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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1531

Mr ALLAN MORRIS (1:51 PM) —I go back to a theme that I have raised previously in this House, which is to do with debt and capital. We have a government telling us about the debt we are going to pass on to our children and our grandchildren. It is a theme that has been run over and over again as a mask for a lot of social engineering. This is basically about social engineering.

It is important that we equate debt with assets. We will pass on to our children debt—there is no doubt about that—but we will also pass on to our children assets. The question is: how do they balance? There is no doubt whatsoever that over the last 15 years—certainly the 13 years of Labor government—the asset value increased at a much greater rate than the debt value. Anybody who drives to Canberra on the national highway which we have all shared the cost of will understand that, anybody who goes to an airport which we have all shared the cost of will understand that, and anybody who goes to our ports and looks at the infrastructure which we have all shared the cost of will understand that. These are being passed on to successive generations. We have all shared the cost of hospitals and nursing homes. These are infrastructure, not some luxury item that we choose to have or not to have. These are things that are needed by a decent society to care for its own people. They incur a capital cost; that cost can be shared by generations via intergenerational debt. Intergenerational assets and intergenerational debt are a valid and sensible form of sharing those costs.

We are being told by this government that the generations that built the other assets are going to have to pay for their own care. Having shared the cost of the nation's assets, they are going to have to pay the cost of the assets to care for them. That is an enormous shift in both philosophy and in relationships, which is a fundamental shift in the way we have done things. We are making the aged who need nursing home care feel guilty. We heard the member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) mention the figure of $40,000. What a disgraceful way to approach it. We have heard the term `bed blockers' being used over and over. People who have the misfortune to need nursing home care are now seen to be culprits, like criminals—that it is their fault.

People would love to die in their own beds peacefully with their family around them. That would be the choice for all of us, but some people are not so fortunate any more. We tried to put it in a form that, if you required nursing home care in your later years, it was unfortunate for you and we understood that but we shared the burden of it. We all took some responsibility. Now the government says, `No, you take it yourself.' Just contrast that with what is happening today in terms of this new device we are now hearing a lot about—family trusts. Think about it for a moment. If, five years before, you transferred your assets to a family trust which is controlled by somebody else who can give you money if they want to or do not want to, do you still pay up-front fees, do you still pay nursing home charges? No, you do not. We are saying now that the Aussie battler is going to have to transfer their family home to a family trust, then all of this will be irrelevant. What a shonky exercise is going on. On one hand this government is telling the aged people that all they have is a house and that they are going to have to pay but, on the other hand, the bulk of their frontbench is creating artificial vehicles to avoid both tax and those kinds of payments. That is what is happening. Why else would you have family trusts being created?

We are now being told by representatives of the Minister for Family Services (Mr Warwick Smith) that this is a sensible thing to be doing. If you want to pass on your assets to your children, you put them in a family trust; the Aussie battler is being told to sell their house. You cannot give it to your kids because you are a squatter in a hospital, a bed blocker. But those who are clever put it into a family trust instead so their kids get the assets well in advance via that family trust. This government had better come clean as to its true agenda and who it actually represents. (Time expired)