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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1140

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN —Is the Minister for Community Services aware of statements made by Mr Wright, the honourable member for Capricornia, in the Brisbane Courier-Mail on Saturday, 6 April, in which Mr Wright said that the assets test is unfair, that Australian Taxation Office inspectors for some reason had valued properties at up to 150 times their value and that, while a person could live in a $550,000 mansion and draw a pension, someone living in a shack on 60 hectares could lose his pension and that people in these circumstances should get their full pension reinstated? Does the Minister agree with Mr Wright and his support for the coalition's assets test policy?

Senator GRIMES —I have not seen directly the reports of Mr Wright's comments, but I certainly have spoken to Mr Wright about this matter and he did not say to me that he disagreed with the assets test. What he disagreed with was some of the property valuations by some of the taxation valuers in assessing the value of farms. Mr Howe, the Minister for Social Security, has said that in all cases in which there seems to have been an overvaluation of properties by the Taxation valuers the matter is being reviewed very quickly. In those cases where there has been overvaluation or a great disparity in valuation between the market value, the local government valuation and the Taxation valuation, of course changes will be made and those people will be reassessed. They have the same right of appeal as anybody else. They have access to a much more rapid review system than in any other section of the Department of Social Security.

To put things into perspective, I might say to Senator Bjelke-Petersen that of the 57,000 people who have been affected by the assets test there have been 600 appeals-only 600-against the valuation of property. Of course, in any exercise on this scale, and in particular in any exercise where the Government has bent over backwards to ensure that people do not have their privacy invaded by people physically coming on to their property, mistakes will be made. If mistakes have been made, they will be quickly rectified. But that does not mean that the principle of the assets test, the principle of the assessment of assets as well as income, is wrong. The Government does not believe that is so and I am sure that Mr Wright does not believe that is so.