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Band-aid solution for flawed family tax benefit.

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The Howard Government has demonstrated how out of touch it is with average families with the formal announcement today of band-aid measures to patch up the flawed family payment system.

Extraordinarily all of the measures involve families going without fortnightly payments.

Rather than fixing the fundamental flaws in the system the Howard Government has decided that families should wear the cost of the Government’s bungling.

Either way families can’t win - they either go without payments now (and hope for a catch-up payment in a year’s time) or receive their rightful benefit and run the risk of a huge debt.

One of Senator Vanstone’s ‘solutions’ advances the proposition that families could afford to forgo a $108 per fortnight FTB-B payment, and get a catch up at the end of the year.

What planet is the Government living on?

While Senator Vanstone could afford to go without the odd $100 or so a fortnight, average families earning $40,000 certainly can’t.

Mortgage repayments, school shoes, electricity bills, the weekly shopping bill don’t neatly arrive at the end of the year.

It is a starvation policy.

The fact is families overwhelmingly prefer fortnightly payments. The latest Government figures show of the near 2 million receiving benefits only 77,000 could afford to take them at the end of the year through the tax system.

The only proposition of any worth is providing families who update their income estimates the option to mitigate any debt before the end of the year, although the Minister herself admits this won’t prevent debts and may only reduce their size.

To fix the system much more substantial changes are needed, including the use of a prospective income test that just isn’t responsive to changes in family earnings.

Surely it isn’t too much to ask that families be paid the correct rate at the correct time when they most need it?

ENDS Tue 17 Sep 02 Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329

Wayne Swan MP Manager of Opposition Business Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

Web: Matt Linden on 0407 430 613