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Stronger families and communities



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OUR FUTURE ACTION PLAN

Stronger Families & Communities

Stronger Families and Communities commits the Coalition to securing the future of Australian families and communities through increased support and the development of a stronger social coalition.

Stronger Families and Communities

Table of Contents

Our Future Action Plan - A Summary 3

Part 1 Stronger Families and Communities 5

A Support for families 5

(i) Assistance with the costs of new born children 5 (ii) Assistance with the costs of children 6

(iii) Supporting single income families 6

B Child Care 6

(i) Affordable Child Care 6

(ii) Flexible Child Care 6

(iii) Quality Child Care 6

(iv) Supporting children with special needs 7

C Child Support Agency 7

(i) Fair and effective outcomes 7

(ii) Better service 7

D Stronger Families and Communities Strategy 8

(i) Supporting families and communities 8

(ii) Local solutions to local problems 8

E Volunteers 8

F Prime Minister's Community and Business Partnership 8 G Gambling 9

Part 2 Acknowledging Older Australians 9

A Increased pensions 9

(i) MTAWE Guarantee 10

(ii) Tax Reform 10

(iii) Keeping more of your pension 10

B Self Funded Retirees/Part Pensioners 10

(i) Greater access to Part Pensions 10

(ii) Commonwealth Seniors Health Card benefits 10 (iii) Tax Rebates 11

C Other Benefits 11

(i) Refunds of excess imputation credits. 11

(ii) Capital Gains Tax rate reductions 11

(iii) Abolition of State taxes as part of tax reform 11 (iv) 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate 11

Part 3 Welfare Reform 12

A Australians Working Together 12

(i) A Fair Go For Mature Workers 12

(ii) A Better Deal for People With Disabilities 12

(iii) Getting People the Right Help 13

Family and Community Services 1

(iv) Helping Parents Return to Work 13

A Australians Working Together (cont)

(v) More Child Care Places 13

(vi) Helping People Find Jobs 13

(vii) Help to Participate 13

(viii) Community and Business Engagement 13 (ix) Promoting Self-Reliance for Indigenous People 13 B Future Directions 14

Part 4 Disability 14

A Commonwealth State Disability Agreement 14

B A better deal for people with disabilities 15

C A Voice for Carers 15

Part 5 Housing 16

(i) Interest rates and first home owners 16

(ii) Commonwealth housing assistance 16

(iii) National Homelessness Strategy 17

Highlights of the Government’s Achievements 18

Labor’s Alternative 21

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Our Future Action Plan - A Summary

The Coalition Government stands for a just and humane society where the importance of the family is respected and strengthened.

We believe in government that supports and encourages its citizens. By nurturing and cherishing their children, Australian parents are building our future. Happy and healthy families are the best way to ensure that children get the right start.

The best form of welfare is helping the unemployed get a job. The Coalition will develop and implement further incentives to encourage Australians to return to work.

The Coalition is committed to providing equal opportunity for all to achieve their full potential, and to maintaining an effective safety net for the most vulnerable in our community.

Part 1 Stronger Families and Communities

A re-elected Howard Government will:

• Introduce the First Child Tax Refund to pay back to mothers who leave the workforce after the birth of their first child, the tax paid on their income earned in the year prior to the birth of the child.

• Develop innovative packages to assist families and communities at risk through our Stronger Families and Communities Strategy.

• Assist families with the costs of raising children through family benefits and payments through Family Tax Benefit.

• Provide support for sole parent families and families who choose to have a parent stay at home to look after young children.

• Ensure families have access to affordable, flexible, quality child care through the Child Care Benefit.

• Ensure the child support scheme is balanced, fair and effective.

Part 2 Acknowledging Older Australians

A re-elected Howard Government will:

• Guarantee that pensions will be always at least 25% of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings.

• Extend concessions, such as those enjoyed by pensioners, to independent, self-funded retirees through the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.

Family and Community Services 3

• Provide $19 million over four years to fund reciprocal transport concessions to enable state government Senior Card Holders to travel at concessional rates in any state or territory.

Part 3 Welfare Reform

A re-elected Howard Government will:

• Implement our Australians Working Together package that places strong emphasis on encouraging and supporting people into jobs.

• Pursue further McClure Report reforms, including further simplification of the income support payments system.

