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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1142

Ms BURKE (2:20 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. What action is the government taking to support families to meet pressures on the family budget?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Chisholm for her question. I know that she is frequently out in her community talking to people about what is on their mind and finding that the response is the pressure of the cost of living, making the family budget add up. These are the things that are talked about by families around the dinner table.

The government understands this. Government members understand this. We also know that the best way of assisting families to meet cost-of-living pressures is to ensure that people have the opportunity to get a job—to have a job, to have the benefits and dignity of work. That is why the government was so focused on supporting jobs during the global financial crisis. I note that the Benevolent Society this week released a report about the wellbeing of children. They said:

The government’s stimulus package helped us avoid significant unemployment, and that can only be terrific for families and children.

The same instincts that drove us to do what we could to support jobs during the global financial crisis are driving us now to assist families with cost-of-living pressures, particularly meeting the costs of supporting children. That is why we have reduced taxation so that someone on an income of $80,000 is paying $1,550 less tax than they were in 2007-08. That is an extra $1,550 in the family budget.

And of course—and congratulations go to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs—next year sees the start of Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave scheme to help families manage the pressures at the time of the birth of a child. Around 148,000 new parents will be eligible to receive 18 weeks paid parental leave paid at the minimum wage, which is currently around $570 a week. We have also increased support for families that have childcare costs, increasing the childcare tax rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, covering out-of-pocket costs of up to $7,500 per child. From 1 July next year, that rebate will be able to be paid fortnightly. We have introduced the education tax refund, now enabling families to claim up to 50 per cent of the costs for primary school kids, up to $390 per year, and for secondary students, up to $779 a year. From 1 July next year, school uniforms will be part of the costs that can be claimed for.

We also have our Medicare Teen Dental Plan, which is providing a voucher to help families get eligible teenagers a preventative dental check. Since its implementation on 1 July 2008, the Medicare Teen Dental Plan has provided for over 680,000 teenagers to receive a preventative dental check. Of course, we will be implementing our election promise to increase the family tax benefit part A for teenagers aged 16 to 18 years. This is important because we understand that the costs of children do not go down when children turn 16, and we want to assist families to keep kids in school and associated with learning and education. The government understand the pressures that families face, and we will continue to take responsible action to strengthen our economy and to assist families with those pressures.