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Transcript of doorstop interview of the Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services: 2 September 2004: Family payments, Senator Brandis, Mr Scrafton.\n\n

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WAYNE SWAN MP Shadow Minister for Family & Community Services TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP INTERVIEW



SUBJECT: Family Payments, Senator Brandis, Mr Scrafton


Today, the government is using taxpayer’s funds to mail to 2 million Australian families, letters which are misleading and may make many families think they have more money in their pockets than they really will. The truth is that today the government is spending taxpayer’s money to mail a letter to 2 million Australian families to mislead them about the government’s family payment system. Two million families will be given the impression that the government intends to increase the base rate of family payments by $600 every year. That is simply untrue, that is

another Liberal lie. The truth is that the $600 increase is eroded over 5-7 years. It’s not going to be there forever, it is simply going to disappear. The government admitted this in the senate 2 months ago and has failed to legislate to correct the erosion of that $600. So they’ve not told the truth in the letter about the fact that the $600 simply disappears over time.

Secondly, they’ve not told the truth to those families who have a debt in the family payment system. Over 600,000 families have a debt in the family payment system averaging $800. This letter creates the impression that people will be given a new round of payment increases but it doesn’t tell the families about the debt. So many families will think they’ve got money in the pocket when the truth is that John Howard will claw it back through his family payment debt trap later on. So families will go out and vote on October 9 thinking they’ve got additional money, but that money will be clawed back after the election. It will not be there for many families who unbeknown to themselves have a debt in the family payment system that the government is not telling them about. This is the old Liberal trick - to give people something before the election and claw it back after the election.

That’s why we say October 9 is ‘Strike Back Day’ for Australian families - a chance for them to strike back at the Howard government over the unremitting financial

pressure caused by their family payments system and caused by the user pays approach in health and education.

It’s going to be a great day for families of Australia to tell the Howard government that they’ve had enough - had enough of the family payment debt trap, had enough of the punishing tax rates that they pay, had enough of user pays in health and in education.

Now secondly, just in relation to Mr Galt. It seems to be the case that the only thing you can be expelled for in the Queensland Liberals is telling the truth. It doesn’t matter what you do with irregular fundraising, it doesn’t matter what you do with branch stacking, but if you tell the truth you get expelled from the Queensland Liberal Party. That’s the sad state of the Liberal Party in Queensland. I guess it’s the sad

state also of Senator Brandis.

We now have reports in the southern newspapers today that Senator Brandis has admitted to using the term ‘rodent’.

These reports cast doubt on Senator Brandis’s denials. These reports have Senator Brandis admitting that he called the Prime Minister a rodent.

The truth is that Mr Galt has told the truth about Senator Brandis - politicians know it, journalists know it, waiters in restaurants know it. Everybody who has been near Senator Brandis knows the truth of what Senator Brandis has been saying.

Senator Brandis, therefore, can simply not be believed with his denials and these newspaper reports today in the Sydney Morning Herald cast doubt on the strength of Senator Brandis’s denials.

That really takes us to Mr Scrafton. Nothing Senator Brandis did yesterday puts in doubt the strength of what Mr Scrafton has had to say.

Mr Scrafton spoke to the Prime Minister for 10 minutes. He told him that children had not been thrown overboard and the Prime Minister continued to mislead the Australian people.

It was interesting yesterday because Senator Brandis failed to table the phone records from which he was quoting. I just wonder whether this is yet another example of the use of records in a misleading way by the Howard government.

JOURNALIST: Do you think those phone records cast into doubt ……………inaudible

SWAN: No absolutely not. Mr Scrafton spoke to the Prime Minister for 10 minutes. He told the Prime Minister that children were not thrown overboard. It doesn’t cast that into doubt at all. What Senator Brandis has done is erect a classic Liberal deception and smoke screen over the essential facts of the case. It doesn’t do that at all. Senator Brandis wouldn’t table the phone records anyway. We had an example of

this when the government pretended to quote an authoritative ONA report which turned out to be a newspaper report. This government is always out there with a deceptive approach.

