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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2758

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister seen the article in today's Australian which implies that the value of a pensioner's home is to be taken into account under the proposed assets test and that a person who owns a valuable home and has little or no other income may not be entitled to a pension?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I have read the extraordinary article in the Australian by one Des Keegan under the heading 'National Affairs'. All I can say is that Senator Childs has been very kind to Mr Keegan because Mr Keegan does not imply that the assets test includes a pensioner's home; he says in fact that it does. He says:

If you worked hard all your life and have a house worth $300,000 and nothing much by way of income, the immediate response of this Government is to deprive you of your pension.

What is even more serious is that this article in fact touts a scheme by one organisation called Seniors Home Equity Planning Pty Ltd, and includes a phone number and the name of the person to ring. The whole of the article tells pensioners that their homes will be considered in the assets test. I suppose the most charitable thing we can say about Mr Keegan is that he has been asleep for the last fortnight. I would have thought that if anyone--

Senator Walters —It is hard to keep up with, you will admit.

Senator GRIMES —Senator Walters would approve of this sort of tactic. It is the sort of tactic she used when the previous assets test was in place. But I suggest that if Mr Keegan has not been asleep all this week he has written this blatantly dishonest and unnecessarily misleading article in order, I assume, to tout the scheme which he is promoting under the guise of a current affairs article, that is, a scheme by Seniors Home Equity Planning Pty Ltd. First of all , I make it perfectly clear, in case Mr Keegan does not know, that a pensioner's home is in fact excluded from the assets test. If a person, such as Mr Keegan describes, has a $300,000 home and no income, that person will qualify for the full pension and will continue to qualify for it.

The second thing I would warn any pensioner about in this situation is to look very carefully before entering into a program which is touted in this article by Mr Keegan. I believe that in most cases, if pensioners look at that program, compare it with the option which is provided in the assets test legislation of taking a lien out on their estates and choose the latter, they will be very much better off. It is appalling that an article with such basic errors, based on such a false premise, by someone who purports to be an expert should appear in what purports to be a national newspaper. This sort of ultraconservative nonsense, which has no regard for the truth, is typical of some of the articles we have seen written by this gentleman in the past.