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Transcript of doorstop interview, Parliament House Canberra, Wednesday 17 September 2003 Subject: Amanda Vanstone, Tax cuts, Family breakdown.

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SWAN: Well I think it’s about time John Howard removed

Amanda Vanstone. She’s become an embarrassment to the Liberal Party but more importantly to the nation. Yesterday she was rolled in the party room. A number of Liberal backbenchers rolled her on her proposal to cut an important education supplement for pensioners. It’s about time those backbenchers showed the same guts and stood up for Australian pensioners whose homes Senator Vanstone is threatening to sell, and stood up for Australian families.

Now this government I see today is out there with its diversionary tactics yet again. The government is out there floating tax cuts because they had an embarrassment in the party room yesterday and an embarrassment in the parliament. What we’ve got to do is stay focused on these issues because these issues will win us the next election.

This government is the highest taxing government in Australia’s history and you might recall some months ago Senator Vanstone described their tax cuts - the $4 a week tax cuts - as not being able to buy a milkshake or a sandwich. This is a Minister, Senator Vanstone, who will spend more on wine in one lunch than the government is prepared to give in tax cuts to workers for a year. That $4 a week was a couple of hundred dollars a year. That’s what Senator Vanstone spends at lunch on the wine bill. That’s why she is such an embarrassment. That’s why she should be removed and why we should focus increasingly on what this government is doing by punching huge holes in the social safety net.

JOURNALIST: Do you think low- and middle-income earners deserve a tax cut though?

SWAN: There is no doubt that low- and middle-income

earners are very highly taxed - the highest tax take in Australia’s history. On Monday morning I was talking about the fact that 860,000 families are paying sixty cents in the dollar after the withdrawal of social security benefits on their overtime. They don’t work overtime to have Peter Costello and John Howard take sixty cents in every dollar they earn - to pickpocket their hard work.

So there’s no doubt there is a need for tax relief for hardworking low- and middle-income earning Australians. But also help for the pensioners whose homes Senator Vanstone wants to sell, and to those families caught in the family payments system debt trap. Yes, relief is sorely needed but don’t think it’s going

Wayne Swan MP Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services


to come from this government because it uses the cover of war to hide the fact it is the highest taxing government in our history and is taking away the small helping hand that we provide to the vulnerable in our community.

JOURNALIST: Would Labor be prepared to match those tax cuts?

SWAN: Well that’s a question for our Shadow Treasurer,

Mark Latham. What our leader Simon Crean has said and continued to repeat is that there is a need for tax relief for hardworking low- and middle-income earning Australians who have made our economy strong, some of whom are paying the highest marginal rate of tax - sixty cents in the dollar - after the withdrawal of social security benefits. Those people earning between $30,000 and $60,000 a year are being taxed to the hilt and are certainly deserving of relief.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the timing of this relief?

SWAN: Look, we all know that John Howard is a dealer in

distraction. That’s what he specialises in. When he points in one direction, look the other way. Yesterday, an embarrassment in the party room, yesterday an embarrassment in the parliament, this morning the one hundredth story about how tax cuts may be delivered.

The budget delivered tax cuts of $4 a week, which Senator Amanda Vanstone described as not even being able to buy a sandwich and a milkshake. So look at their record, don’t look at the stories they float. This is another diversion from the Howard Government when it gets into trouble. It’s the great dealer in distraction.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s just to draw attention away from the possibility of rising interest rates?

SWAN: Well it’s out there to deflect attention from all of their

political troubles that we have seen this week - the revolt in the party room yesterday by the nine backbenchers, the deplorable performance by the Foreign Minister, the fact that the government has been caught out not telling the truth about the impact of the war in Iraq, on weapons of mass destruction and the threat of terror in our community. So what do we see this morning? Floating a tax cut. What did we get last time there was a tax cut? $4 a week. This is a government that deals in distraction. When they point in one direction, the Australian people should always look in the other, because you can be sure that the government is attempting to camouflage another problem.

JOURNALIST: On another issue, is there anything the Federal Government can do - this week in Sydney there has been an awful triple murder-suicide that is family-related. Is there anything you can suggest the Government could move to do in this area?

SWAN: I don’t think that this community has enough

discussion about long-term social cohesion. We have a lot of discussion about short-term financial and social matters. The truth is that many of our social outcomes in this society are truly appalling. If you look at the levels of suicide, if you look at the levels of child abuse, if you look at the squeeze that’s on families, clearly many of our social outcomes are not good and in the end we have these


tragedies. Now some of them may be inevitable. I think as a society we need to talk a lot more about how we relate to each other as human beings and when it comes to that part that can be affected by government policy, we need a much greater concentration in our social policy on the early years of a child’s upbringing and the nature of parenting in our society.

We need a massive commitment in the early years. The only way we can stop putting band-aids over our ballooning social security system is to sit down and go back to basics and do something substantial for the long-term social cohesion of this society. And what that means is, instead of the rich getting richer all of the time and low- and middle-income earners getting left behind, we really need a fairer sharing of the bounty of this country - that’s not happening at the moment.

All of these things are interrelated. No one government policy or no one action of any individual can necessarily avert tragedies like we saw earlier in the week but collectively when we think as a nation about all of these things happening and we put together some of the social outcomes that we’re getting we do need a rethink about government approaches to the assistance of families in the long term and one of the things we need to do is have a very big program of parenting education and early years policies which affect social cohesion in the long term.

ENDS Wednesday 17 Sept 03 Web:

Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Michael Lye on 02 6277 2293