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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 33

Mr BRADBURY (4:25 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. How will the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan help Australian families under pressure?

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Lindsay for his question. I know he represents the families in Lindsay with great dedication and he understands just how important it is that the government takes the strong action that it is taking so that the jobs of his constituents are protected. Today is a very important day for the mums and dads around Australia and also for those hardworking Australians—thousands of them—in the housing and construction sector. These are the people who do understand just why it is so important for the government to take the decisive action that it has today in the face of this very serious global financial crisis.

A critical measure of the actions that we are taking today is the $6.4 billion investment in social housing, which will see support for thousands of jobs in the housing and construction sector and will also make sure that we see 20,000 houses constructed. Of course, many of those houses will go to those in considerable need in our community: old-aged pensioners, disability pensioners, Indigenous people—all people who will be put under more pressure with this global financial crisis. The Minister for Housing and I have just this afternoon spoken to the state and territory housing and community services ministers, and we will be working very closely with them to make sure that these 20,000 homes are built as quickly as possible.

We, of course, understand that we are not going to be able to confront this global financial crisis with this measure alone. As part of our $12.8 billion of support for taxpayers, families will receive extra support as well. There will be just over $4 billion provided through the family tax benefit system. Families with school-age children will receive a $950 back-to-school bonus to help with costs over the school year. That is going to go to those families who receive family tax benefit part A and, as of 3 February, today, have a child aged between four and 18 years of age. These are the families who will receive this one-off payment. We anticipate that is around 1½ million families. We will also complement the tax bonus by providing support to around 1½ million single-income families. This will be done through a $950 single-income family bonus paid to families who are eligible for family tax benefit part B as of 3 February, today.

I just want to say to the opposition that the chief executive officer of Centrelink advises us that it is their strong preference for these bills to be passed this week to enable system changes to be made so that payments can begin in March. The opposition, as we have just heard today, is threatening to derail these payments by suggesting that we should continue this debate into next week. I just want to say to the opposition: for the sake of Australian families and for the sake of the economy, pass this legislation this week so that Centrelink can get on with making sure the money gets into people’s pockets.