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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 598

Senator HARRADINE(5.37) —The Social Security and Repatriation (Abolition of Assets Test) Bill 1985 is one of the simplest well-drafted Bills that I have seen come before the Parliament. In simple terms it is designed to repeal the assets test. I congratulate Senator Messner for the clarity also of his second reading speech. It sets down very succinctly the problems which many people in Australia are facing and the confusion which surrounds the assets test. I, along with probably every other member of Parliament, have received representations about this matter. Senator Messner details in his second reading speech specific problem areas. I indicate in particular that family farms and pensioners in aged persons homes are matters on which constituents, and others, have consulted me. Senator Messner said also in his second reading speech that there are two options available to the Opposition. He said:

It can propose legislation to correct the anomalies or it can seek to obtain the passage through both Houses of Parliament of legislation to repeal the assets test upon gaining control of the Parliament.

One of the problems with this piece of legislation, as Senator Messner would appreciate, is that it has Buckley's hope of being passed by the House of Representatives. I am concerned-and I indicate now that I will be voting against the Bill-that it does throw out the baby with the undoubtedly confused and dirty bath water. I would have preferred to see legislation come forward proposing to correct the clear anomalies that exist in the legislation. I feel that the repeal now being proposed is not appropriate and, thus, I will vote against it. It also is impracticable because it will not pass the House of Representatives. Glaring anomalies are now emerging as a result of the assets test being just in place, the examination of the question by thousands and thousands of pensioners, the filling out of forms and the consideration of those forms by the Department of Social Security and the Department of Veterans' Affairs. Were those anomalies addressed in a Bill to amend the legislation, that would highlight the real problem and enable members of this chamber to stand up and be counted and to vote to remove those anomalies. It would enable members of the House of Representatives to do the same, because I know that on both sides of the Parliament there are people who have concerns about the operation of the assets test.

I see nothing sacrosanct about assets as compared with income. I understand and am very conscious of people's problems with the assets test at this time. I have personal knowledge of problems in the farming area and in the aged persons area. I am also concerned about the problems associated with aged people who are living on the block owned by their children. Senator Messner rightly pointed out the problem of the granny flat situation. People do not want to shell out money for a granny flat on their children's property because they may have other children and may wish to dispose of their assets in an orderly way at the time of their death. That is another question that concerns us all. I congratulate Senator Messner for bringing that forward because it highlights the problem. It is a result of the problem, as he says in his Bill. However, on the ground I have already stated, I must vote against the Bill.