The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

3 December 2007 - 8 June 2009

Transcript of 11/03/2009

Interview with Madonna King

612 ABC

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

SUBJECTS: Nation Building & Jobs Plan, pension reform, Lindsay Fox, business.

MADONNA KING:

Good morning.

CHRIS BOWEN:

Good morning Madonna.

KING:

Let's just go through who gets what and when. If you're on Family Tax Benefit A what can you expect?

BOWEN:

Well as you know there are five different payments and some of them start today. The Back to School bonus which goes to people who receive Family Tax Benefit Part A and they would know who they are and that's if you have an eligible school child aged between 4 and 18 on the 3rd of February; they go into bank accounts today, that's $950 per child. That will be about 1.5 million families across the country who is receiving that today.

Also today we have the Single Income Family bonus, which as you mentioned goes to people who receive Family Tax Benefit B and that's $900 per family.

KING:

What about this payment to career and disabled pensioners, students and farmers?

BOWEN:

The different payments go out on different days, so farmer's hardship payment will go out on the 24th of March and that's a payment to farmers and small business' who didn't receive the exceptional circumstances payment, again those people would know who they are.

The Training and Learning bonus which is $950 which will go to about 300,000 people and that goes out again on the 24th of March. The big one is the tax bonus for Working Australians, 8.7 million tax payers will get that, that's the $900 payments or $600 or $250 payments depending on how much you earn and they go out on the 6th of April.

Again they will go into bank accounts through the Australian Tax Office or through cheques if that's how you normally receive your tax payments.

KING:

And that's for people earning under $100,000 last year. This is not household income it's individual income.

BOWEN:

Individual income, that's correct.

KING:

You mentioned the training and learning allowance, 300,000 students are they fulltime students, who's eligible?

BOWEN:

If you receive Youth Allowance, Austudy, Abstudy and you receive that on the 3rd of February when we announced these payments then you will receive the bonus. That's the Training and Learning bonus. And those who enrol in fulltime study this semester who were granted one of those payments and it will also go to fulltime postgraduate students receiving payments. Again that goes out on the 24th of March.

KING:

Carer and disabled pensioners?

BOWEN:

It depends on the different tax arrangements. You get the tax bonus if you paid a net tax and you came under those tax payments but of course the majority of pensioners received their payments in the last stimulus package which was last year.

KING:

[Inaudible]

BOWEN:

No, the majority of payments for carers and disabled pensioners went out in the last stimulus package.

KING:

Why was that the view to put disabled pensioners in that grouping not pensioners across the board?

BOWEN:

We took the view in the last stimulus package that careers and importantly, disabled people, or people on the disability pension had missed out in previous bonus payments. They received the payment in the last stimulus package.

KING:

Is this because pensioners will get an increase come the budget?

BOWEN:

We have indicated that certainly pensioners will be dealt with in the Budget. So we had the last stimulus package giving them the bonus and we'll also be dealing with the long term payments of their pensions in the next Budget.

KING:

Can you rule out that the family home will be included in looking at asset when you do reform the pension?

BOWEN:

There are a lot of recommendations from the Harmer review which we need to work through and we'll be doing that. It is a very complex and substantial document which the Government will work through

KING:

That doesn't answer my question though.

BOWEN:

To be honest I haven't seen the Harmer review but the responsible Minister and the Government will work that through in the budgetary process.

KING:

How will people receive these payments?

BOWEN:

The people will receive it based on how they normally receive there payments. So if you normally receive your tax refund paid into your bank account, then you'd get that paid into your bank account.

If you normally get it through a cheque maybe passed on by your tax agent that would occur as well. Again with the Centrelink payments, if they normally occur in your bank account as the vast majority do that's how you'll receive them.

Can I just make this point there'll be a lot of people receiving or have already received and probably I imagine over the next couple of weeks will receive more hoax emails from people pretending that they're from Centrelink or the tax office asking fro bank account details.

Can I just appeal to people, ignore them, delete them or report them to Centrelink because they are frauds and hoaxes. Neither the tax office nor Centrelink will send you an email. If you get an email saying or a telephone call saying can you give us your bank details, can you confirm your bank details so we can pay money into your account it's a fraud.

