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Tuesday, 18 May 1993
Page: 784

Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) (11.13 p.m.) —I will be supporting this amendment to the Social Security Amendment Bill as it is identical to the amendment that was circulated earlier today. If I could take issue with one of the matters raised by the Minister for Health (Senator Richardson) last time we discussed this matter in this place, he noted that there was a difference now of some 20-odd thousand pensioners between those that were officially recognised as having listed shares and those that now have them.

  May I suggest to the Minister that from the information supplied to me by pensioners it is not that pensioners have gone out and purchased shares but rather, because of what the Government has done in relation to additional benefits, that people who have small pension entitlements and happen to have shares have indeed joined the pensioner group, if you like, and become pensioners in order to get those additional entitlements. So it is not simply a matter of additional people purchasing shares but rather the other way around. People who have had share portfolios and maybe were only entitled to a few dollars a week pension have decided that in order to get the fringe benefits it is worth while their becoming part-pensioners. That is the information I have from some pensioners.

  I support the amendment and say that it is now well over 100,000 people who will be affected. While some of them, in effect, may not have their pensions cut, particularly in the short term, the threat of the possibility of losing pension is sufficient for many of them to be certainly rethinking. Some of them have put their decisions on hold for the moment. But we do not want a situation where people are dissuaded in any way from investing in Australian companies; nor do we want a situation where we have pensioners without anything in hand whatsoever losing income. I do not think we need to say any more at the moment.