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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31525

Ms JACKSON (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Is the minister aware that some families who cancelled their fortnightly family tax benefit payments to avoid getting debts and who are now expecting a lump sum payment before the end of the financial year have been told by Centrelink that they are no longer registered and are ineligible for the one-off $600 payment? Can the minister confirm how many families who took the government's advice and moved from taking fortnightly to end of year payments to avoid debts will miss out on the government's $600?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —One of the things that we did when the new taxation system came into place in the year 2000 was to repackage 12 payments into three payments—family tax benefit part A, family tax benefit part B and the child-care benefit. At that time there was a decision, and I think it was a very wise decision made by the government, that parents could have a choice: they could receive it as a fortnightly payment or they could receive it as a lump sum. Indeed, a lot more Australian families have now been choosing to take that lump sum. To answer your question—and I would be interested in any specific cases if you would like to refer them to us—for those Australian families that were receiving a lump sum at the end of last year, there was a decision made that they would be entitled to that $600 payment. If they received a lump sum last year then they would be getting that $600 payment or multiples of it, depending on the number of children that they have.

Again, I just want to remind the parliament that the greatest risk to Australian families when it comes to family tax benefit is the Australian Labor Party's position. They have failed to guarantee the $600 increase to the base rate and the maximum rate in the year 2005 and beyond. I hope that Australian families that are watching or listening to this broadcast today will go to their local ALP members in the House of Representa-tives and their senators and say, `Why haven't you guaranteed that $600 payment that we are receiving now as a bonus from the coalition government because of their good economic management?' And those eligible for family tax benefit will receive another one in September. They will all receive that payment if they are eligible for family tax benefit.

Why are they not guaranteed that payment by the Australian Labor Party in years to come? This is just purely sour grapes on the part of the Labor Party. It is fantastic that we are able to assist 1.95 million Australian families, who are very grateful that they have been able to receive this payment.