I'm really concerned about people who perhaps might be vulnerable and looking out for their payments being taken in by what can be very sophisticated sting operations, the emails can look very official with logos on them. Please, please do not respond to them.

KING:

The aim of these payments is to get people to spend, how can you ensure people spend it and not save it? Access economics today I expected to report that consumer caution will last well into next year.

BOWEN:

This is an issue of ongoing discussion in the community. I've always had the view that people should use this money as they see fit. For some people that will mean spending on things that they've been saving for. For some people it will be dealing with if you like an emergency, their washing machine broke down and they normally wouldn't be able to afford a new one.

KING:

What about off there mortgage?

BOWEN:

Well that is perfectly appropriate, it might be a mortgage or it might a credit card...

KING:

Would you urge people to spend it on Australian made goods?

BOWEN:

I'll come to that, can I just deal with the mortgage or credit card issue. If people pay down their debt, say you've got a four or five thousand dollar credit card debt and you pay some or all of that off, then you're going to be more confident about spending over the next few months. You're going to use that money that you normally would have spent on your monthly repayments, spending on making your life a little more comfortable. So if people don't spend it immediately I don't think that's a major problem.

On Australian made goods, some of this money will be spent on overseas imports that is inevitable. Even if you spend it on a good that originated overseas there is retailing, wholesaling jobs created there is a whole lot of work along the supply chain.

KING:

[Inaudible] why not run a campaign of Australian owned?

BOWEN:

I think that most people will take that into account in their own decisions and a lot of people will decide that, that's what they want to do. They'll have the choice of two goods and they'll choose the Australian made one. But often people don't have that choice. If you are out looking for a particular good, many goods are just made overseas and you don't have that choice. I don't think people should be made to feel guilty because they're buying themselves a new good which is made overseas, because they are helping create job along the supply chain.

KING:

Australian business man Lindsay Fox talked to me yesterday and he would like you and the opposition and senior business to sit around a table almost put the country on war footing and work this out.

[Replay of interview with Lindsay Fox]

Is there an argument for putting politics aside at a time like this and sitting down with the opposition?

BOWEN:

I don't want to be too political about it Madonna, I mean we all agree that most of the things that Lindsay Fox said, he has got a lot of respect and the PM has indicated he sees a role for Lindsay going forward. But it's hard when the Opposition supports our packages and then opposes it and then says we support it but etcetera, it's very hard to have that discussion when we announced the second stimulus package the Jobs and Nation Building Package, the Opposition came out and said we will not vote for it, full stop. It's hard to sit down and have a discussion.

We sat down and had a discussion with Senators Fielding and Xenophon and the Greens and sorted it out with them because the opposition said they would oppose it. Again I don't want to be overly political but it's hard when you have that political debate.

KING:

Should you be talking more to business though?

BOWEN:

The PM, the Treasurer, the Minister for Finance, myself we couldn't be spending more time talking to businesses frankly. And a lot of businesses say we are the most accessible Government they've ever dealt with over the last 20 or 30 years. They can get in and see the Treasurer or myself at very short notice, we're out, proactive, going to talk to them, so we are doing that on a very regular basis across the country and across all of the sectors of the economy.

KING:

You are the Assistant Treasurer, do you think we've reached the bottom of this or will things get worse.

BOWEN:

All the risk is on the downside Madonna, the risk is that things will get worse and we've said that consistently when you look at the studies from overseas, when you talk to business as we have, there is a lot of concern, the risk is on the downside.

So this crisis still has some way to run but it's important that we remember of course that we are much better off in this crisis then most other countries.

KING:

Do you have any idea of when the recovery might begin?

BOWEN:

The only thing that is certain about this particular situation is that it's fluid, it's very to predict what will happen next and when things will turn. There are various predictions about turning around next year from international economic bodies. Let's hope that they are correct.

KING:

If people have a question about these payments that are going out today is there somewhere they should call, the Tax office or Centrelink?

BOWEN:

Certainly Madonna, there is a number of numbers that people can ring. The tax bonus for working Australians 1800 686 636 is a good number. Centrelink for the single income family bonus 13 61 50, farmers 13 23 16.

KING:

Chris Bowen I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BOWEN:

Thanks Madonna.