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Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 843

Senator BOSWELL(10.21) —I wish tonight to address some problems being faced by elderly Queenslanders as a result of the assets test. The assets test is placing many country people at great disadvantage compared with other people in the community. It appears that the Government has given an assurance that it will not send valuers into homes or onto properties, but the Department of Social Security valuers have been way off the beam when valuing properties. The Department of Social Security values are absolutely ridiculous when compared with the valuations carried out by the Valuer-General.

I give the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) a couple of examples of valuations which have been carried out in the South Burnett district. The market value of 590 acres of uncleared land in fairly worthless country is approximately $30,500, the Queensland Valuer-General's value is $13,600 and the Department of Social Security has valued this piece of land at $365,000. I would be happy to give the Minister the property description, the rate notice and the name of the owner of this land after the debate if he is interested. I offer the Minister another example, of 213 acres of land with 20 acres under cultivation. The market value is approximately $21,000, the Queensland Valuer-General's value is $4,000 and the Department of Social Security valued the property at $225,000. Again I can give the Minister details of the property and the rate notice if he is interested.

I am sure the Minister will agree that the Department's values are completely inaccurate. They are only a couple of examples but I can assure the Minister that hundreds of elderly people in rural areas are in the same boat; they all are worried about the loss of their pensions. Obviously the properties have been valued at Canberra real estate rates with no regard for the return that the properties can generate or their true market value. I ask the Minister whether he can give the Senate an assurance that the elderly people of rural Australia will receive a realistic valuation on their properties when they are being valued for the assets test. Clearly this is not being done at the moment, as these two examples show. Senator Grimes has only to ring some accountants in Queensland country towns to find a number of these examples.

I would like the Minister to investigate urgently another problem. A Mr Petty of Mains Road, Sunnybank, purchased a block of land behind his home for $35,000 and spent $45,000 on building a home for mentally retarded adults. The $80,000 Mr Petty spent on that home and land is regarded as an asset. The home contains accommodation for six residents and two house parents. The Social Security Department has claimed that the house is an asset and Mr Petty has lost all his rights to a pension. He wishes to give the home to the Lutheran Church of Australia in trust but is worried that if he does so he will be seen as divesting his $80,000 asset to the church and that it will work against him. Mr Petty's act of charity in providing a home for six mentally retarded adults has rendered him ineligible for the pension. I ask the Minister to investigate urgently this travesty of justice and see whether he can rectify it so that Mr Petty gets the pension due to him.

Senator Grimes —Is Mr Petty married?

Senator BOSWELL —I will talk to the Minister after.