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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1066

Dr BLEWETT (Minister for Health)(8.12) —In concluding this debate on the Social Security and Repatriation Legislation Amendment Bill. I make a couple of points on the arguments we have heard from the Opposition. I think we can divide those arguments into two parts. We got a rather passionate or quite violent opposition to the measure from some of the back benchers of the Opposition and, from the front bench, we got what can be described as a rather convuluted opposition. Let me deal first of all with the violent opposition most typified by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). We had from him, as we frequently have from the honourable member for Franklin, a spurious sincerity disguising that he had given no hard thought or hard work to the very difficult problems addressed by the Government. It was a very typical attitude of that member in dealing with very difficult problems which I think honourable members on both sides of the House realise. Yet we had a rather spurious sincerity or a spurious passion disguising the fact that no hard thought or work had been given to the serious problems addressed in this Bill.

Secondly, we got what can only be described as convoluted opposition from the front bench spokesmen. They did tell us, in their amendment, that this Bill somehow disadvantages one of the most vulnerable sections of the community. They said that it failed to address vital questions of equity for all social security beneficiaries. But then, having made these very powerful and strong statements, they said that they would not oppose the Bill. I think there is an odd discrepancy between making these very powerful statements and then saying that nevertheless they would not oppose it. I think the reason for that rather convoluted opposition is that in fact they do not really believe the major statements in their amendment. Those statements cannot, in fact, be justified. I want to deal briefly with both of them.

It is argued in the Opposition's amendment that the Bill disadvantages one of the most vulnerable sections of the community. Let me make it clear, as every person who has spoken from this side of the House has made it clear, that we are not taking action against the vulnerable aged or the poor aged. In fact, we are dealing with a segment of the well-off aged. Let us look at the figures. For instance, a single person is not affected by this measure until that person's income passes $200 a week. In fact, that person goes on receiving a pension until he reaches $302.90 a week. That person is then in the upper 40 per cent of all income earners without dependants in this society. In this case we are looking at the relatively well off single persons without dependants. The kind of income which they earn before they lose the pension completely is an income which puts them amongst the 40 per cent best off people without dependants in the community.

The income test does not apply at all to married couples until the couple receives an income greater than $333 a week. Some pension is still paid up until an income of $504.60 a week is received. That kind of income puts these people in the upper one-third of all family incomes. So let us get rid of the notion that somehow we are striking at a particularly vulnerable group. We have had to make a tough decision but we have made it in relation to the well-off aged. We made it, in fact, in relation to the second allegation made against us-that is, we have not considered vital questions of equity for all social security beneficiaries.

However peculiar the Opposition's notions of equity are, the essence of equity is that we use limited community resources for those who most need them. We have made this decision because we need those resources for those in the community who are really vulnerable and who really need them. It is our belief that this measure typifies superbly a basic concept of equity. In a tough economic situation with limited resources, equity demands that we try to use those resources for those in the community most in need. I commend the Bill to the House. I am strongly critical of what is a very convoluted and, I think, rather hypocritical amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.