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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2369

Senator TATE —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that under the assets test arrangements announced today a person who would not qualify for a pension because of an adequacy of assets can elect to receive a pension repayable to the Australian community from his or her estate? Can the Minister give an indication of what effect this option will have on, for example, a farmer who elects to exercise his option to take up that facility?

Senator GRIMES —As Senator Tate says, there is an option. I emphasise that it is an option; it is the choice of the pensioner or person involved as to whether they take out a lien on the estate or a loan from the public.

Senator Chaney —It is a sort of money or your life choice, is it?

Senator GRIMES —I have never heard Senator Chaney comment on the fact that throughout Australia local government uses this very method to enable people not to pay their rates. Farmers in particular will be able to have two means of coping with the various problems which we accept that they have. The first means is that of the hardship provisions which were in the previous legislation. There are times when rural prices are depressed because of drought, other climatic conditions or downturns in the world market. At such times it would be unreasonable to expect the farmer to sell that land. There are other similar hardship provisions which I have spoken about before. As to the loan, I think the most extraordinary statement made this morning was made by Senator Messner, and also by Mr Peacock. I presume that as Senator Messner is the accountant, Mr Peacock got the figures from him. He said that if someone took out a loan of this type and lived to be 85 he would owe the government something like $285,000 or $295,000. As Senator Messner carefully did not mention, probably because it did not occur to him, if someone takes out such a loan the amount he has borrowed comes off the calculation of his assets so that in a very short time his assets would be such that he would qualify for the pension without having to take out a loan. I can only advise Mr Peacock and others that if they get Senator Messner to do their tax returns they had better knock it off.