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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2184

Senator HARRADINE (12.37 p.m.) —The Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) might think Senator Patterson has no need to worry, but it is a legitimate question and she has not given us the reasons for her response. I raise another matter relating to the transfer or the importing of the social security income test to this area of family income, compared with the taxation income test. I ask the minister about the effect of importing the social security income test regarding what was formerly a taxation transfer.

  There is a definition of `income' in the social security legislation. `Income' in relation to a person means `a periodic payment by way of gift or allowance, or a periodic benefit by way of gift or allowance'. There is an exclusion in the definition of income, and that exclusion is, `a periodical payment by way of gift or allowance, or a periodical benefit by way of gift or allowance, from a person's father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister'. Those are the exclusions in the income test definition under the social security legislation.

  The income test does not exclude gifts from a husband to a wife, or from a father or mother-in-law, for example. Previously the dependent spouse rebate came within the income test definition of the taxation legislation, and the income test definition in the taxation legislation excluded gifts from husband to wife, but here these will be included.  I want the minister to tell the Senate how this will affect the HCCA when it comes to a payment by the Department of Social Security to a carer in the home. Let us bear in mind that it is virtually a transfer of moneys—except for another $2.80—from the spouse who is working to the spouse who is not working. It is the government taking it from one and giving it to the other.

  Is it not a fact that if the income test in the social security legislation is to be applied to, say, a gift from one spouse to another, it will in fact be taken into account in the income test area and, if not, why not? I have had this double checked since the last time I raised the question here, and my advice clearly is that payments made by a husband to a wife will have to be declared as income by the wife who is the carer. I ask the minister whether the government has thoroughly considered the implications of utilising the income test under the Social Security Act for this purpose where it so seriously disadvantages the recipient. I ask the minister to explain why, in the government's view, this could not be the case.