Part 4 People with Disabilities

A re-elected Howard Government will:

• Re-negotiate the Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement to provide better outcomes for people with disabilities.

• Spend $250 million extra over four years on a better deal for people with disabilities - a key plank of Australians Working Together.

Part 5 Housing

A re-elected Howard Government will:

• Negotiate a new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement to deliver better, more affordable housing for low income Australians.

• Deliver an additional $75 million for remote indigenous housing.

• Develop and implement a National Homelessness Strategy.

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Part 1 Stronger Families and Communities

A Support for families

The Howard Government directly supports Australian families through Family Tax Benefit. 2.2 million Australian families with over 4 million children have benefited from Family Tax Benefit - over 90% of all Australian families with dependent children.

(i) Assistance with the costs of new born children

If re-elected the Coalition will provide additional assistance families during one of the hardest times for them financially, the birth of a child. The First Child Tax Refund will pay back to mothers who leave the workforce after the birth of their first child, tax paid on their income earned in the year prior to the birth of the child.

The First Child Tax Refund will be available from 1 July 2002 and will apply to a family's first child born on or after 1 July 2001. As a transitional measure, the Refund will be available to the first child born after 1 July 2001 to families who already have children. The tax which can be claimed back is the tax payable on income from personal exertion (non-investment) in the year of, or the year prior to, the birth of the child (the base year). The mother will be able to claim back one-fifth of the tax paid each year, over five years, up to a maximum amount of $2,500 a year.

To ensure families on income support and low income tax payers benefit from this measure there will be a minimum refund of $500. The maximum annual refund of $2,500 equates to 1/5 th of the tax paid on a salary of $52,666. It is estimated that some 93% of partnered women without children earn this amount or less. Those with a base year salary over this amount will still be able to claim back a refund of $2,500 but not higher.

If a mother returns to work during the five year period, she will still be entitled to a tax refund of 1/5th of the tax paid in the base year, reduced by the proportion of income from the (usually part-time) work to base year income.

For low income earners and those on income support, arrangements will ensure that a minimum annual amount of $500 is payable where the parent earns less than $25,000 in the assessment year. That is, as long as the income is below this amount, the payment would not be reduced below $500 even if the parent returns to full-time work.

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The refund would be provided in addition to the current family tax benefit payments and would not be counted as income for the purposes of any government benefit. The refund is not means-tested on the husband's or partner's income.

(ii) Assistance with the costs of children

The Howard Government will also support Australian families through the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) and assist families with the costs of children.

Our reforms mean that families can get a top up payment if they have been underpaid.

(iii) Supporting single income families

The Coalition will assist sole parent families and families who choose to have a parent stay at home to look after young children through FTB.

B Child Care

The Coalition recognises that the provision of flexible, affordable, accessible, high quality child care is essential to enabling parents to balance work and family life.

We are committed to ensuring that high quality child care services are available to all children so parents can work, study and participate in the general community.

(i) Affordable Child Care

A re-elected Coalition Government will spend more than $6.5 billion on child care through Child Care Benefit over the next four years to ensure Australian families have access to affordable child care. Low income families (with incomes below $29,857 a year) will receive up to $129 a week in Commonwealth assistance for one child who is in approved child care for 50 hours a week.

(ii) Flexible Child Care

The Coalition recognises that many families need to access child care outside normal working hours. Many shift workers, families working outside standard business hours, families who have a sick child or a child with a disability, and families who live in rural and regional areas will be able to access flexible, affordable in-home care under a re-elected Coalition Government. $65.4 million will be provided under the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy over the next four years to ensure Australian families continue to have access to affordable, flexible child care, particularly in-home care.

(iii) Quality Child Care

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The Coalition understands that Australian parents don’t just want access to child care. They want the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are being cared for in a safe and secure environment that is stimulating for their children.

The Howard Government is committed to providing parents with access to childcare of the highest quality, and will maintain a national, government-supported, quality assurance system (the Quality Improvement and Accreditation System) for long day care centres and family day care services. Under this system, funding for child care centres is dependent on the centre demonstrating its commitment to providing a service that meets Commonwealth standards.

A re-elected Coalition Government will extend the quality assurance system to all forms of Commonwealth Approved care.

