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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2368

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Following today's confirmation that Senator Graham Richardson and his colleagues in New South Wales constitute the real government of Australia, can the Minister provide some factual information which he refused to give earlier in the week, namely: How many extra staff will be employed by the Commonwealth Government, both in the Department of Social Security and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, to administer the pensions assets test? Is it intended to regroup the new staff taken on for the last version of the test or have these people been irretrievably dispersed to other corners of the Public Service?

Senator GRIMES —I will ignore the first part of the question. I am afraid that I cannot see its relevance to the question asked or to anything else. I assume that the implication of the first part of the question is that Senator Messner would have preferred the second option of the Gruen Panel of Review of Proposed Income and Assets Test. The number of people to be employed in the Department of Social Security is not 3,000 as Senator Messner said in his speech this morning. In the establishment phases it will be about 1,500. Once the test is established , after the first year the figure will be 340, considerably below the 3,000 that Senator Messner mentioned this morning.

The answer to the second part of his question is both. Some of the people who were hired for the assets test are obviously still in the Department doing other tasks and will be able to be used for the assets test at that time; others will need to be recruited on a part time basis. That is a matter for the administrative functions of my Department.

Senator MESSNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister did not refer to the Department of Veterans' Affairs in any way. Is he giving us total figures or only part of them?

Senator GRIMES —I gave the figures for the Department of Social Security. I would have thought that, as the Minister for Veterans' Affairs is in this place, he would have been asked that question.