2002-03 annual report which show the government spent $1 billion less on family tax benefit and child-care benefit last financial year than it originally budgeted? Minister, why has the government spent less on Australian families than it promised? Minister, what accounts for this black hole?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —I would like to thank the member for Lilley for his question. We do not often get questions from him these days and, before I answer his question, I would just like to say that it is of course this particular government that has a very keen interest in the welfare of Australian families. That is why we introduced the family tax benefit in 2000, and at that time an extra $2 billion went to those two million families supporting 3½ million children. Indeed, when you look at the average payment now of family tax benefit, for family tax benefit part A it is $4,714—that is the average payment per family—and for family tax benefit part B it is $1,963. So we are looking at about $6,700 as the average payment now for those families receiving either family tax benefit part B or family tax benefit part A, not to mention the unprecedented amount that we hand out in child care.

The member did ask the question: are these payments slightly lower? I think that one of the successes of the Howard-Anderson government is that more people today are in employment and real wages have increased dramatically by 16 per cent since the time we came into office, from 1996 through to today.

Mr Swan —What about the billion dollars?

The SPEAKER —The member for Lilley has asked his question!

Mr ANTHONY —What is happening, Member for Lilley, is that we are seeing more people earning more today because of the fine economic stewardship of this government—more jobs—

Mr Swan —It's $1 billion less. It's more than you anticipated—a lot more!

The SPEAKER —Order! Member for Lilley!

Mr ANTHONY —Absolutely—we agree—and what we are seeing is that income rates have gone up and, because our family tax benefit is means tested, as average wages increase then of course the amount they receive in family tax benefit slightly goes down. There is nothing hidden about that. We have got a proud record when it comes to servicing families and creating jobs.