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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15446

Mr SWAN (2:47 PM) —My question without notice is directed to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, why under your new tax system to come into effect on 1 July are you forcing tens of thousands of mothers on maternity leave to lose their basic parenting payment? Is it not the case that your decision to move from a fortnightly to an annual income test for the family tax benefit will mean that tens of thousands of Australian families will lose up to nearly $70 a fortnight in assistance at the very time they most need it, after the birth of a child? Why is the government making it financially harder for mothers to spend the first year of their child's life at home with their baby?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The claim made by the member for Lilley is probably based on a report in the Australian today. Every question those opposite ask is based on a report. The claim made by the member is wrong. I think what the member has overlooked is the change in the whole basis of family payments under the new tax system. People will get family tax benefit A or B depending on their circumstances; so, far from being worse off, people will be better off. Under the new arrangements, more people will receive assistance. More women will be eligible for the maternity allowance under the new system. You did not acknowledge that. Women on maternity leave for part of a financial year will also benefit from the increased tax free thresholds. Payments will be increased and the assets test will be abolished. Some low income families will be entitled to a family tax benefit where they do not currently receive any basic parenting payment. The family tax benefit will deliver extra assistance to single income families in recognition of the income they forgo by having a parent stay at home to raise children. Families can update their estimate of income at any time if their circumstances change.

What the opposition has overlooked and what the newspaper article overlooked is that the new tax system is an integrated package designed to deliver equitable and targeted assistance. What the member for Lilley fails to understand is that from 1 July the basic parenting payment will be replaced by the family tax benefit B and under family tax benefit B there will be no income test on the income of the primary earner. The income test will apply only to the income of the secondary earner. In overall terms, more families will benefit to a greater extent than they do at present—and the member for Lilley is wrong.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I ask that the Prime Minister table the document from which he is quoting.

Mr SPEAKER —Is the Prime Minister quoting from a confidential document?

Mr Howard —The document is marked `confidential'.

Mr SPEAKER —The Prime Minister has indicated that the document is confidential.