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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6269

Mr MARLES (Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry) (10:45 AM) —In the 2008-09 budget, the government introduced a number of measures aimed at reducing family assistance debts and assisting families to avoid accumulating debts into the future. For many years we have been concerned about how the family tax benefit system can create unnecessary debts for families which can in turn complicate and frustrate a family’s life. Government assistance should make people’s lives easier, not create uncertainty and financial difficulties.

Family tax benefits support more than 2.2 million Australian families, with an annual expenditure of around $17 billion. Families need and rely on this assistance, and the measures in the Family Assistance Amendment (Further 2008 Budget Measures) Bill 2009 will help families receive their correct entitlement and reduce cycles of overpayment and debt.

There are three measures in this bill. The first provides for continuous adjustment of customers’ family tax benefit rate. This allows Centrelink to automatically adjust a customer’s family tax benefit rate following an increase in the customer’s income estimate. The intention is to help prevent reconciliation debts. For people who fail to lodge tax returns, the second measure precludes certain payments. Again, the intended aim of the measure is to reduce the number of existing and newly accrued family tax benefit debts. These debts are known as non-lodger debts. These measures respond to a 2006 report by the Auditor-General on the management of family tax benefit overpayments. The third measure makes minor amendments to the tax file number provisions in the family assistance law to help keep an ongoing and up-to-date link between the Australian tax office and Centrelink.

I note the opposition’s support for this bill and I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.