(iv) Supporting children with special needs

The Coalition is committed to ensuring that high quality child care services are available to all children. A re-elected Coalition Government will maintain funding for the Supplementary Services (SUPS) program, which helps Commonwealth-funded child care services provide children with special needs with the care that meets their specific requirements.

C Child Support Agency

The Coalition recognises that, in the event of a family breakdown, the interests of children must be paramount. In fulfilling this commitment, the Child Support Scheme must balance the needs of resident and non-resident parents. The Coalition has reformed the Child Support Scheme legislation to improve flexibility for paying parents and provide greater security to resident parents.

(i) Fair and effective outcomes

The Coalition will ensure the Child Support Scheme provides balanced, fair and effective outcomes for resident and non-resident parents.

(ii) Better service

The Coalition will improve the services provided by the Child Support Agency by introducing better ways of meeting the needs of recently separated parents and through ongoing support of regional service centres and outreach activities. Outreach activities include community information sessions, information sessions for clients of community service providers, client interview services and home visits.

Family and Community Services 7

D Stronger Families and Communities Strategy

The Howard Government believes the strength of Australia is underpinned by the social coalition between individuals, government, the community sector and the business community. All members of a community have a vital role in deciding what sort of Australia we want for ourselves and our children in the future.

(i) Supporting families and communities

Demonstrating the Coalition’s commitment to Australian families, the Prime Minister John Howard introduced the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy.

The Strategy will provide $240 million over four years to early intervention and prevention initiatives to assist families and communities at risk of breakdown, dislocation and isolation.

(ii) Local solutions to local problems

The Coalition believes local communities should be empowered to identify and implement partnerships to resolve local problems. The Stronger Families and Communities Strategy recognises that many of the best ideas come from local communities, not from Canberra. Through the Strategy, a re-elected Coalition Government will support locally developed and based projects with a focus on parenting and relationships, potential leadership in local communities, support for local solutions to local problems, flexibility and choice in child care, and volunteers.

E Volunteers

Volunteers are the life-blood of any community. Their selflessness and commitment epitomise the spirit that binds us together.

The International Year of Volunteers 2001 has been a special year for volunteers and has involved a recognition and celebration of their valuable contribution to our society.

Throughout the year, the Howard Government has provided volunteer organisations with small equipment grants in recognition of their service.

A re-elected Howard Government will further encourage and support volunteering organisations in Australia.

F Prime Minister's Community and Business Partnership

As part of the Coalition's commitment to a stronger social coalition, the Prime Minister convened the Prime Minister's Community Business Partnership.

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The Partnership encourages and enhances cooperation between the corporate and community sectors to create a cohesive Australian community based on shared values. It provides a foundation on which Australians can build a society which is both willing and able to support those in the community who most need it. Its membership draws upon both the corporate and community sector and has a depth of business and not-for-profit experience.

A re-elected Howard Government will provide funding to the Partnership through Australians Working Together to further strengthen the links between the community and business sectors, particularly in relation to reducing welfare dependency.

G Gambling

The Coalition recognises that problem gambling imposes enormous financial and social costs on Australian families and communities. To date, however, the States and Territories remain addicted to gambling revenue and have been unable to adequately address problem gambling.

The Coalition Government has led the way in responding to concerns in the Australian community and established the Ministerial Council on Gambling. The Howard Government will spend $8.4 million on research into, and public awareness of, the problems associated with gambling.

A re-elected Howard Government will develop a national Problem Gambling Harm Minimisation Strategy.

Part 2 Acknowledging Older Australians

A Increased pensions

The Howard Government has given age pensioners a share in prosperity by linking the pension to pay increases as well as price rises. This change, together with changes under tax reform, means that the maximum rate of single pension is more than $20 per fortnight higher than it would otherwise have been.

Labor’s promises to roll back the GST must be funded somehow. Labor has yet to say how their promises will be funded and has not ruled out increasing taxes. That means the benefits of tax reform provided to Older Australians, such as increased pensions and benefits such as the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, could be abolished by Labor.

Family and Community Services 9

Only a re-elected Coalition Government can guarantee Older Australians will keep these benefits.

