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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1652

Senator GRIMES —Earlier today in Question Time Senator Messner asked me a question about the powers of the Department of Social Security to seek information in individual cases in banks, building societies and, I think, investment trusts. I would like to clarify and expand on the information I gave earlier. As I think Senator Messner knows, the Department has such power and has had for many years. The powers under the assets test are no different from those available under the income test. Basically, they are not different from the powers available to the previous Government. I point out that these powers to a large extent are reserve powers and are there for the odd circumstance where they would be necessary and are not used on any regular basis.

As I said to Senator Chaney, as far as tax records are concerned people owning their own business can be asked to supply their latest tax return when they return their assets or income test form. At present this also applies under the income test. The Department of Social Security does not have access to tax records held by the Australian Taxation Office; nor will valuers doing valuations for the Department of Social Security have access to records held by the Taxation Office. Such access is available only when tax officers are undertaking duties relating to income tax matters. That is certainly not the case with the assets test.

Senator Chaney —The Act says that you can. Is it a matter of policy that you will not seek that information?

Senator GRIMES —I will check up on it.