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Wednesday, 17 November 1976

Mr HUNT - The answer to the first question is: Yes, an assurance can be given that no pensioner will have his pension reduced by reason only of the change from the merged means test, which takes into account income and property, to the new income test which will take effect as from 25 November this year.

Mr Scholes - Will they be denied future increases?

Mr HUNT - I shall go on and give the honourable member the actual facts. If a person's pension has been affected by property in the past the Department of Social Security will reassess entitlement under the new income test. In many cases the reassessment will result in an increased pension. The reassessment may indicate that some people's pensions should be reduced, but the Government decided that no one's existing pension will be reduced as a result of the change to the income test. However, such beneficiaries will not get any further increase in pension until they are entitled to a higher amount under the income test. This is regarded to be a very fair way to take into account that particular problem. The position will be similar in respect of eligibility for a pensioner health benefit card. No one will lose it when the new income test is introduced merely because of the change to an income test. Furthermore, the change to the new income test will mean that some pensioners will for the first time be entitled to a pensioner health benefit card and to standard Medibank cover without paving the Medibank levy. Pensioners who receive age, invalid or widows pensions or supporting mothers benefits from the Department of Social Security will not pay tax if they have no other income. The invalid pension paid to men under 65 years of age or women under 60 years of age is not taxable. However, people receiving income in addition to a pension may have to pay tax. As the honourable member for Darling Downs has said, it is true that some pensioners who are in receipt of income above a certain level other than a pension will be paying tax as a result of the Hayden Budget that was introduced last year. However, every action has been taken to ensure that nobody will be disadvantaged as a result of the new arrangements that have been made by this Government in the current Budget.

Mr Morris -I rise to a point of order. I require that, under standing order 321, the Minister for Health table the documents from which he has been quoting.

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