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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2012

Senator COOK —I refer the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to a statement made by Senator Messner in his Press release of 24 May, which stated:

. . . it has been revealed in public evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare that the Minister now acknowledges that his much-publicised list of 'top pension cheats' was an inaccurate presentation of facts . . .

My question is simply this: Was that statement by Senator Messner correct?

Senator GIETZELT —If that statement was made by Senator Messner it was completely inaccurate and inadequate. In fact, the first person to speak about pension cheats and millionaire pensioners was Sir Phillip Lynch back in March 1982, when he was a senior Cabinet Minister in the previous Government. All I did was to draw to the attention of my Party the continuation of the practice, which had obviously been drawn to the attention of the previous Government. I stand by the statements I made then because all the evidence available to me indicates that circumvention of the income test by certain pensioners is as widespread as I had first thought.

Senator Messner's claim is probably based on evidence given by the project officer of the Returned Services League, Mr Taylor, who seems to be under the impression that the views I expressed were based upon applications for service pensions, not on the review of the system carried out by my Department. It was suggested that if someone put a lump sum superannuation payment of $150,000 into a trading account, he was not endeavouring to circumvent an income test in order to qualify for the service pension. That would be ludicrous because, as Mr Taylor pointed out, that would be a temporary arrangement by such a person. I take the view, as I think any reasonable person would, that if a person had a lump sum of $150,000 he could invest it and get twice the amount of money he would get from the Government by way of a service or age pension.

That information came to me mainly as a result of reviews carried out by my Department, not as a result of initial application for service pension.