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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2270

Senator HARRADINE (5.57 p.m.) —I thank the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) for providing an answer in respect of the matter that I raised; that is to say, the definition of income and how that affects the eligibility of persons to receive HACCA. The minister indicated that there was never any intention to administer HACCA income tests in such a way that periodical housekeeping payments made from one spouse to the other would be taken into account as income of the recipient. The minister also assured the chamber that the HACCA income test will not be administered in this way. Clearly, that is obviously not sufficient. We need to ensure the legislation is accurate.

  I acknowledge that the minister has undertaken on behalf of the government to further consider the legal aspects of the matter with a view to determining whether the act needs to be amended to specifically exclude housekeeping payments from the definition of income for HACCA purposes. I would hope that the government would exclude all of those items that are now excluded under the taxation legislation, because that is probably what the minister means; in other words, that persons are not disadvantaged on the basis of an income test for HACCA as compared with the DSR. I will leave that to one side.

  I ask the minister why the House of Representatives, at the behest of the government—opposed by the opposition—decided to penalise a number of families who are currently in receipt of the with-child income test by $237 a year, plus the additional amount that is provided for under this HACCA bill. These people will be penalised by between $300 and $400 a year, $237 of which will be immediately cut. I honestly ask the minister how she can justify cutting the income of a family of the type that has been mentioned by Senator Patterson and referred to in her amendment which has now been withdrawn. How can we justify that? It is a difficult situation and I am almost positive that the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) does not know about this. He was the one who gave the undertaking to the electorate prior to the last election. I wonder why the Minister for Social Security (Mr Baldwin) has taken this step and pushed it onto the parliament.