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Monday, 29 May 1989
Page: 2891

Senator BURNS —My question is directed to Senator Walsh in his capacity as Minister for Finance and as Minister representing the Treasurer. First, what proportion of total household income in Australia comes from Government pensions, benefits and similar transfer payments? Secondly, how does this proportion vary across the States? Thirdly, which States would be worst affected by any draconian axing of the Government's expenditure on pensions, benefits, et cetera?

Senator WALSH —According to the national accounts, there are significant variations, in the proportion of income derived from pensions, benefits and related payments, between the national average and the figures for a number of States. In the last financial year, some 13 per cent of total household income, nationally, came from transfer payments, principally pensions but also unemployment benefit and a few other payments, whereas in Queensland almost 15 per cent of household income came from that source-a matter of particular interest to Senator Burns, of course. In South Australia almost 16 per cent, which was the highest of all the States, came from that source. In Tasmania it was also nearly 16 per cent. The State with the lowest figure of household income from that source was Victoria with 11 1/2 per cent. But the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was lower still with just under 5 per cent. I expect that would be due to the fact that there is a much smaller proportion of aged people in the ACT and a much higher proportion of those who are aged would have substantial superannuation payments. The ACT also has a very low unemployment rate.

If the policy enunciated by the honourable member for Wentworth, Dr Hewson, yesterday were to be implemented by the present Opposition should it get into government, firstly, it is very clear that all low income people-poor people, if one wants to use that term-throughout Australia would be adversely affected. The greatest impact would be on the States of South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. The least impact would be on those parts of the country which are already the most prosperous, namely, Victoria and the ACT.

I suggest that it is quite properly a matter of legitimate concern to Senator Burns, as a representative of Queensland, and also a matter of concern to those people who purport to represent Tasmania and South Australia, that Dr Hewson be firmly told that he should not proceed with his program. However, Dr Hewson will have difficulty if he is not allowed to proceed with his program of cutting the entitlements or rates that people receive, particularly if he has to fund the ambitious plans of Senator Newman and many smaller or lesser lights in the Opposition to spend a great deal more money elsewhere.