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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31520

Mr SWAN (2:16 PM) —My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Can the minister confirm that in a press release yesterday the Minister for Family and Community Services, in relation to the government's one-off $600 payment, said: `If Centrelink had a made a mistake there would be no attempt to recover the bonus payments'? Can the minister confirm that this advice means that a family from New South Wales will keep the double payment of $2,400 mistakenly made to them in respect of their two children? Isn't the government's decision to let families keep this overpayment just another cynical election bribe?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —I must thank the member for Lilley for his question. I have a greater chance of getting dorothy dixers from the opposition than from my own colleagues, but I do respect the Leader of the House and the deputy leader. Indeed, I must also thank the member for Lilley's office for sending through an email. It is not often that we receive one. It makes up all these cases; indeed, perhaps it was from the chap from Cooper Plains, who was contacting the member for Lilley's office. Let us put this into perspective. As it is now, 1.95 million families have received their bonus payments—and, of course, however many remain, until the end of business tomorrow. So 1.95 million Australian families have received that one-off payment and, of course, they are going to get that payment again next year, in September.

It is interesting: last week the member for Lilley was complaining bitterly that we were not paying people enough. In the middle of last week he was complaining that we were not going to guarantee the value of the $600 into the future. Today he is complaining that we are paying them too much. The fact is that this is a constant pattern of sour grapes, because it is this government, through good economic management, that has been able to deliver this $19.2 billion increase in payments for the family tax benefit over the next four years. We have heard no policy suggestions on how the Labor Party is going to help Australian families. The only guarantee that we have is that the member for Lilley and the Australian Labor Party have refused to guarantee the $600 payment. The member for Lilley smirks. I am sure the over 9,000 families in Lilley would not appreciate the smirk that you are giving, when you have failed to guarantee that $600 payment.

The SPEAKER —The minister will direct his remarks through the chair.

Mr ANTHONY —I would like to quote a few comments, because people are very grateful for the payment that they are receiving. I noticed that Adele Horin, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald today, talks about a lady, Linda Mondy, the senior manager for Western Sydney's UnitingCare Burnside. We know Western Sydney well. The article says that she turned up on Friday for the mothers' meeting at Doonside, and only two of the 10 regulars were there.

“My staff tell me the women were excited, they'd been planning what to spend the money on—and it was on kid's clothes.”

The Deputy Prime Minister gives another example. In Burke, Sally Bryant, a council community worker, said she had seen no negative impact on residents. She said:

Most people have been strapped for cash because of the drought and the lack of casual work. They look upon this money with gratitude.

Going to the Central Coast, there is a very good article by Jodie Sharp in the Daily Telegraph. She said:

For families like mine—we are middle-income earners with two children—this government initiative is a godsend. I was considering having to work more hours in the near future and now I won't have to. I now make an informed decision at election time, and so far the government is showing me what I want to see—that is, it cares about young families and children, who are the future of our country. Keep it up, Mr Howard.

There is no doubt that it is the coalition government that is continuing to deliver. As far as payments are concerned, bonuses will go to eligible individuals. If there is fraudulent activity, then of course we expect them to repay it.