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Government accused of 'dishonesty' and 'hypocrisy' over asset test

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Senator Tony Messner Shadow Minister for Social Security




The Government was accused of dishonesty and hypocrisy over its changes in retirement income policy during debate in the Senate today.

Senator Tony Messner--the Shadow Minister for Social Security-- was leading debate on two notices of motion condemning the Government's changes and calling for the release of reports on which the changes were made.

(Copies of notices attached.)

"The G o v e r n m e n t deliberately and despic­

ably attempted to deceive the communty when addressing the Victorian State Conference of the RSL in July."

"At that'meeting, and in a press statement, the Minister went out of his way to assure delegates that an assets test was not intended, but merely some tightening up of the existing income test provisions."

Senator Messner said that it was obvious from this and other actions that the Government approach to retirement income policy was confused and piecemeal.

"Before any of the legislation is presented to Parliament, it is imperative that the reports of the three Government working groups established to study the retirement income changes be released."

"If the Government continues to refuse to accede to this request, I shall try and use FOI provisions to obtain them."

Senator Messner said that the introduction of the assets test had been a hasty afterthought by the Government and it was now trying to clear up the confusion it had caused.

"From information obtained through the Estimates Committee, it has been established that the working group established to work out the details of the test was given just 11 days to complete its task less than three weeks before the Budget was to be delivered."

"Given this indecent haste, is it any wonder that the Govern­ ment is now trying to sort out the mess it has created."

"Even this week, questioning in the Senate revealed that the Minister is still working out how fringe benefits will be provided once Medibank has been introduced."

Senator Messner said that the ALP's attitude to asset test­ ing was 'hypocritical'.


"Eighteen months ago, the then Leader of the Opposition described such a test as: ' .. a kick in the teeth for aged and retired citizens..' described the argument about millionaires receiving pensions as a:

' .. cruel and emotive device to cover up the government's real justify ripping the pension off ordinary people with modest savings they have worked for all their lives..'."

"Yet, when in power ALP Ministers run around the country talking about millionaire pensioners and introduce an assets in its first six months." .

Senator Messner said that Australians would never again be so gullible to be hoodwinked by ALP pre-election commitments.


t i 3 SENATOR MESSNER: To move T hat the Senate notes

(a ) the widespread disquiet in the community amongst those who are nearing the age of retirement and present age-pension recipients; and

(h) that Ministers in the Hawke Government have a confusion of views on vital questions a fleeting pre-retirees and age-pensioners such as:

(i) whether to replace income-testing by means-testing of age pensions,

( ii) the harsher application of income-testing to age pensions, and

(iii) the taxation of superannuation payments; and

calls on the Government to immediately stale its policy on these matters. (Notice given S May IVft3.)

t!5 SKNATOR MKSSNKK: in move—That the Hawke Government’s decision to terminate the previous Government’s pilot study into the use of commercial child cure centres for the benefit of low income earners was unwarranted, precipitate and not m the best interests of those parents who. by virtue of their financial circumstances or place of residence or work, find it difficult to use the services of other community facilities ( 5 May I ViU.) '