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Letter regarding the Means Test on Age Pensions

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29 May, 1969

Dear Sir,

I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 12th May and copy of a letter to the Prime Minister, regarding the Means Test on Age Pensions. You and your colleagues write in a manner suggesting that you are completely unaware of, nor have you previously taken the trouble to determine, the attitude of myself and the D.L.P. on this matter. I would

suggest that such a careless approach could do great harm to your campaign and the policy you advocate in connection with this matter.

As evidence of the D.L.P's and my long—standing interest in this matter I refer you first to page 13 of the. D.L.P's Policy Speech for the 1966 House of Representatives Elections, in which was advocated:—

"The immediate liberalisation of the iniquitous Means Test, with the aim of its ultimate abolition; this abolition to take the form of a phasing—out process whereby the application of the Means Test is progressively limited to different age groups until the time is reached when no Means Test is applied."

The D.L.P. policy for the 1966 Elections received wide coverage in the daily press at the time. As well, the policy speech was printed as a separate booklet and ample copies of this were and are available at D.L.P. Offices throughout Australia.

Second, I refer you to my speeches in the Senate on the Means Test, which date immediately from the time of occupying, my seat in the Senate. The Hansard references to a representative selection of these speeches are as. follows:

(1) Page 720 ff, 29th September, 1965. (2) Page 94 ff, 24th August, 1966. (3) Page 827 ff, 29th September, 1966.

(4) Page 869 ff, 18th April, 1967. (5) Page 2075 ff, 2nd November, 1967. (6) Page 214 ff, 21st August, 1968. (7) Page 936 ff, 25th September, 1968.

•In all these speeches my opposition to the Means Test on Age Pensions and my sympathy for those on fixed incomes , has been made abundantly clear.

Third, I refer you to various amendments which the D.L.P. has introduced in the Senate and which contained references to Pensions and/or the Means Test. These amendments






appear in the Senate Hansard at the following places:-

(1) Page 488 ff, 15th September, 1966. (2) Page 373, 30th August, 1967. (3) Page 639, 12th September, 1968.

Attached you will find copies of (1) Excerpts from my speech in the Senate on 18th April, 1967. This represents a full statement of my attitude on the Means Test, and (2) Excerpts from the D.L.P. amendment to the

1966/67 Budget papers. (This amendment was opposed by both the Government and the A.L.P. - See Senate Hansard, page 492, 15th September, 1966).

It seems to me that you could more usefully apply your time and resources in writing to persons and organisations whose attitude has not been as clearly and unambiguously expressed as has been the D.L.P's stand.

Please convey the contents of this letter to the other signatories of the letter from your organisation.

Yours sincerely,

(V. C. Gair) Senator, The Honourable Parliamentary Leader, Australian Democratic Labor Party

Mr. J.M. Currie, Secretary, The Grand Council of Government Salaried Officers' Industrial Organisation of W.A.


Excerpt from Amendment to 1966/67 Budget

Papers, moved by Senator F.P. McManus Deputy Federal Leader, Australian Democratic Labor Party) Senate Hansard, 15th September, 1966 , pages 488-489.

Senator McMANUS (Victoria) 10.42 -- As I foreshadowed a fortnight ago, it is my intention to move a further amendment to the motion --That the Senate take note of the Papers.

On behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, I move --At the end of motion add the following words --"but condemns the Budget because it fails to --...

(d,) make progressive steps towards elimination of the means test injustice suffered by Australians, by providing for those receiving superannuation and small fixed incomes, ultimately a comprehensive national insurance plan is the answer." .^^


Excerpts from speech by Senator, The Hon.V.C.

The means test -- I have said it before and I say it again -- is iniquitous and a penalty on thrift. It is a penalty on people who are prepared to make sacrifices and to invest their meager savings to build a source of income for their retirement. By so doing they relieve the Commonwealth of the liability to pay the pension to which they would be normally entitled. These people invest

themselves, as it were, out of the pension to which they would be entitled if they were prepared to squander their income whilst they work in active life. There is no disputing that fact.

Let me make, myself clear particularly for the benefit of Senator Marriott who unfortunately is not here at the moment. I am not one who comes in to this Senate with a brief for the rich or the very rich. But I definitely speak

on behalf of a big section of our people who are not qual-ified to receive the pension and who are in receipt of an income that could not be regarded by the greatest stretch of

imagination as being princely. These people include former Crown employees, employees of companies and private enter-prise generally who, during their active life when they were required to pay taxation as everybody else was, made

sacrifices in order to contribute to insurances, super-annuation schemes and pension schemes. Because they were prepared to do that and put away their savings in government loans and other forms of small investment, their income is

such that they are debarred from receiving any pension and all the fringe concessions that a pensioner receives today. The people about whom I am concerned are those who are being treated unjustly under the present means test -- people who have been honest to God citizens, have looked to the future and to the years of their retirement and have said: f I must provide for those who are dependent upon me. I do not want to be a charge on the Government and the pensions scheme'. These people have put their money into superannuation schemes

and private pension schemes and invested their small savings. They represent a large percentage of our people. They are the people for whom I plead in this debate.

This increase of $156 in the means as assessed is just tinkering with a problem that is calling out for urgent remedy. I am not one of those who believe that the means test can be abolished overnight. I have endeavoured to apply myself responsibly to this matter. I believe that a much better attempt than has been made in this legislation

should be made to remedy the situation and to ensure that provident, responsible people are not penalised because they have been provident and responsible.