The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

22 January 2013

Doorstop Interview

Brisbane

Joint interview with
the Hon Jenny Macklin MP
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Minister for Disability Reform

SUBJECTS: Schoolkids Bonus; Queensland State LNP Government health and service cuts; Naval bases; 2013 election.

TREASURER:

Can I just say first of all, thanks to Officeworks and Mark and all of the staff here today for hosting our visit. Thanks to all of our families here today and their kids for coming along. It's also great to be here with Jenny Macklin, our Families Minister and Fiona McNamara, the Labor candidate for Brisbane.

We're here today because I think it is with great pride and pleasure that we see the practical effect of the Schoolkids Bonus and what it means for families who are struggling to buy all the necessary items they need to send their kids back to school. Because I think, as we all understand, getting kids back to school ain't cheap. And it's a really difficult time of the year - all of the bills come in after Christmas and really trying to buy all of the necessities. Whether it's the uniforms, whether it's the pens, whether it's the calculators, whether it's the money for the school excursions - it really puts a lot of pressure on modern working families. You know, they struggle to bring up their kids, they struggle to pay the bills and they struggle to balance work and family. And that's why we redesigned the Education Tax Rebate into the Schoolkids Bonus to recognise the price pressures on modern working families.

And as we've heard from the parents today, it's pretty expensive to fit your kids out for school, particularly when they're growing. They've got to buy seven weeks into the term a new pair of shoes because suddenly the young ones have sprouted up, and the shoes don't fit anymore. So, basically at $410 a year and $820 per year both primary and then secondary students, this really helps families with the cost of living at the time that they really need it. It recognises the pressures on modern working families and it's something that the Government is immensely proud of.

And of course, as you can see today, the Schoolkids Bonus is also supporting employment and jobs right across our economy. That's why I am so absolutely gob-smacked by the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, could come to Brisbane today and not say a word about his intention to abolish the Schoolkids Bonus as one of the first things that an Abbott Government would do if they were elected.

So this will be a very significant issue as we go through a discussion this year on the future. Labor's positive plans for the future to support jobs and economic growth but also to assist modern working families with the cost of living pressures that they face on a daily basis. Anybody who understands cost of living pressures on Australian families wouldn't be setting out to abolish something as important as the Schoolkids Bonus. But when it comes to education, it is a very significant priority for the Gillard Labor Government. Not just in terms of helping families with the cost of living, but also in making sure we invest the resources so that our kids get the best possible start in life. Because the foundation of opportunity in modern Australia has got to be a good quality education, and of course that starts with getting the kids back to school with all of the kit that they need to learn in the classroom. So it's really a great pleasure to be here today with all of the families to listen to what they have to say about how important the Schoolkids Bonus is to their family budge - that's something that we really understand.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

This one payment now is something like $588 million that's gone out. And as you know, what we've done, is we now pay it twice yearly - at the beginning of first term and then the beginning of third term. That's important for the reasons I outlined before, because the costs come in waves when you are sending your kids back to school.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

It would be roughly twice that.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

TREASURER:

Because there's also a take up of some people who receive Family Tax Benefit Part-A will receive their payment at a different time.

JOURNALIST:

Why spend $5.5 million advertising this when it goes automatically (inaudible)

MACKLIN:

We know how important it is for families to let Centrelink know that their children are starting school. We have different starting ages for children in different parts of Australia. So it's very important that if your child is starting school this year that you let Centrelink know so that you can get the Schoolkids Bonus if you're receiving Family Tax Benefit Part-A. And it's also important that parents let Centrelink know if their children are starting secondary school. We know from the research that we've done that 80 per cent of families needed this extra information, that's why we're advertising the availability of the payments and the importance of letting Centrelink know if children are starting primary or secondary school.

TREASURER:

Can I just add to that. It's really important that people know that they are entitled to this payment, and that when it goes to their bank account they know absolutely why. This is a very, very important program for families and it's important that they are well informed about the program.

JOURNALIST:

There's been ongoing dispute between the Nurses union and the State Government when it comes to health cuts. Is it fair that the State Government blame job cuts on the Federal Government's mid-year funding?

TREASURER:

No it's not. Everybody in Queensland knows that the State Government has taken an axe to health funding and have outlined very clearly, not only their plan to cut 4,000 health workers, but also to slash services - front line services - and to close hospitals. I mean, barely a day goes by where we don't see job cuts, particularly in my local area, out in the Northern suburbs, over at Prince Charles, but also more wider that, but all the publicity we've heard about forced closures of hospitals and other facilities right across the state. Health funding from the Commonwealth to Queensland over four years is increasing by $600 million - a very substantial increase in health funding from the Commonwealth Government to the Queensland Government. So for them to try and pretend that somehow their slash and burn approach - not just for health and education - has got something to do with the Commonwealth, is simply not true.

You see, it's very interesting today, Mr Abbott's here in Queensland, he's been here regularly over the past 12 months - he has supported the slash and burn policies of the LNP in Queensland every day that he has been to Queensland. And of course, what people are getting from the Queensland Government is just a taste of what an Abbott Government would do to Queenslanders when it comes to health and education, including the ripping out of the Schoolkids Bonus, getting rid of the tripling of the tax-free threshold which is critical for workers who are amongst the lowest paid in our community and pretty important I would think for many of the workers working here today. That tripling of the tax free threshold from $6,000 to $18,000 would have meant a lot to the pay packets of a lot of the workers who are working here today.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan, are you in election campaign mode?

TREASURER:

No, what I'm absolutely out here doing is talking to the Australian people about our positive plans for the future. And what I've done today is to contrast them with the wreck and burn approach of Mr Abbott and of course the State LNP.

JOURNALIST:

Will there be a naval base in Brisbane?

TREASURER:

Well, that's a matter for consideration in the normal course of events - we've got a Defence White Paper coming within the next six months. But there has been a discussion about the forward movement of bases and certainly there would be various parts of Queensland which would be very keen to host a naval base in the context of the Government's considerations of future strategic directions. I also understand that places like Cairns are very keen to host the naval base that will be taken into consideration in the normal Defence Force planning.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible)

MACKLIN:

These are not matters in my ministerial responsibilities. So all pre-selection matters, of course, are dealt with separately.