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Tuesday, 16 October 1984
Page: 1800

Senator ELSTOB(10.30) —After Question Time today Senator Teague rose on a point of explanation in which he suggested he was misrepresented by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) and me on Wednesday, 10 October. I asked a question of the Minister for Social Security as follows:

Is the Minister for Social Security aware of a statement by Senator Teague in the Adelaide Press that the social security inspectors will enter people's homes to assess personal assets when the assets test is introduced? Will the Minister explain to the Senate and the people of Australia the facts?

The only mistake I made was that Senator Teague did not make the statememt in the Press but a statement was attributed to him on a radio station on that day. I was informed that morning just before Question Time that Senator Teague had made a statement on the radio to that effect, or it was a Press report directed from Senator Teague, that people on pension in future would be visited by inspectors to assess their furniture and possessions.

Senator Teague —That is false.

Senator ELSTOB —That is not false at all. Two phone calls were made to my home on that morning by pensioners stating that such a thing had been reported. At that time I understood it was in the Wednesday morning newspaper. In fact, I was mistaken and I admit that; it was a report given over the radio. There was a statement, and undoubtedly it was released by Senator Teague or by his staff, that the Hawke Labor Government intended under the assets test to visit pensioners' homes to assess what was in them. Senator Teague knew and the Liberal Party knew that this was false and that the Labor Party had no intention of doing such a thing. I asked the Minister for Social Security at that time to clarify the position because of the fact that pensioners who had contacted my home about the matter on that day had been upset by the report. It is no use Senator Teague saying that statements were not made on his behalf.

Senator Teague —It is true; they were not made.

Senator ELSTOB —They were made on his behalf. It is an outrage that people who have worked and fought for this country should have the fear of God put into them. It was the duty of any senator to raise this question to clarify the position so that pensioners would not think that they would be visited by gestapo methods. This Government has not followed those tactics and never will. I was denied by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) a democratic right when I sought leave to explain the position. The only mistake I made was to suggest that the report was in the daily Press. I honestly understood that to be the case at the time. I repeat that I had two phone calls and I found out later in the afternoon that the report had been on the radio. That is the only thing that I admit to. It is up to any senator to raise this question because it is of such importance to the elderly and retired people whom Senator Teague and his Party have upset. I cannot forgive him for that because he has upset people by fear and rumour-mongering tactics.

Senator Cook —Disgusting.

Senator ELSTOB —What Senator Teague has done is absolutely disgusting. As people took the trouble to ring my home and my office it was my duty to raise this question and clarify the position.

Senator Teague —Check your facts first.

Senator ELSTOB —You were well aware--

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Elstob, I suggest you address your remarks to the Chair.

Senator ELSTOB —Mr President, Senator Teague and the Liberal Party were well aware of the facts. The legislation was before them. They knew what would happen . What they did today was political gimmickry to upset the people who have built this country and fought for it. That is what I object to. I think it is an utter disgrace that the matter should have been raised.

It is fair enough that there be differences of opinion in politics, but I think it is totally unforgivable that totally false statements have been put out, thereby worrying people. It does neither Senator Teague nor the Liberal Party any credit. It is outrageous that that line was taken. The retired people of this country should be treated better than they have been by the Liberal Party. I make no apology, although I made an error in saying that Senator Teague made his statement in the Press when he made in on radio. That was the only mistake I made, and it was not my fault. I was misinformed. But I was informed by people in Adelaide in several calls to my house and my office that Senator Teague said that people would visit their homes to assess them. People do not make such statements unless they are true. I think it is an outrage. I simply raise the question to clarify it. I think the Liberal Party should seriously consider where it is headed.