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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2798

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Is the Minister aware that many people have been misled to believe that they will be better off under the pensions income and assets test? Has the emphasis that has been placed upon the assets component overshadowed the fact that the income test will also be applied depending on which gives entitlement to the least amount of pension? Was this not given emphasis in Stuart Simson's article in the Business Review Weekly over the weekend, which refers to black holes in the assets test? What will the Minister do to explain fully the ramifications of the pensions income and assets test?

Senator GRIMES —I would have thought that the statement by the Prime Minister and the report by Professor Gruen's Panel of Review of Proposed Income and Assets Test out of which evolved the presently proposed assets test explained clearly how the assets test and the income test would apply. The fact that both are to apply but not together has been in every statement put out by the Government to explain the assets test. The only problem about misrepresentation of the assets test comes from people like Senator Townley who, through notices of motion, propose to distort the issue. Senator Messner's statement that both the income test and the assets test will be applied and that which gives the lower result will be used is true. That has been in all the statements. Before the legislation is passed the Government will, as it is doing now, in discussions with pensioner organisations and on radio and television programs and what have you, explain how the assets test will apply. When the legislation is passed we will explain clearly to all members of the community the nature of the test, and every pensioner will receive a letter explaining the nature of the test. I accept, as I have always accepted, that when one introduces change like this, first of all one must explain it and, secondly, one must counteract the misrepresentations of those who oppose it for political and other reasons. I can assure the honourable senator that from the appropriate time our efforts to explain the test and to make everything clear to those who will or will not be affected will be unremitting.

Senator MESSNER —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. In the course of the Minister's reply he said that both these tests would apply, but then said that they would not be applied together. Can he please explain what that means?

Senator GRIMES —That supplementary question is typical of the attempts by Senator Messner who knows quite clearly how the tests will apply. It is typical of Senator Messner in feigning ignorance in order to provide misrepresentation. The alternative is the suggestion of my colleague Senator Walsh that he is pretty thick. Both the incomes test--

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. There is no standing order requiring any degree of courtesy in this place but that sort of throwing insults across the chamber, without any interjection being answered or anything else, is typical of what is wrong with this place. Mr President, I ask you to call the Minister to order.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order. I call Senator Grimes.

Senator GRIMES —I suggest that that is an example of Satan condemning sin. The statement put out is perfectly clear. The incomes test and the assets test will be applied; whichever gives the lower result will be the one applied to the pensioner. That has been in every statement and Senator Messner knows it has been in every statement. He has put out statements about that himself. His question is a phoney.