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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 7776

Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:24 PM) —I wonder if I could assist the committee. In response to a question that Senator Scullion asked just before question time today, in our haste to assist him I do not think I was absolutely clear. The question that Senator Scullion asked—I am quoting from the Hansard—was: ‘How many people will not actually be caught by the exemptions? In other words, how many people do you think will still now move to Newstart?’

That is a difficult question to answer absolutely accurately. By way of answering, can I say that up to 580 separated partners are potentially affected, and 390 veterans in those partnerships have an accepted psychological or mental condition. A number of them will qualify for illness-separated status. You would be aware that the department contacted each of those 580 people. Sixty individuals who responded to the letter and who rang the special team in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs indicated that they would seek illness-separated status. We know that there will be some overlap with the 390 people. Can I also say that a third of the 580 people are not receiving the maximum rate of partner service pension, and a number may have the capacity to increase their working hours.

Of the 580 people who were contacted by the department in September, over 400 have not contacted the department following the notification of the changes in September. That is hopefully by way of explanation, but I have got to say, Senator Scullion, that it is actually quite difficult to answer the question accurately. Also, you asked how many people will move to Newstart. People who move payment will not all move to Newstart. They could potentially move to the disability support pension or the wife allowance, or there are a number of other payment regimes that they could go to. It is misleading, I think, to say that they would just go onto Newstart. I hope that is of some assistance in answering the question.