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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 750

Mr CUNNINGHAM —I refer the Treasurer to the many statements by the Leader of the Opposition that the Opposition would repeal the proposed assets test of the Government upon the coalition's return to government. I ask the Treasurer whether he is aware of the extent of support within the coalition for this proposed course of action.

Mr KEATING —I suggest that it will be a long time before the Leader of the Opposition will be in a position to repeal anything in this Parliament. Be that as it may, yesterday we were treated to a very curious proposition from the Leader of the Opposition. On a matter of public importance where he was fulminating about the Government's policies in respect of the elderly, saying that the Government had abandoned the elderly. Other disparaging adjectives were thrown into his address. Obviously these views are not shared broadly within his own Party or indeed within the coalition parties. The Leader of the National Party, Mr Anthony, in a letter to Senator Grimes about the assets test on those over 70 to ascertain their eligibility for a pension, a matter to which the Leader referred yesterday, had this to say:

Although I have explained that, for the majority of pensioners, the reintroduction of an assets test should not have any harmful effects, I said I would bring his views to your notice as he requested.

I find this in sharp contrast to the views being put by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. One wonders just how broadly the opportunist view put by the Leader yesterday is shared within the coalition parties. I note, in passing, that Senator Chaney in the past expressed views about the reimposition of an assets test. I also note that the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party was not in the party room the other day when this matter was discussed. He took the opportunity not to second the proposition or move the proposition which was proposed yesterday. So one wonders just how broadly the support within the coalition parties for this opportunist view happens to be.

Let me reiterate the fact that the Government believes that in this area of income support for people in retirement there has to be a basis of Commonwealth funding where a need exists. There has been a massive circumvention of the income test in respect of people in receipt of social security pensions. I indicated yesterday how generous the assets test on the pension would be and the fact that the Government will be giving broad consideration to the issue upon taking advice from interested organisations and pensioner groups. But it is very interesting just to note, once again, the divergence of view of the coalition between the Leader of the National Party and the Leader of the Opposition about the severity of the Government's assets test on the over-70s.