The Prime Minister is the doyen of deception -a master at throwing up a smoke screen to cover the essential truth.

JOURNALIST: Are you casting doubt over the authenticity of those phone records.

SWAN: No. I’m casting doubt over the way in which the government has tried to discredit and to blacken the name of Mr Scrafton who after all has only said what 43 other eminent Australians have said, and he was subject to extraordinary pressure by senior bureaucrats in the Howard government.

JOURNALIST: The Queensland Liberals are really in quite a state aren’t they given what we’ve seen over the last few days.

SWAN: Well they are a sad state. It seems that you can only be expelled from the Queensland Liberal Party for telling the truth. You can’t be expelled for irregular fundraising activities, you can’t be expelled for doing extraordinary things with the membership but you can be expelled for telling the truth. That’s the state of the Queensland Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST: Do you think honesty will emerge as one of the key issues of this election?

SWAN: It certainly is a key issue, because today we have the example of the government misleading Australian families about the nature of their family payments. In misleading those families it’s putting them under tremendous financial pressure.

Australian families are the key to this election. They don’t like being misled and on October 9 Australian families are going to strike back. They’re going to send John Howard a very strong message that they don’t like being misled in the family payment

system, misled about Medicare, misled about education and being put under such financial pressure. They’re going to strike back on October 9 because they’ve had enough of this financial pressure and had enough of the Howard government not telling the truth about their policies.

JOURNALIST: Could you just explain briefly how those payments are going to be eroded over the next 5 years?

SWAN: In the budget the Howard government put in a sneaky claw back clause in the fine print and changed the indexation method for family payments. The consequence of that is that the $600 increase is eroded over 5-7 years. It’s simply not going to be there. This is a classic Howard claw back - to do one thing before the election and then claw something back after the election. But secondly, the second round of payments will be clawed back because the Howard government is not telling a third of all families that they have a debt in the family payments system.

For example, today Mr Howard is out in Dickson. In Dickson there are 5000 families that will have an average debt of $800. So, if they have one child the additional $600 will never be seen by that family and they will be sent a bill of $200. The government has not told the truth in these letters that they’re sending out because

they haven’t ‘fessed up to the fact that the $600 is eroded and the families who have received the letter aren’t told what their debts are.

So people will think they’ve got more money than they really have and they may go out and budget on the fact that they’ve got more money than they have and suddenly after the election they’ll get a nasty shock.

JOURNALIST: Labor’s family policy - what’s the program for that? When are you going to be revealing?

SWAN: It will be out well before the election. Mark Latham has said that it will be out in the first half of the campaign and it will be.

JOURNALIST: And will it fix these problems of present government policy?

SWAN: Yes. Labor’s plan for a fairer and simpler family payment system will reward families who work hard. They’re punished under the existing system. People who work overtime lose large amounts of every additional dollar they earn. It’s going to reward hard work and its going to substantially get rid of the debt problem in the family payments system which leaves so many families with a nasty headache at the end of the year.

JOURNALIST: With the debts that they’re currently incurring under this present policy - would Labor wipe the debt?

SWAN: Labor has always said a debt is a debt - we’ve always said that and debts must be repaid. But we’ve been very critical of the thuggish way in which the government has tried to recover debts. Therefore we’ve said that we wouldn’t be out there stripping tax returns for example. The most fundamental thing that we can do is to get rid of the debt in the first place.

So Labor’s reforms in the family payment system will substantially eliminate the problem of debt in the first place. Secondly, we will reward those people who work hard, who work some overtime. We’re going to put some incentive back in the system and we’re going to substantially eliminate debt in the system, and we’re gong to ensure that families get accurate and timely payments on a fortnightly basis.

That’s what we’re going to do and that will be the objective of our policy when its announced.

ENDSThurs 02Sep 04


Contact: Matthew LInden on 0407 430 613