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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3206


Ms McHUGH —Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the reasons behind the Government's decision to apply an assets test to unemployment, sickness and special benefit recipients aged 25 years and over?


Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for her question. The decision to apply an assets test to adult recipients of unemployment benefit and other benefits will ensure that those with the resources to provide for themselves will be required to do so. I am pleased that there is apparently bipartisan support for this measure. When asked at a Press conference following the May statement last night `What about the assets test on unemployment benefits? Do you support that?', the Leader of the Opposition replied:

Generally speaking, I think the changes that the Government has made in that area are going in the right direction. I am not going to criticise them.

The expenditure reductions from this decision are estimated at $12.5m in 1987-88 and $24m in 1988-89. I am sure that it will not have escaped the attention of the honourable member for Phillip that there is another assets test which saves more than six times that amount and which the Leader of the Opposition promises to repeal, and that is the assets test on pensions. The Leader of the Opposition believes it is all right for a person aged 60 and receiving unemployment benefit to be subject to an assets test, but a millionaire pensioner aged 65 should escape an assets test. Where, by any stretch of the imagination, is there the semblance of any consistency in that position? The Leader of the Opposition supports an assets test on adult unemployment beneficiaries but promises to hand the age pension back--


Mr Spender —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order on the question of relevance. The Prime Minister has been asked by an honourable member on his side of the House why the Government has made a decision which was announced last night in the mini-Budget and which concerns those who are 25 years old and over and their entitlement to certain benefits. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the matter that the Prime Minister is now addressing, and we must, if this Question Time is to operate properly, come back to the question.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member has a point of order, but I am not upholding it. I find the Prime Minister in order.


Mr HAWKE —I ask again: Where is the consistency in the Leader's position? He supports an assets test on adult unemployment beneficiaries but promises to hand the age pension back to millionaires by repealing an assets test that saves the Australian community $160m. In applying these double standards, the Leader of the Opposition has lost any remaining shred of credibility and has cast aside any remnant of principle. That $16 billion credibility gap is set to become a yawning chasm unless the Leader of the Opposition starts telling us where the money is coming from to fund his extravagant promises to the rich and privileged. As the Treasurer has said, tonight is his test.