Family tax benefit cuts among Labor's 'tough decisions'

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The Federal Opposition has announced it will prune back family tax benefits and accept some of the Coalition's budget cuts if it wins power, declaring it is willing to make "tough decisions" to repair the budget bottom line.


Bill Shorten said action was needed to "fundamentally reduce" government debt.


Labor unveiled savings it said would be worth almost $9 billion over four years, as it tries to blunt the Coalition's accusations Labor wants to drive the nation deeper into debt.


Opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said his party was willing to tackle the deficit and repair the budget, without gutting essential services.


"We will continue to make these tough decisions. We will invest in schools, in infrastructure, in hospitals," he said.


"We will protect the triple A rating and we will build budget repair over the long term and we will reduce the deficit every year, under our plans.


"We will make sure that we have a fiscally responsible policy in place for Australians but we don't think it's a choice between being fiscally responsible and investing in our schools.


"We think both are essential for the future of our country."


The party said it would halve the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement for families earning $100,000 a year or more, in a bid to save $500 million over the next four years.


Labor estimates its decision would affect 137,000 families — who would lose $366 per child, per year.


Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said cutting the payments was a "difficult decision", but that it was important Labor, "start the action to fundamentally reduce the level of government debt in this country".


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Labor 'remains in a big black hole'


The party also announced it would freeze private health insurance and the Medicare Levy Surcharge thresholds for another five years, as well as abolishing the rebate for natural therapies.


The ALP would also scale back the Coalition's new Colombo plan and abolish the "Innovation Xchange" hub set up to encourage fresh thinking in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


It has dropped its opposition to the Coalition's cuts to the research and development tax incentive, and said it would back the freeze on higher education grants.


In total, the new savings measures amount to just over $3.6 billion over four years — that figure includes $1.7 billion from previous Labor savings, which the party now says will deliver more revenue than expected.


But Treasurer Scott Morrison scoffed at the announcement, saying Labor could not claim savings on Coalition budget measures already in the budget.


"So all up, after all the singing and dancing here from the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow treasurer and the shadow finance minister, they have announced a net improvement on their previous position of just $2.4 billion," he said.


"Now, that's before they have even spent a cent … in this campaign alone they've already spent $16 billion.


"So, the bottom line is this: They remain in a big black hole. They threw a few pebbles in it today but they've gone nowhere near filling it."


Mr Morrison fended off questions about why Malcolm Turnbull did not join him at the press conference, saying Labor's announcement did not merit a response from the Prime Minister.


"If they actually want the PM to respond to something, they've got to put up something serious," he said.


"This was a fairly embarrassing statement by the Labor Party today and I'm quite comfortable dealing with the matter on behalf of the Government."


Family tax benefits: What are they?

  • Family Tax Benefit (FTB) A is a means-tested payment for families with dependent children between the ages of 0 and 19, worth a maximum of $234 per child per fortnight, depending on income and the child's age.

  • FTB B is a means-tested payment for single-parent families and families with one income of $100,000 a year or less, worth a maximum of $153 per family a fortnight, depending on the age of the youngest child and the income of any secondary income earner in the family.

  • From July 1, 2016, FTB B will be scrapped for couples when their youngest child turns 13. Single parents over the age of 60 and grandparent carers will continue to get this payment until their youngest child turns 18. The legislation has passed the Parliament.


What are the proposed changes?

  • The Coalition has promised to increase the maximum rate payment by $10 a fortnight on FTB A if Parliament passes legislation to scrap the annual supplements, which are top-up payments sent out at the end of every financial year, once parents have lodged tax returns. Labor opposes this change.

  • The FTB-A supplement is worth about $720 per child per year, while the FTB-B supplement is worth about $350 per family per year. The Coalition aims to gradually phase out these supplements by 2018, arguing they are no longer needed.

  • Labor opposes the plan to scrap the supplements and will instead reduce the FTB-A supplement by 50 per cent for families earning more than $100 000 per year, and will maintain the freeze on thresholds until 2020.


-来自 ABC NEWS


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