E & OE – Proof only
JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks everyone for coming to The Mercy today, happy New Year to everyone. First of all I’d like to thank everybody here at The Mercy for having us here today and for the family so kindly allowed us to meet their new born baby – just born at 7am this morning – so to Esther and Anthony and their little boy Cooper and baby Lucas, congratulations, it’s really, really wonderful to see a new member of their family.
The good news is Anthony – the dad – is going to be eligible for Dad and Partner Pay. Dad and Partner Pay starts today and its two weeks of paid parental leave for dads so that dads can stay home with their new born babies. It’s perfect for dads like Anthony – he’s got his own business with his brother running an air conditioning business. He would never had so much time off work, so Dad and Partner Pay is going to mean that Anthony is going to be able to stay at home with baby Lucas and help mum in the critical early weeks. Esther is eligible for Paid Parental Leave and she’s already got her application in. She’ll be able to have 18 weeks of paid parental leave as a result of us introducing this new national program two years ago. So congratulations once again to this very happy family.
JOURNALIST: How does it actually work? Does one parent (inaudible)… can both parents receive the payments concurrently?
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes they certainly can. We want to do everything we can to support mums and dads having special time together when a new baby is born. Of course we know that those early bonds are so critical in a baby’s life and for dad to be able to join mum is very, very positive.
JOURNALIST: Tens of thousands of single parents are now on the dole, could you live on the dole?
JENNY MACKLIN: What we know is that we needed to fix a difference that was in the system for parenting payment. Back in 2006 the rules were changed and anybody who had their youngest child turn 8 coming on to Parenting Payment who was looking for work went on to unemployment benefits instead. What we’ve done is really just make sure that those people who’ve been on the payment for a longer period of time have the same rules applied to them.
JENNY MACKLIN: (inaudible) what’s important for people who are unemployed is that we do everything possible to do everything we can to help people get into work and that’s what we’ll be doing with these single parents as well.
JOURNALIST: Some single parents say they stand to lose $110 – how do you justify (inaudible)
JENNY MACKLIN: What we found as a result of the changes that were made back in 2006 we have seen more single parents going back to work. And of course the more that people going back to work the better. It’s better for the family, it’s great to see mum and/or dad going or both going to work. Unfortunately we have far too many children growing up in Australia where nobody is working. (inaudible) possibly can to support families going back to work and hold down a job.
JOURNALIST: Your colleague Bill Shorten said he’d find it hard to live on the dole, would you like to see that amount increased?
JENNY MACKLIN: What we are doing is making sure we do everything possible to help people get into work. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the developed world and we do understand just how important it is to do everything possible to support people into work. In the middle of this year we provided a major change to the tax system – we trebled the tax free threshold. And that means that for people on small amounts of earned income they are able to keep a lot more of what they earn. You don’t pay tax until you’re earning over $18,200. So that’s been a very significant improvement for people on those sorts of incomes.
JOURNALIST: But would you like to see the dole increase for families who are struggling?
JENNY MACKLIN: Our objective is to do everything possible to get people into work. We want to do what we can to help families. Of course that’s why we’ve introduced Dad and Partner Pay and why we’re here today. That’s why this Labor Government introduced Paid Parental Leave for the first time ever across the nation. It’s why we dramatically improved family payments for teenagers. We’ve provided a lot of additional support for families but we also of course are doing everything we can to keep unemployment low.
JOURNALIST: Charities say that they expect to see more single mothers coming to them asking for help, are you in discussions with them?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course we provide support to not-for-profit organisations, whether it’s St Vincents or the Salvation Army, all those organisations so that support will continue.
JOURNALIST: But will that be lifted given they are going to face an extra (inaudible)?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s not been the experience over the last six or seven years since the previous change in 2006. In fact we saw more people go back to work.
JOURNALIST: Now you’ve abandoned the surplus is there even any point in reducing parenting payments this way?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well what we’ve recognised is that there has been a very, very significant reduction in tax receipts. It’s not surprising that Australia is affected by the significant downturn in other parts of the world and as a result of that downturn we are seeing a very significant loss of tax receipts and that’s what has led to the change in position about the surplus.
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