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Family payment debt fiasco demands solution.

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Wayne Swan - Family Payment Debt Fiasco Demands Solution Monday, 23 April 2001

Family Payment Debt Fiasco Demands Solution Wayne Swan - Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

Media Statement - 19 April 2001

Rather than playing petty politics, the Howard Government must amend its family payment system to ensure thousands of families are not hit with crippling debts at the end of the financial year, Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, Wayne Swan, said today.

Mr Swan said Minister Vanstone had resorted to petty politics and misleading claims rather than own up to the massive problems with the new family payment system.

"The Minister insinuated yesterday that only families rorting the system would receive debts by massively underestimating their income.

"She claimed a family would have to underestimate their income by $18,000 to receive a $1000 debt.


"A yearly income estimate from a family could be as little as $1500 out to incur a $1000 debt for one child.

"For a family earning $30,000 this amounts to an 'error' of just 5 per cent - for the Government, being 95 per cent right just isn't good enough.

"Debts accrue against each payment the family receives - not just Child Care Benefit.

"Either the Minister still isn't across the detail of her portfolio or was being deliberately misleading.

"Added to this, the Minister's own Departmental annual report records there were 51,000 debts raised against families in 1999-2000 at an average of $955 per family - before the Government's zero tolerance policy was introduced.

"So while Senator Vanstone plays politics - pretending the problem is limited only to Child Care Benefit - families are at risk of accruing substantial debts that will blow a hole in their budgets at the end of this

financial year.

"Senator Vanstone also wrongly claimed it was unnecessary to notify Centrelink of every fluctuation in income. This shows how out of touch she is with the circumstances of average families.

"Every fluctuation in family income can lead to a debt at the end of they year because the Government has abolished the ten percent margin of error -so every single dollar counts.

"But it gets worse - even in cases where a parent immediately notifies Centrelink of a change in income it is still possible for a substantial debt to be raised.

"The Howard Government's family payment system doesn't help families - it punishes them." Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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