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Tuesday, 16 April 1985
Page: 1220

Mr NEHL(10.35) —Tonight I wish to address a few remarks to the question of the assets test. In the last few weeks I have had nothing but a succession of elderly Australians coming to see me, consumed by fear for their future.

Dr Charlesworth —You have caused that fear.

Mr NEHL —The honourable member's Government did it; it is his Government's action that has caused it. I have had a succession of elderly Australians, men and women, ex-servicemen-and it is Anzac Day only next week-coming to me. One ex-serviceman who fought for five years for this country came to see me with tears in his eyes because he had no income and his pension was taken away completely because he wanted the privilege of living on his own land. That was his crime. He wanted to stay on his own land.

Mr Blunt —That is a right, not a privilege.

Mr NEHL —Yes, it is a right. And for that his pension has been taken away completely. He has no income. He has no money to pay the rates. It is all right for honourable members on the other side and for the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe), who unfortunately is not here tonight, to quote examples of people who have $700,000 and suggest that it is unjust that they should receive the pension. What is wrong is that ordinary Australian men and women are being pushed into poverty. For all the examples of the millionaires, whoever they might be--

Dr Charlesworth —How many hectares do they have?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Perth is going beyond the bounds of tolerance.

Mr NEHL —I note with pleasure that the Minister for Social Security has entered the chamber because it is important that he understand that we are not talking about rich people. We are talking about ordinary men and women like the lady in the Nambucca Valley who is 79 years of age this month and who has 60 or 70 acres but who receives no income from it. Her total income now is $32 a fortnight. She is typical of this procession of elderly Australians who come to see me and, I am sure, every other member of the House.

Mr Chynoweth —They should do something good for the nation.

Mr NEHL —I suggest that at 79 these elderly Australians have done something good for the nation. I suggest that ex-servicemen and women in their seventies and eighties have already done their share. How dare you suggest that they should go out to work in their seventies and eighties. You uncaring person.

I would like to see every caring man and woman in this country write to his or her Federal member or to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). I would like them to spend 33c on a stamp to express their disgust and dissatisfaction with the assets test. We have just gone through an election and it is too long to wait for the next election. We need to get ordinary men and women in this country to join with us to swamp the Minister or the Prime Minister with letters of appeal, with pleas for them to take note of the injustice and the frightful conditions that so many elderly Australians are being thrust into. At the last sitting I asked the Minister what special provisions had been made for funding pensioners who had been left without any income whatsoever. He said that there was no funding.

Mr Chynoweth —There was.

Mr NEHL —He said that there was no funding. The honourable member can look at Hansard if he does not believe me.

Mr Cowan —He wants to throw them on the scrap heap.

Mr NEHL —Yes, that is what is happening. They are being thrown on the scrap heap.

Mr Robert Brown —He does not need your help. Why don't you give him a go.

Mr NEHL —I assure the honourable member that he does and his Government needs our help too.

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It is very difficult for me to protect the honourable member for Cowper when both his colleagues and his opponents are interjecting.

Mr NEHL —If we can marshal the resources of caring Australians to write to members of this Parliament, to make the point that in circumstances where elderly Australians are living on land in rural areas, are losing their pensions and have no income, that we ask and beg the Minister and the Prime Minister to really reconsider and do something about it. I asked the Minister the other day how long it would be--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.