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Monday, 22 November 1993
Page: 3316


Senator PATTERSON (3.06 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

This inquiry is long overdue. We were saying long before the election that there should be a full inquiry into the income and assets test, and we welcome this inquiry. I just want to put on the public record the fact that Mr Ruddock has asked that the government give an assurance that the terms of reference not preclude an examination of the income test on unrealised gains on shares and managed investments as well as allocated pensions.

  We expressed in this chamber, and Mr Ruddock expressed to the Minister for Social Security, Mr Baldwin, in writing, some concerns we had about the terms of reference. We are very pleased to see that a number of those concerns were addressed and that those terms of reference have come back in an altered form. However, we have not been totally assured that this does not preclude an examination of the income test on realised gains on shares and managed investments and we would like that assurance.

  We would also like to convey to the chamber, to honourable senators opposite and to Mr Baldwin, that Mr Ruddock has written to the minister saying that he would be happy to consult with him regarding some individuals who could assist in the make up of the reference panel, particularly the people we have in mind who have a relevant background and information. The government should take this in the spirit in which it is meant and try to address the issue as broadly as possible and, as I said before, reduce any stress or anxiety that it may cause pensioners because they already feel very threatened and confused by the changes that have taken place. We feel that as much as possible the issue should be addressed in a way that allays their fears. If the minister could comment on those two issues now or pass these comments on to Mr Baldwin, I would appreciate it.