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Wednesday, 15 May 1985
Page: 1977

Senator CHANEY —Is the Minister for Finance concerned that Mr Dolan of the Australian Council of Trade Unions believes that the Government has tackled the expenditure problem from the wrong end? They are the words Mr Dolan used. Is Mr Dolan justified in saying that the needy have been hit hardest and, if so, would the Minister have preferred measures affecting more affluent people, such as income tested tertiary fees?

Senator WALSH —In point of fact, Mr Dolan is wrong in saying that Government measures attacked the needy. That statement is demonstrably incorrect. I suppose-and I noticed some screaming headline in the Melbourne Sun this morning-that some people not fully aware of the facts might say that some needy people have been affected by a decision to terminate family allowances for 18 year-olds and above. The Melbourne Sun described that as cutting money from the kids. I thought that since even the legal age of majority is now 18 that a person of 18-plus ought not be regarded as a kid. Those persons probably do not regard themselves as such.

Those not fully aware of the savings provisions or the protection built into that decision for low income households might have thought that that was to some extent a withdrawal of a privilege from the needy. The only people over 18 who receive family allowances, by definition, are those who are still students and the students' households will be protected from that reduction in the family allowance. On the more general question, at least some members of the Opposition from time to time advocate the means testing of virtually all or of a large number of benefits and payments, although of course when a means test is actually applied to a particular benefit they spend the next two years bitterly attacking it. Senator Messner, like a masked figure on Halloween, has spent the last couple of years running around trying to frighten pensioners by saying that the Government is going to steal the savings under their beds and steal the beds as well. Other members of the Opposition spent a good deal of their time saying how payments of all types should be subjected to a means test and be paid out to only the really needy. That is the sort of internal contradiction which we have come to expect from this Opposition.

It is clearly wrong to say that the needy have suffered because of the cuts that were made last night. On the other question raised, I think Mr Dolan did make some reference to taxation. The Government does have the taxation matter under review, as is well known.

Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question. The Minister, in his answer, said that some people who are not aware of the facts might say that the needy have been hit. Is the Minister suggesting that Mr Dolan was not aware of the facts when he made his statement?

Senator WALSH —I think it is not only excusable but almost predictable that somebody in Mr Dolan's position-that is, I think, some hundreds of miles from Canberra-an hour or two after the mini-Budget had been presented would not be aware of the fine detail of that policy or of a number of others.