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(i) MTAWE Guarantee

The Coalition recognises that wages and prices don’t always move in tandem, and linking pensions only to the CPI, can leave pensioners behind in relation to working Australians. The Coalition has guaranteed in legislation that, in addition to CPI indexation, the maximum single rate of base pension will be at least 25% of male total average weekly earnings (MTAWE). The Coalition’s sound economic policies have resulted in real wage increases. Under the Coalition, this will also deliver real pension increases.

(ii) Tax Reform

The Coalition increased pensions by 2% in real terms on top of the MTAWE guarantee and paid 2% of the March 2001 pension increase in advance.

(iii) Keeping more of your pension

Under a Coalition Government, part-rate pensioners with income from investments will be able to keep more of their pension, with the reduction of the pension withdrawal rate from 50 cents in the dollar to 40 cents in the dollar for income over the income free area.

B Self-Funded Retirees/Part Pensioners

The Howard Government’s higher tax rebates and extension of benefits, such as Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, to Self-Funded Retirees and part pensioners, could be threatened by Labor’s proposals to roll back tax reform.

(i) Greater access to Part Pensions

The Coalition allowed more people access to a part pension in retirement by easing the means tests. A special 2.5% increase in the income and assets test free areas for the pension, on top of normal indexation, will provide extra support all part-pensioners.

(ii) Commonwealth Seniors Health Card benefits

The Howard Government significantly expanded eligibility criteria for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). Singles with incomes below $50,000 and couples with incomes below $80,000 will now be eligible for the card.

The CSHC entitles holders to lower prescription costs and access to Telephone Allowance, as is paid to Age Pensioners.

Family and Community Services 11

A re-elected Howard Government will work with State and Territory Governments to extend more of the State and Territory concessions that Age Pensioners now get to CSHC holders.

A re-elected Howard Government will provide $19 million over four years to fund reciprocal transport concessions to enable state government Senior Card Holders to travel at concessional rates in any state or territory.

These new concessions will complement the extension of the same concessions that Pensioner Cardholders now enjoy with Great Southern Rail to CSHC holders from 1 November 2001. This covers travel on the Indian Pacific, the Ghan and the Overland Services.

(iii) Tax Rebates

Many senior Australians will benefit from the higher tax rebates and Medicare levy threshold that the Howard Government has legislated.

These changes ensure that single Australians of age pension age can have an income of up to $20,000 without paying income tax or the Medicare levy. While the rebates phase-out over the income range $20,000 to $37,840 (for singles), taxpayers in this range will still pay less tax. Similarly, couples of age pension age can have combined incomes of up to $32,612 without paying tax (depending on their income split). For couples, the rebates phase out at combined incomes of up to $58,244.

C Other Benefits

(i) Refunds of excess imputation credits

Older Australians who own shares or invest in managed funds may be able to benefit from the Howard Government’s policy of refunding excess imputation credits relating to dividends and distributions received from 1 July 2000. Previously, the tax paid by a company on its profits was credited against any tax the individual had to pay and any excess could not be refunded. Now that amount can be claimed.

(ii) Capital Gains Tax rate reductions

Under our new capital gains tax arrangements, only 50% of nominal gains are taxed (where the assets are held for at least one year). This means that the highest rate of capital gains tax for individuals is effectively no more than 24.25%.

(iii) Abolition of State taxes as part of tax reform

Financial Institutions Duty (FID) and stamp duty on listed shares were abolished by the Coalition Government from 1 July 2001.

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(iv) 30% Private Health Insurance Rebate

The Howard Government understands that Older Australians want the security of knowing that if they become injured or ill, they can get treatment when they need it. The Howard Government is making sure private health insurance is more affordable for Older Australians, by providing a 30% tax rebate or reduction in charge on private health insurance costs.

Part 3 Welfare Reform

A Australians Working Together

The Coalition wants all Australians to be able to reach their full potential. We believe that the best form of welfare is helping people who are unemployed to get a job.

The $1.7 billion Australians Working Together package, announced with the 2001/02 Budget, initiates the process of welfare reform recommended in the McClure Report. Implementation of this package will be a major priority for a third term Coalition government. Most of the measures in the package begin to take effect in the early months of 2002/03 and will be implemented progressively over subsequent years.

This package provides substantial additional support and incentives to encourage people on income support to become connected to the economic and social life of Australia.

To achieve this, increased assistance will be provided to overcome obstacles to getting a job through new, specialised programs. Incentives will be offered to take up short-term or casual work, and there will be more opportunities for community work.

