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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1833

Mr CADMAN —My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it the case that, as of 4 April 1985, 1,286 applications had been received under the hardship provisions of the assets test but only 24 applications had been granted? Given the harshness manifested in these figures, what does the Minister intend to do about this matter?

Mr HOWE —I thank the honourable member for his question. I suppose one conclusion to be drawn from that is that if those figures are correct-I do not have them with me-there are a large number of people who, having applied under the hardship provisions, clearly fall outside the guidelines in relation to the assets test. To apply under the hardship provisions is not necessarily any evidence at all that people are in such a situation that they require to be paid a full pension by the Government. I am aware of a number of people who have applied under the provisions and who have very substantial assets, some well over the limit with assets in the order of $200,000 to $300,000. Of course the hardship provisions are there to ensure that people who are unable to achieve an income from an asset for very good reasons are treated sympathetically. There is no suggestion-I want to nail this allegation as strongly as I possibly can-and there has never been any suggestion that in the administration by this Government of the assets test it is seeking to force people in any sense to sell their homes. That is the reason the assets test excluded the home and curtilage from the very beginning. That is the reason that, apart from the hardship provisions and the review processes, designed to ensure that there is an objective determination of hardship, the loans scheme was introduced as part of the assets test scheme.

I draw attention to one aspect of the loans scheme which seems to me to be extraordinarily generous. A great deal of the complaints that have been made about the assets test have not come from aged people but from children and dependants-indeed, future beneficiaries of the estates of pensioners. It is part of the provisions of the loans scheme-

Mr Dobie —Not true.

Mr HOWE —If the honourable member listens, he might learn something. It is part of the provisions of the loans scheme that, when the Government recovers the money advanced by way of loan following the death of a pensioner, an amount of $100,000 is not recovered as part of that process. It seems to me that in many of the circumstances about which there has been the greatest amount of bleating, involving very aged people, the loans scheme is a very appropriate means to ensure that people do not suffer any disadvantage and that they are not put in the position of not receiving their pensions. If some Opposition members who show so much apparent concern in this place were to draw attention to the operation of the scheme in certain circumstances it would be useful and would assist to resolve many of the problems that no doubt exist for many people.