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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1446

Dr CHARLESWORTH —I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Do the Government's decisions to tax lump sum superannuation payments and to impose an assets test on pensions provide a sound and equitable basis on which people can plan for their retirements with confidence?

Mr HAWKE —The measures mentioned are major initiatives by the Federal Government to achieve fairness and equity in the pension group. The Government is very pleased to see how widely those measures have been welcomed by a wide range of informed commentators throughout the community. These retirement policy initiatives will be long standing. It is important for the community to appreciate this so that people can plan for the future with confidence. The task of ordinary Australians in going about that--

Mr Cadman —What about the promise?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Mitchell is a persistent interjector.

Mr Cadman —He is telling lies.

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Mitchell. He will not get away with that sort of interjection. He may take it that he is warned. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr HAWKE —The very important task facing ordinary Australians of trying to plan for their futures and their retirements is certainly not helped by the negativism and disarray of the Opposition. The only result is further to confuse people who have to undertake these important tasks.

The Leader of the Opposition says that he will repeal the assets test legislation-of course, it is entirely hypothetical because he will never get the chance-and he says it more than a year before the legislation has been put into place. He says he will also-this is equally hypothetical-repeal the superannuation taxation legislation. The problem, of course, is that the Opposition simply has no policies at all with which to address the basic issues to which this Government has addressed itself by these initiatives. The Opposition says it will repeal this legislation so that it can then have a totally co-ordinated retirement policy. The fact is that the Opposition has no retirement policy at all, let alone a totally co-ordinated one. It has nothing at all. By suggesting at this stage that it will repeal these measures, it is locking off absolutely the possibility of ever having a totally integrated policy in this area.

It is as well that, again, this House and the people of Australia look at the pathetic stance of the Leader of the Opposition on this matter. I ask members of the House again to remind themselves of what he is saying now about repealing this Government's legislation and to compare it with what he said on 9 September 1981. He made a very lucid statement in this House and put a very well argued case for the sorts of propositions which the Government has now brought in. In that speech he said:

Needed decisions will demand a good deal of courage from Government leaders.

Unfortunately, since that time and particularly since he has assumed the leadership of the Opposition, he has persistently lacked any sort of courage himself. When the Opposition Leader has been faced with the choice between principle and expediency, expediency has triumphed every time.

It is well known that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not share the view of the Leader of the Opposition on the question of assets testing. It is very much to his credit that he does not. He has a position of principle on that issue and he has not gone out of his way to hide it. Importantly, as was quite clear in the whole of the Liberal Party conference last weekend, it was not a conference of the Leader of the Opposition; it was a conference of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The conference of the Liberal Party adopted the position of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and repudiated that of the Leader of the Opposition. The Federal Council of the Liberal Party passed this resolution:

That this Council expresses its support for a needs-based social welfare system and therefore believes that welfare benefits should be payable subject to a means test . . .

The Liberal Federal Council was right. It supported the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who is a man of principle on this issue and it repudiated the Leader of the Opposition who is a man of expediency.