The Coalition will require more people on income support to improve their own situation by undertaking activities such as part-time work, study or community work.

The key features of this package are:

(i) A Fair Go For Mature Workers

$146 million over four years will give working age people aged 50 and over more encouragement to participate, better assistance to get them back to work, and more help for people who are retrenched.

(ii) A Better Deal for People With Disabilities

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$177 million over four years will improve outcomes for people with disabilities and temporary incapacities, through better access to education and training, better assessment of people’s work capacities, better access to employment services and quality assurance of disability employment services.

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(iii) Getting People the Right Help

$144 million over four years will ensure disadvantaged people get the right help through better assessment, providing expanded and more appropriate help for those with severe or multiple non-vocational barriers to participating (for example, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness) and improved information technology.

(iv) Helping Parents Return to Work

$191 million over four years will encourage parents with school aged children receiving Parenting Payment to prepare for a return to the paid workforce as their children get older.

(v) More Child Care Places

$15 million over four years will provide more Outside School Hours Care places and provide child care fee assistance through the Jobs Education and Training program to more parents.

(vi) Helping People Find Jobs

$297 million over four years for better employment services, new training credits, literacy and numeracy places, and standardised mutual obligation requirements.

(vii) Help to Participate

$521 million over four years to introduce a $1,000 Working Credit to encourage income support recipients of workforce age to take up full-time, substantial part-time or casual work by allowing them to keep more of their benefit.

(viii) Community and Business Engagement

$22 million over four years will allow the Prime Minister’s Business and Community Partnership to encourage companies to employ more workers with a disability, older people or parents returning to work. The Partnership will also increase its efforts to promote the benefits of the social coalition to more Australians.

(ix) Promoting Self-Reliance for Indigenous People

$83 million over four years to support Community Participation Agreements in 100 remote communities, better support for indigenous people to get jobs, increased education and training assistance and better services in remote areas.

Family and Community Services 15

B Future Directions

The Coalition’s medium to long-term agenda for welfare reform is to move Australia’s excessively complex income support system towards the McClure ideal of a single payment for people of working age. We also want to remove existing disincentives to people moving from welfare dependence to paid work.

The McClure Report recommended we develop a system involving a base payment, with supplements to assist with participation costs and provide participation rewards, such as the training supplement announced in the 2001 Budget. We will work towards simplifying the complex payments system during our third term.

In this work, the Howard Government is committed to close consultation with the community, through the Welfare Reform Consultative Forum.

We are also committed to making up-front investments that deliver future returns to taxpayers, as people move from welfare dependence to economic and social participation.

We will guarantee that no person’s benefit will be cut as a result of changes to the social security system.

Part 4 Disability

The Coalition is committed to the development of a more productive, caring and creative society for people with a disability.

The Coalition has:

• Encouraged services to be more responsive to needs of people with a disability.

• Maximised access to services and made the most effective and efficient use of resources by working cooperatively with all stakeholders.

• Promoted the capabilities of people with disabilities.

• Embarked on a comprehensive welfare reform strategy.

A Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement

A re-elected Coalition Government will negotiate a third Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement (CSDA) with the States and Territories to commence in July 2002.

The Coalition will seek a new CSDA that:

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• Reduces the barriers and gaps for consumers between Commonwealth and State services;

• Improves accountability, quality, efficiency and effectiveness of specialist disability services;

• Incorporates knowledge gained from key reforms and trials from all jurisdictions;

• Implements better long-term demand management strategies for specialist disability services; and

• Strengthens connections with mainstream services provision for people with disabilities.

B A better deal for people with disabilities

A re-elected Coalition Government will spend more than $250 million over four years to secure a better deal for people with disabilities as a key plank of Australians Working Together, including:

$65 million on better assessments of the ability of people with disabilities and or temporary incapacity to work, and better early intervention strategies to help people back to work.

• $75 million on an extra 7,000 employment assistance places for people with a disability (on top of an extra 5,000 growth places and 16,300 employment assistance and rehabilitation places for mature age workers and parents), and a new independent quality assurance system for disability services.

• $37 million on an extra 5,200 vocational education and training places over four years to help people with disabilities improve their employment prospects. There will also be extra support for more than 1,500 people with disabilities in higher education and a new Disability Coordination Officer program to help people with a disability move from school to further education or employment.

