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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2099

Senator CONROY —My question is to the Minister for Social Security. Can the minister confirm that the Department of Social Security has advised you that abolishing the assets taper for pensioners below the age pension age from March 1977 would save an estimated $277 million over four years? Can the minister give an assurance to pensioners below age pension age—that is, sole parents, disability support pensioners and carer pensioners—that the taper will continue to be $3 a fortnight for every thousand dollars of assets above the applicable limit, or were sole parents foolish to believe the Prime Minister when he promised during the election campaign to maintain sole parent pension arrangements?

Senator NEWMAN —You do wonder, Mr President, don't you. They do not have anything better to do with their time. There is an old game called cat's cradle. They might like to reinvent it although, I suppose, there are not too many members on the opposite side who know much about cat's cradle—there are not many women there, of course. I do not intend, no matter how many hundreds of questions you ask, to depart from the long-standing practice that you do not discuss in the budget context transactions between ministers and between ministers and their departments. They are confidential; they have always been so. This is not something special and new to this government. At the appropriate time the government will make its decisions public. Once again I condemn the opposition for this fear tactic they are trying to pursue day in, day out. It will not give you an answer; it simply means that you hurt people for the next seven or eight weeks until the commitments of the government are seen to be maintained in the budget context.