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Wednesday, 1 September 1993
Page: 802


Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats) (5.41 p.m.) —I will make my comments very brief as I have been listening to my colleagues and also, in particular, to some of the comments that have been made by Senator Knowles and Senator Patterson.

  The first major thing that concerns the Democrats about this issue is uncertainty—the fact that pensioners are not going to know what their pension is going to be and, once they have that reduction, how they are going to make it up. Are they going to have to sell their shares? What is it that the government expects them to do? Add to that the problems associated with actively discouraging Australians from investing in Australian companies, which is effectively what this legislation is doing.

  Surely we are sending quite the wrong message to those people planning their retirement now if we are looking at this third test on shares, yet we are not going to look at this test on any other form of unrealised capital gain. I simply draw the attention of the chamber again to page 11 of the dissenting report and stress that managed investments also need the attention of the government.

  The habit of this government of continually chopping and changing, and shifting government policy in regard to pensioners, really does mean that pensioners do not know what they are doing, sometimes month by month and certainly year by year. How are pensioners, particularly those who are frail and disabled, expected to keep up with the latest financial advice without it costing them a considerable amount of money? Surely we should have no new means of tackling changes to the pension and no changes to the pension for those who are already on it, but we should look forward and make the changes for those who are coming on.

  I conclude my remarks because I do believe we can now put this matter to rest by simply repealing this legislation. It is the easiest and simplest thing to do. We should repeal these measures and go back to the drawing board. Let us start again by looking at the assets and income tests. Let us invite to the table all of those organisations who came before us and ask them to put submissions in, and also ask the many individual pensioners who are now taking a great deal of interest in what this government does to put in submissions. We can then get a fair and equitable pension system that ensures that those people who need support can get it, and that people as they retire have some security and some reasonable expectation that they do not keep having to chop and change their financial arrangements, so that they can retire in peace.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Herron)—I call Senator West.