• $73 million for employment assistance and rehabilitation places for parents and mature age people who have a disability.

• Benefits from the introduction of a new Working Credit and Literacy and Numeracy Supplement, which increases the financial rewards for those people who are working and undertaking language, literacy and/or numeracy training.

C A Voice for Carers

The Howard Government has established a steering group to provide options for an effective national carers’ voice to Government that is representative of families of people with disabilities, and to identify issues of importance to this group of carers.

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The steering group will report to the Minister for Family and Community Services by no later than 30 June 2002 outlining issues and agreed options for a national voice to Government.

The organisations invited to be on the Steering Group are:

• Carers Association of Australia (two representatives, one to be an indigenous representative) • National Disability Advisory Council • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations • Association for Children with a Disability • Australian Parent Advocacy • Mental Health Council of Australia • Council on the Ageing • National Ethnic Disability Alliance • Young Carers Network.

Part 5 Housing

The Howard Government understands that the provision of safe, adequate and affordable housing for the most vulnerable members of our society is one of the most important policy challenges that we face as a nation. Housing policy involves a partnership between all tiers of government, especially the Commonwealth and State governments. The community sector, housing groups, housing industry and local communities are also important stakeholders.

(i) Interest rates and first home owners

At the broadest level, the single most important variable that influences housing is the level of interest rates. The Coalition has delivered massive interest savings to families and private home buyers.

The First Home Owners Scheme is a significant initiative for many first home buyers, especially young people, and has made the private market much more accessible.

(ii) Commonwealth housing assistance

The Coalition has also recognised the special housing circumstances of many remote indigenous communities and in this year’s Budget, provided an additional $75 million over four years to address this need.

Full time students on Youth Allowance are now able to access Rent Assistance. Almost 70,000 students have benefited from this measure, including one third who are from rural and remote areas.

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A re-elected Howard Government will work with the States and Territories to negotiate a new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement to begin in 2003.

(iii) National Homelessness Strategy

A National Homelessness Strategy discussion paper was launched in 2000. It outlines the Howard Government’s commitment to developing an holistic approach to helping homeless people participate as fully as possible in our community.

A Family Homelessness and Early Intervention Pilot will trial ways of helping 1,000 families at risk of homelessness and give them early assistance to alleviate financial hardship.

A re-elected Coalition Government will develop and implement a National Homelessness Strategy

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Highlights of the Government’s Achievements

Families

Coalition policies have increased support for Australian families, providing parents with more freedom to choose the best way to balance work and family life.

• The $2 billion Family Tax Initiative was introduced in January 1997. This initiative increased the tax free threshold for families with children and introduced additional benefits for single income families with one child under five.

• The introduction of Family Tax Benefit involved increased funding for Australian families by over $2 billion a year (an increase of more than 20% in real terms).

• Family Tax Benefit increased family assistance by $140 per child per year. In addition, single income families with a child under five years were given an increase of $350 per year.

• Family Tax Benefit decreased the taper rates for family assistance from 50 cents in the dollar to 30 cents in the dollar, allowing families to keep far more of each extra dollar they earn.

• Our commitment to families through growth in real wages, tax reform, and reforms to family assistance means that a single income family on the minimum wage with two children boosted its real income by 15.5% between 1995 and 2001. For families with a working spouse and using child care the increase is higher, rising to 22% or more.

• The real value of the minimum wage has grown by over 8% under the Coalition. Between 1992 and 1996, under the Keating Government, it fell by almost 5%.

• Over the four years to June 2001 the Coalition spent $4.3 billion on child care - over 30% more in real terms than Labor’s last four years in office. Over the next 4 years we will spend over $6 billion.

• The introduction of Child Care Benefit in July 2000 reduced child care costs by 14.5% (ABS CPI statistics to September 2001). Child Care Benefit has improved the affordability of child care for low and middle income families.

• Under the Coalition the number of child care services increased by nearly 2,000 and the number of child care places has increased by 151,300. In particular between 1996 and 2000 the number of Outside School Hours Care services increased by 1,773 and the number of Outside School Hours Care places by 121,000.

• Thousands of families have benefited from the Howard Government’s changes to make the Child Support Scheme fairer and more equitable. The Howard Government made legislative

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changes to improve flexibility for payers and provide greater security to resident parents.

