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Monday, 10 September 1984
Page: 691

Senator WALTERS —My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. I ask the Minister whether he recalls putting out a statement with the then Opposition Treasury spokesman, Mr Willis, on 8 August 1982 stating:

. . . it is absurd that pensioners who are officially classified as 'needy' should be forced to pay income tax.

How does the Minister reconcile that statement with the statistics produced by the Parliamentary Library which show that single pensioners have had their tax bills increased up to five times under the Hawke Labor Government? Is it not a fact that the Minister and his Government are forcing these officially needy pensioners to pay more tax as a result of this Government's policies?

Senator GRIMES —I do not recall the exact statement but I do not resile from any such statement. That statement did not say that anyone who received even a part pension with an income on top of the pension should not pay any tax. We would have an extraordinarily inequitable system in this country if someone on a small part pension and a considerable income did not pay tax when a person with a wife and two children and on an equivalent income did. I think Senator Walters will agree with that. I have not seen the document to which she and Senator Messner have referred today. I will certainly look at it. What is important to pensioners is their disposable income rather than the amount of tax they pay. I will check the figures that are put out and check the situation of those pensioners and give the honourable senator an answer.

Of course, I would like to be in the situation, as would any Minister for Social Security in this country, to be able to give a very large increase in pensions in the community. However, faced with an economy in the mess Senator Walters and her colleagues left the economy in, we could not do as much as we would have liked to do. I point out that, had the previous Government's indexation procedures been followed by this Government, pensioners would have received no increase in November. That is simply a fact.

Senator Withers —Because of the Medicare fiddle.

Senator GRIMES —The previous Government did not compensate for that either, in spite of the fact that Senator Chaney keeps claiming that it did. I will check the alleged facts pushed around here today by Senator Walters and give the honourable senator an answer as soon as possible.