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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2399

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to Friday's announcement of the revised assets test and its reliance upon self-declaration of the value of assets, in particular household and personal effects. Will these declarations be subject to checking on either a random or systematic basis? If not, how can the Government be sure that cheating is not occurring? If it is subject to check, how many officers, and which departments, will be involved? Are penalties to be attached to the declarations to cover non- compliance or false returns? If so, what are they to be? Finally, how will pensioners who mistakenly incorrectly fill out such declarations be affected?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, the new assets test does depend to a certain extent on self- declaration by pensioners. This Government, unlike Senator Messner, quite clearly believes the vast majority of pensioners and people in this country are, in fact, honest. Yes, there will be penalties for non-compliance. They are the same penalties which exist in the Social Security Act now. We will be introducing no new penalties. They are the same sorts of penalties which have existed in the Social Security Act since it and its predecessor, the Social Services Act, came into existence. Yes the method will be based largely on self- declaration. I ask Senator Messner to look at the papers and the statement which were produced on Friday. It will involve a value of $10,000 being put on the ordinary contents of a house. The vast majority of people with fewer assets in a house than that will not be close to the assets test limits and, therefore, will not be bothered by that factor at all. We have no intention of sending inspectors into houses to count people's personal effects, sheets, furniture, wedding rings or whatever. Valuations of property, where necessary and I point out that mostly it will be--

Senator Walters —How do you know it is necessary?

Senator GRIMES —We can tell if it is necessary if someone, like Senator Walters, owned a block of land in Sandy Bay and put in a value of $2,000 on it. We might just check up on that. Such valuations will be done by valuers from the Australian Taxation Office. From memory the number that will be needed initially will be 80.

Senator MESSNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister did not address himself at all to the point about the pensioners who mistakenly and incorrectly fill out such forms.

Senator GRIMES —Pensioners who mistakenly incorrectly fill out the forms- pensioners of all types and members of parliament of all types frequently mistakenly incorrectly fill out forms-will, of course, not be penalised, as they are not now; nor should they be.