• The Howard Government improved the services provided by the Child Support Agency by opening 20 Regional Service Centres in rural and regional areas and expanding the outreach program.

• The Howard Government committed $240 million as part of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy to assist families and communities at risk.

• Families in conflict, particularly young people, have been helped by the Howard Government’s family-focused early intervention strategies. Where appropriate, young people isolated from their families due to conflict are being returned home, and are being provided with links to education, training, employment and their community.

• The Howard Government established the Prime Minister's Community and Business Partnership, to develop a strong social coalition between all sections of the Australian community.

Older Australians

The Howard Government:

• Increased pensions as a priority. The Coalition gave age pensioners a share in prosperity by linking the pension to pay increases as well as price rises. This change, together with changes under tax reform, means that the maximum rate of single pension is $20 per fortnight more than it would otherwise have been.

• Paid a one-off non-taxable payment of $300 to all people of age pension age who were receiving Age Pensions or other similar government payments.

• Recognised self-funded retirees of Age Pension age who are now entitled to the same tax rebates as aged pensioners and who now also have greater access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and associated benefits.

• Paid over 2 million people more than $2.1 billion in Aged Person Savings and Self-funded Retirees’ Supplementary bonuses.

• Negotiated or renegotiated social security agreements with 10 countries to make it easier for retired people who have lived in other countries as well as Australia to obtain pensions in either.

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Welfare Reform

The Howard Government:

• Improved compliance to ensure welfare assistance goes to those who genuinely need it. Last year, over 2 million reviews of customer entitlements identified more than $300 million in debts and saved taxpayers $20 million a week through payments being reduced or cancelled.

• Made sure that job seekers actively look for work or take up opportunities to improve their work prospects. The Howard Government considers it is reasonable for people to meet their obligations in exchange for support from the community, and that it is reasonable to apply sanctions to the minority who refuse to comply.

• Simplified payments for young people by combining five payments into a single Youth Allowance for full-time students under 25 and other young people under 21 years of age. Youth Allowance removed disincentives to study by ensuring those under 21 do not receive more for being unemployed than they would if studying.

People with Disabilities

The Howard Government:

• Increased payments to the States and Territories to help them provide accommodation support, respite care and day services to people with disabilities from $316 million in 1997-98 to $501 million in 2001-02.

• Increased spending on income support and services for people with disabilities and their carers from $5.9 billion in 1997-98 to $8.4 billion in 2001-02.

• Improved income support for carers of people with disabilities by introducing a Carer Allowance to replace the Domiciliary Nursing Care Benefit and Child Disability Allowance.

Housing

• The Howard Government has committed an extra $75 million over four years for remote indigenous housing.

• The Howard Government increased the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program by 18%.

• Commonwealth Rent Assistance and Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement outlays have increased in real terms since 1997-98. This total commitment was $2.5 billion in 1999-2000

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Labor’s Alternative

• In five and a half years, Labor has developed no policies or solutions to address the unsustainable growth in welfare dependency. Instead, Labor opposed Coalition initiatives to encourage people to return to work, such as Work for the Dole.

• In place of policy, Labor has indulged in scare campaigns to mislead income recipients about new initiatives. Kim Beazley and Labor believe it is in the national interest to run around scaring and misleading Australians, rather than providing ideas, policies and solutions.

• Labor in Government made families repay all family assistance debts if they were overpaid, but refused to make top up payments if families were underpaid.

• Labor believes unemployed people should receive more support than students, and in Government paid more to young people on the dole, than those studying.

• Labor has always ignored the needs of self-funded retirees. Under Labor, a self-funded retiree with the same income as a pensioner paid more tax than a pensioner.

• Labor has no policies to stop welfare rorting and fraud. A Beazley Government would roll back on the Coalition’s initiatives to reduce welfare fraud, which are saving Australian taxpayers $20 million per week.

• Labor in Government failed income recipients, by failing to secure a low-tax, low-inflation, low-interest rate environment, which creates jobs, and introduce policies to assist unemployed people to get jobs.

• Labor in Opposition has failed all Australians by being too lazy to develop policies that tackle welfare dependency.

Family and Community Services 23

Printed and Authorised by L Crosby, 108 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne VIC 3000