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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1341

(Question No. 458)

Mr Braithwaite asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 26 March 1985:

(1) What special arrangements have been made by his Department to handle appeals expected under the assets test.

(2) How many Social Security Appeals Tribunal members are there in each State and what are their qualifications.

(3) Will there be an increase in the number of members to handle appeals under the assets test.

(4) What is the average time between the submission of an appeal, the hearing of the appeal and the handing down of the appeal from the tribunal.

(5) Will priority be given to the hearing of appeals which arise from the assets test and what is expected to be the average time taken by the tribunal in handing down its decision.

Mr Howe —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The existing appeals and review system, with some slight procedural modifications mainly involving valuations by the Australian Taxation Office, will accommodate asset test appeals.

Seminars for Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) members have recently been held in all States and Territories to acquaint them with the assets test. Officers of the Department have been instructed to handle assets test appeals quickly. Guidelines to assist officers to correctly and quickly handle assets test appeals have already been issued.

(2) Qualifications of SSAT members:

NSW Vic. Qld SA WA Tas. NT ACT

Legal qualifications 14 7 4 2 4 1 1 1 Welfare qualifications or experience 10 9 4 1 5 1 1 1 Medical qualifications 5 4 4 2 3 3 1 1 Seconded from Department of Social Security 5 2 2 1 1 1 1 1

(3) At this stage it is not possible to ascertain the rate at which assets test appeals will be lodged. There have been just over 400 requests made for review. The situation is being constantly monitored and, if the need arises, additional members will be appointed to SSATs to ensure appeals will be dealt with quickly.

(4) Finalisation of non-medical appeals, of which assets test appeals will form part, took an average of 22.7 weeks during the quarter ended December 1984. Over 50% were finalised within 17.7 weeks.

(5) Priority is given to any appeals which involve hardship and this will apply equally to assets test appeals. My department and the SSAT's endeavour to handle all appeals quickly and, as mentioned in answer to question (1), instructions have been issued to ensure assets test appeals do not cause delays in the appeals system generally. It is not possible to assess an expected average time which will be taken by Tribunals in assets test appeals. Tribunals are independent of the Department and their procedures are to a large extent at their discretion. Nevertheless all SSAT members have been informed of the need for speedy resolution of all appeal matters including assets test appeals.