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Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1767


Mr WENTWORTH - Under this Bill, all those who are at present receiving part pensions, and whose means as assessed do not exceed $20 per week for single people or $34.50 per week for married couples will receive full pension. Those part pensioners whose means are between $20 per week and $46.50 per week single or between $34.50 per week and $81 per week married couples will receive substantially increased part pensions, and those who at present receive no pension but whose means lie between $46.50 per week and $60 per week single or between $81 per week and $103.50 per week married couples will be entitled to receive some pension for the first time. Sheltered employment allowances and rehabilitation allowances, payable under the Social Services Act, are linked to the pension rates and recipients of these allowances will, as a result, benefit also from the means test liberalisations I have just outlined.

At this point I should say that the proposed extension of the means as assessed limits will not cause a corresponding extension of eligibility for fringe benefits such as the benefits of the pensioner medical service, funeral benefits and rebates on telephones, radio and television. The eligibility limits for Commonwealth concessions are not increased when the means test is relaxed but are automatically raised in accordance with increases in the basic rate of pension. The effect of the proposed pension increases is that Commonwealth concessions will now be available to single pensioners with means as assessed below $30 per week and to pensioner couples with means as assessed below $51.50 per week. The Government has given no commitment on the extension of fringe benefits with the eventual abolition of the means test. As the House will recall, the administration of the most important of these lies within the province of my colleague the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). If I remain Minister for Social Services next year I shall be consulting with him to see whether any recommendation can be made to the Government on this matter.

Turning now to the special concession to be applied for recipients of superannuation payments and annuities, where a pensioner is entitled to receive an income from superannuation or annuity, the annual rate payable will be given a property equivalent for means test purposes by reference to a specific conversion factor contained in a schedule to be attached to the Social Services Act. The conversion factor will provide the present capital value of the superannuation payment or annuity. The conversion of the superannuation or annuity into property will be to the pensioner's advantage in the vast majority of cases but if in any particular case this should not prove to be so the payments will continue to be treated as income.

As the amount of property to be taken into account in respect of superannuation or annuity will vary with the pensioner's age, it is proposed to review each case on the anniversary of his birthday with a view to making a further increase in pension available. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the conversion factors to be applied for the capitalisation of superannuation payments and annuities.







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