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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 559

Senator HEARN —I address a question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. In view of the misinformation being spread by some people regarding the impact of the forthcoming assets test on pensions, and particularly the mischievous articles by Russ Gleeson which have appeared in recent weeks in the Melbourne Herald, can the Minister say what steps have been taken to reassure service pensioners who have been unnecessarily alarmed by this misinformation?

Senator GIETZELT —I have seen the articles by Mr Gleeson containing a whole number of misleading statements and published in the Melbourne Herald in recent weeks. I can only say that those articles should be described as gutter journalism. They have caused unnecessary alarm amongst many service pensioners because, particularly for people in the southern States, they have completely distorted the Government's intentions in relation to the assets test. As a consequence, a whole number of distressed pensioners have been contacting my Department after reading the articles. I urge honourable senators to read the contribution made yesterday in the House of Representatives by Mr Steedman, who revealed that Mr Gleeson has a very powerful self-interest in publishing these articles and that his financial interests are threatened because he promotes income test avoidance through his link with a magazine called Prime Time and as a result of his relationship with an organisation called the Over-Fifties Friendly Society. I would rather describe it as the over-fifties unfriendly society to the degree that distress has been caused amongst the very group of people who ought not to be put in that position by the misleading information that Mr Gleeson has been promoting through the agency of the Melbourne Herald.

As far as my Department is concerned, I have insisted that service pensioners be familiarised with the actual provisions of the proposed legislation. There have been 150 well-attended seminars throughout Australia over the past three months. We have put out information kits. We have established the assets test hot-line. Information leaflets have been prepared and they will go out to 250, 000 service pensioners immediately the legislation becomes effective. Forms will follow. One can only be appalled that any person would be writing consistently in a newspaper, articles designed to cause distress when it is not necessary. As I have indicated previously, only a small number of service pensioners will be affected by the legislation. Over 95 per cent will not have their pensions affected by the proposed assets test legislation.