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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1208

Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I refer to earlier statements by the Government that it would take steps to close the gap which currently exists between the level of single unemployment benefits and the level of single pensions. Can the Minister say to what extent this gap has been closed as a result of the $2 discretionary increases awarded by the Government? How long is it likely to take for the gap to be closed completely, given current policies? Does the Government intend to accelerate the removal of the gap between the unemployment benefit and the pension for single persons?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, the Government does have a policy to close the gap between the single unemployment benefit and the single pension rate. It has in fact had that policy since we came into government. In fact, at the first Cabinet meeting of the Government in March 1983-I think it was the second decision we made-we decided to give the single unemployment benefit an ad hoc increase of $4, if my memory is correct. Since then we have introduced indexation of that benefit and have given ad hoc increases in November and May each year. The gap after the ad hoc increase in May this year will be closed to, I think, $9.18, but I may need to be corrected on that. How long it will take to close that gap completely and how rapidly we will be able to do it depends, of course, on the budgetary situation and decisions made in the Budget. I do not have the capacity, nor should I, to make any predictions about that. I reaffirm to Senator Maguire that we came into Government with a policy of closing that gap. That gap has been progressively closed since and we will continue to close it until there is a parity between those two rates.