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Thursday, 1 March 1984
Page: 208


Senator MESSNER(11.55) —I think most honourable senators have some background knowledge of this matter. A paper was put down by the Government at the time the original Budget measures were announced on Budget night. That paper outlined at that time the way in which the new assets test would operate as it was then conceived by the Government. Since then we have had various other changes to the modus operandi of the assets test to a point where really that paper is outdated and does not truly reflect the present position of the Government. The Government has announced that it will refer the whole matter of an assets test to a panel of community based organisations in order to get some better understanding of what it intends. I can only applaud that move at this stage.

The original statement has been followed by a confusing number of other statements, not made to the Parliament but made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) in various other places extending exemptions in some cases-I refer to the lifestyle package-and in others, making more clear perhaps, from the point of view of the Government, what it originally intended. I refer to various matters such as the effects on renters, which was the subject of a later statement, the effect on farmers, small businessmen and so on.

The point I really wanted to make was that the statement was very incomplete in terms of its consideration by the Government. It lacked the detail which was necessary to inform people properly as to their obligations and what would be intended by the Government when it finally introduced the system on 1 November. I think that can point only to the Government's incompetence in this area. It certainly points up the confusion that has developed in the Australian community ever since the announcement was made in the Budget. It does the Government no credit at all to blame the Opposition for going about and talking to people in the community, and, as it has claimed, stirring up the community against the assets test. Judging from the way in which letters have been flowing into my office-I am certain that it is happening to other honourable senators as well- there is absolutely no doubt about the level of confusion in the community at present. For that reason I seek leave to continue my remarks later as I believe the matter should remain on the Notice Paper for later debate.

Leave not granted.