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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3119

Senator WALTERS —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the fact that, under the income deprivation provisions of the proposed assets test, non-pensioner spouses of pensioners will be treated, in fact, as pensioners. Does the Sex Discrimination Bill presently before the Parliament set out to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against persons on the grounds of sex or marital status in the area of the administration of Commonwealth laws and programs? Does the Minister agree that the classifying of non-pensioner spouses in this way is discrimination on the grounds of marital status, and how is this action justifiable in the light of the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Bill?

Senator GRIMES —The answer to the first part of Senator Walters's question is that if she reads the Sex Discrimination Bill she will find that the application of the Social Servies Act is excluded from the Bill. Secondly, I do not believe that the matter she has raised is an example of sex discrimination at all. It is a matter of limiting as much as possible people's capacity to circumvent either the income test at the moment or the assets test in the future, should that assets test pass into legislation.

Senator WALTERS —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I did not say sex discrimination; I was referring particularly to discrimination on the ground of marital status. While the Minister said it is all right to discriminate on the ground of marital status in the social security legislation, he said he did not believe the matter I raised was discrimination on the basis of sex. I am talking about marital status.

Senator GRIMES —Dear me, it must be pedantics day today. I said it is my understanding that the Sex Discrimination Bill presently before the Senate excludes that Bill from applying to the Social Services Act, whether the discrimination is on the ground of the sex or marital status. I am sorry if I used the shorthand 'sex'; that is the shorthand reference in this place to the Bill. I correct that in a pedantic way and say that on the grounds of sex or marital status the Act is excluded. Therefore, to the first part of Senator Walters's question, whether this is contrary to the Sex Discrimination Bill, my answer is no, because the Social Services Act is excluded from such application.