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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2099

Senator COLEMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and follows closely on a question asked of Senator Grimes earlier. I remind the Minister of forecasts of doom, gloom, confusion and hostility by the Federal Opposition regarding the assets test. I understand that the Minister has already had assets test forms mailed to most service pensioners. I ask what the reaction to date has been to those forms.

Senator GIETZELT —On Monday and Tuesday of last week the Department of Veterans' Affairs sent out one of two separate forms to all persons who are in receipt of a service pension. The total number was something in excess of 200,000. As a result, we are now in a position to make some assessment of the responses of those who received the forms. I know that many people who have broadcast alarm and concern about the assets test forms will be disappointed by what has been a very clear response by service pensioners. I have to advise that the general reaction among service pensioners as at today's date is one of considerable relief by those who have received the principal form. The Department's hotline telephone, it is true, did last week run hot. Over 9,000 calls were received, but those calls were generally about whether the Department required the applicants, the beneficiaries, to send the form back. When they were told that that was not so, their relief was pretty pronounced. They expressed surprise that the forms were much simpler than media publicity had led them to believe. Many of them asked the officers taking the hotline calls what the fuss was about in respect of the assets test.

Many callers are continuing to avail themselves of the hotline service to clarify points of detail. These have mostly been cases of people who have received the full form on the basis of information available to the Department previously and who are near or above the threshold levels. At this stage there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that pensioners are finding the forms unduly taxing or confusing. Despite the unscrupulous campaign waged by the Opposition both inside and outside the Parliament, and by some Opposition candidates standing for election, service pensioners at least have shown that they have very little to complain about. The response received indicates that there has been an exaggeration of this issue in the public mind as a result of the campaign waged by the Opposition and there is considerable relief that the overwhelming majority of pensioners will not be affected by the assets test.