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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2419

Senator WOODLEY (12.25 p.m.) —I will be speaking to clauses 34 to 36 and to clause 37 so that the committee is not unduly delayed. In opposing these clauses, which will allow the Department of Social Security to deny a payment to someone who does not have a tax file number and has no intention of getting one, I want to provide the chamber with a number of quotations. The first is from Leonard Teale who, when talking about having to provide a tax file number, said:

It is really an extraordinary invasion of a person's privacy. For a person to be forced to give information which is private, and for no good reason, is the action of a dictatorship and should not be happening in a democratic country. It is a matter of principle.

The honourable member for Pearce, Mrs Moylan, who I believe was the acting shadow minister for social security when this bill went through the House of Representatives, said:

The government is using jackboot tactics to force people into applying for a tax file number through the social security department.

She went on to say:

I think the loss of personal privacy and liberty by all Australians is too great a price to pay to counteract the small amount of fraud that is being detected.

Of course, the truth of the matter is that only about one per cent of social security overpayments are in fact the result of fraud. Mrs Moylan concluded:

The government is eroding the rights of Australian citizens, treating all Australian citizens as the lowest common denominator and assuming that they are going to try to rip the system off. I do not believe that. I believe that the majority of Australians are decent, honest people who do not attempt to rip the system off. I do not think there is a need to pass legislation that makes that assumption.

Those were the words of an acting shadow minister for social security, and I could not agree with them more. There is no need for the government and the opposition to combine to pass legislation that assumes all Australian citizens are trying to rip off the system—yet that is exactly what they are going to do.

  The opposition has said that it will review this issue when in government. We saw just how effective that tactic was on the issue of pensioner shares when it failed to win at the last election. It really is a cop out. I believe that the opposition should not vote with the government to pass this particular issue. As I said in my speech on the second reading, the Democrats cannot support the conversion of our tax file number system into a pseudo Australia card, and we will be voting against these changes.

  I have a couple of questions to ask the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley). In her contribution to the debate the minister might advise me what effects these amendments will have on Mr John Malloch. Will the department try to overturn the ruling of the AAT and deny payments to Mr Malloch at some stage in the future? I would like to have that on the record. I would like to read one paragraph from a letter Mr Malloch received from the DSS on 26 August 1993, after the AAT decision in his favour. The department wrote:

All clients applying to this department for a pension or benefit must provide a tax file number or authorise DSS to obtain it within the legislatively specified time. Clients applying for income support and income assistance must provide a tax file number before any payment can be made.

I wonder if the minister might be able to give me some assurance on that particular issue.