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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1650

Senator CHANEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I ask him: Is it a fact that 80 valuers presently employed by the Australian Taxation Office are to be seconded to the Department of Social Security for the purpose of valuing assets of pensioners for the assets test? I ask the Minister: How will the valuers form professional opinions as to the value of those assets without obtaining access to them to establish the facts? I further ask the Minister: While I understand him to have said that valuers working for the Department of Social Security will be working under social security legislation and not under the tax Act, is it not a fact that under the Income Tax Assessment Act the Commissioner of Taxation is authorised to provide Australian Taxation Office information to the Department of Social Security and that those valuers and, indeed, the Department of Social Security can obtain directly from the Australian Taxation Office any other information they wish about the pensioners who are being subjected to the assets test?

Senator GRIMES —I thought the figure was 90 rather than 80, but Senator Chaney may be right. I think that Senator Messner also thinks the figure is 90. I think there are 90-odd valuers--

Opposition senators interjecting-

Senator GRIMES —I am giving honourable senators accurate information, if that is what they want. The valuers, by and large, will be valuing assets such as land and buildings. Senator Chaney knows as well as anyone else that when his house is valued by the Valuer-General and others in this country they do not go walking through his house to make that valuation. I think mostly they value from standing out in the street. Sometimes they do not even get that far.

I repeat what I said previously: Those valuers will not have access to Australian Taxation Office records. For the record, the only taxation information at all that is asked for by the Department of Social Security, and it had been asked for by the Department of Social Security well before I ever became Minister for Social Security, is when pensioners who own businesses are asked to supply their latest tax return. That is nothing new. That was quite happily administered by Senator Chaney when he was the Minister for Social Security and it did not worry him then. I am informed that the Department of Social Security does not have access to tax records held by the Australian Taxation Office. Valuers from the Taxation Office who will be operating as part of the assets test will do so under the Social Security Act. They will not have access to tax records for that purpose.