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Transcript of doorstop interview: Brisbane: 23 August 2004: Family Debt Payments.

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Wayne Swan MP Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services



JOURNALIST: What are the main points you wanted to make about the family allowance today?

SWAN: Well, before the last election the Prime Minister said that high debt levels in the family payment system would not be repeated. These new figures show that families have experienced a clawback of 1.8 billion dollars over the last three years and in the last year, 600,000 plus Australian families have been hit with average debts of $800. To make matters worse, the Prime Minister is not going to tell these families about these debts until after September. So the first these families will hear about these debts will be after the election.

So what we’ve got is a classic deception from John Howard about the family payment system. Essentially the government plays Santa Clause on the eve of the election and then behaves like Scrooge for the next three years. That’s what these figures prove.

JOURNALIST: Do you know something we don’t know? Do you know when an election is going to be called?

SWAN: We don’t know when an election is going to be called, but what we do know is that the government has delayed telling families about the debt. That’s exactly what they did three years ago. The government wants to appear to be Santa Clause on the eve of the election and then claw the money back after the election.

JOURNALIST: So how would you characterise the family payment system?

SWAN: The family payment system has this huge clawback built into it. People think they’re getting generous payments and then John Howard comes back and claws those payments back. That’s what these figures show. For example, the government has claimed that families will get an additional $1200 per family, but for the

first time Senator Patterson has admitted today that she’s going to claw a large amount of that money back. So essentially the government has put in place a short term political

fix and there is no long term plan to get rid of debt in the family payment system and to give families accurate fortnightly payments.

JOURNALIST: So how dangerous a game is it for this government to play given John Howard’s credibility on a number of issues?

SWAN: I hope that families having been once bitten will be twice shy. After the last election the government clawed back family payments while pretending before the election that they were very generous. This is about to happen again. People

should be wary of John Howard’s policies, because he always comes round after the election and claws back the benefits.

JOURNALIST: You are saying these debts will come out in September. There isn’t any guarantee that you’d be having an election before that.

SWAN: And there’s no guarantee that the government will even notify people during September. There’s no guarantee that this government will ‘fess up’ and admit to families what their debt is before the election. No guarantee whatsoever. You see the government has already admitted that the additional $600 payment will be clawed back over 4-5 years, so people are right to be wary about this government’s actions.

ENDS Mon 23 Aug 04 Web:

Contact: Wayne Swan on 0418 795 329 Matt Linden on 0407 430 613