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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 353

Mr CHARLES(10.54) —I reply tonight to what I believe to be one of the most dishonest speeches we have heard in this House for a while. It was delivered by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) a little earlier this evening when he was talking about the assets for pensioners test. The honourable member might have the brain of a peewee, but I thought he would have been able to work out the simple arithmetic that accompanys the assets test. He knows as well as I do that the person he spoke of is covered completely and would receive a full pension and full benefits. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said yesterday that a single person can in fact--

Mr Cadman —You are wrong again.

Mr CHARLES —I am telling the honourable member the facts now. After having a house, car, boat, caravan and all personal belongings such as furniture and the first $1,500 cash exempted from the assets test, a single person can then have $ 17,100 in the bank or in another place. For a couple, it is $28,500. This has been worked out, even for the honourable member, very simply. The amount of $17, 100 minus the $1,500 exemption equals $15,600. The assessable income which is assessed at 10 per cent is $1,560 which is 30 times 52. But what is the honourable member saying? The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) came into the House and said that the person he spoke about had $3,600 in the bank and was frightened. The honourable member was not denying the fact that he said pensioners would probably have a cut in their pension. The honourable member and his friends are going to move around this country and deliberately distort the facts which the Prime Minister alluded to yesterday. The honourable member is distorting the facts and he knows as well as I do that the vast majority of pensioners in this country will not be affected by the assets test. In fact, some people will even be better off.

Mr Hodgman —Rubbish!

Mr CHARLES —The honourable member for Denison interrupts, but he knows as well as I do that I am telling the truth. The Opposition is distorting the facts and the honourable member for Denison will obviously distort the facts in his electorate in Hobart. The facts are--

Mr Cadman —I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether the honourable member implies that I was distorting the facts. I suggest that he read my speech very carefully tomorrow.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Isaacs.

Mr CHARLES —The Government has brought in the assets test because of the economic bankruptcy it found this country in. The stupid decision made by the previous Government in 1976 meant that many thousands of people-they were nearly millionaires in some cases-gained pensions. This Government has announced the assets test. It has also announced that it will not apply until approximately 12 months after the introduction and passing of the legislation. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) have said in a number of Press releases over the last 24 hours that the Government will be talking to pensioner groups and veterans groups in the next few months in order to get ideas from them. The honourable member for Mitchell knows as well as I do that if any anomalies come up-I have one which I have not time to go into; I have already made representations to the Minister for Social Security-the Government will take all those into consideration. The honourable member should be trying to pacify pensioners and should be telling them the facts of the matter so that when the legislation is brought before this House it is fair to everyone in this country and will be a better system, a fairer system and a more equitable system for all the elderly people in this country.

Mr FISHER —I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER —Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr FISHER —Yes, I have been misrepresented on two counts.

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member may proceed.

Mr FISHER —First of all, I met the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Leo McLeay) in the corridors of the place yesterday. I informed him that I would be raising this-

Mr Leo McLeay —You said that you were going to give me a bashing in the House later in the week.

Mr FISHER —I thank the honourable member for admitting it. Secondly, I have been misrepresented in the fact that the honourable member for Grayndler said that we did nothing for sports development programs. My Government introduced the sports development program and funded 76 national bodies.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member has permission to make a personal explanation, not to debate the matter. He should not abuse an indulgence given to him by the Chair.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 11 p.m. until Tuesday, 6 September 1983, in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.