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Wednesday, 20 March 1985
Page: 481


Senator COLLARD —I direct my question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I refer him to his speech to the South-Eastern District Branch of the Queensland Returned Services League and particularly to his assertion that indirect taxes are 'generally regressive' in that, as he claims, 'they fall relatively more heavily on low income earners than on the rich'. I remind the Minister that in speaking against moves towards higher indirect taxation he said that such an approach would penalise still further the 92 per cent of service pensioners who receive less than $50 a week on top of their pensions. What would be the effect on these pensioners of, say, a 10 per cent indirect tax on goods and services and what sort of exemptions to such a tax does the Minister believe would be necessary to protect the living standards of service pensioners?


Senator GIETZELT —It is true that I addressed the sixty-third Annual Conference of the South-Eastern District Branch Council of the Queensland section of the Returned Services League, as referred to by Senator Collard. I raised the question of changes in the tax mix because I was interested in protecting the interests of the 92 per cent of service pensioners who come within the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans' Affairs and whose basic living standards are not considered by any means to be high. Of course, that figure has come out of the examination arising as a result of the assets test. That examination has shown that the great bulk of persons receiving service pensions are actually in receipt of service pensions only. As the honourable senator would be aware, a couple is able to earn an additional $50 and that is why we have the figure of 92 per cent with what can only be described as a meagre living standard. Consequently, any change in the tax mix that would alter that situation is a matter that should be drawn to the attention of the ex-service community, and I did just that. In the public discussion and debate that will take place, as has been encouraged by the Prime Minister, it is important for all organisations to appreciate that any changes that take place should result in an improved living standard and not one that is reduced.