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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 1005

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Griffith is to speak next in this debate and he will have ample opportunity to speak then.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I do not think the honourable member for Griffith will be able to answer my argument, Mr Speaker; but I draw his attention to the table which is in Hansard, from which he will see that in the 5 years from 1963 onwards the pension increases for a married couple were nothing, 50c, nothing, 75c and nothing - an average of 25c a year. What a marvellous achievement! What compassion! What generosity! What hypocrisy! This Government will do something about pensions. We will tie pensions to average weekly earnings. We are keeping ahead of average weekly earnings and we will raise the standard of living of pensioners in our community. We have a plan for the whole of the Australian community in respect of pensions and related matters.

We have a policy for a guaranteed income for all Australians. We hope to scrap the present confusing system of pensions and social security benefits and replace it with a more simply administered and more easily understood system of guaranteed income. The new system will be reinforced by national superannuation, national compensation and a universal health insurance scheme. The national superannuation inquiry possibly will be asked to consider the feasibility of such a scheme being expanded to provide for widows and for invalid, sickness and unemployment benefits. The nature of any such recommendations will affect the manner in which the guaranteed income scheme will operate.

This is a positive plan and I believe that it can bc accomplished. Not only will it insure individuals in the community against situations which may arise or will arise but it will also save an enormous amount of money in administration. Perhaps one day the principle will be extended to repatriation so that no longer from a social welfare point of view will there be the costly and sometimes unfair situation which now prevails. Other dis- advantages arising from war service could then be met by war compensation payments as a lump sum.

I come now to the question of taxation. I have already mentioned the point about equity. Although the honourable member for Mackellar referred to the statement released by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) he did not say what is in the statement, lt is left to me to inform the House of those details. The abolition of the means test and periodical pension increases were proposed in the Labor policy speech. Taxation on means test free pensions is necessary in order that aged people in the higher income groups are not put in a privileged position as compared with other aged people who have little other income and with young people who are raising families. I will cite the relevant figures so that people will have no doubt about the true situation.

If a married pensioner has no other income or has in addition to his or her pension of $1,056 other income of no more than $865 a year- which is about $17 a week - he or she will not pay tax and will not need to lodge a tax return. That amount is about S700 a year above the minimum wage. A married couple each with $865 of other income annually can thus have a total tax free income of $3,842 annually and more if they qualify for concessional deductions such as private rates. A single pensioner with an annual pension of $1,199 will not pay tax or need to lodge a tax return if he or she has no other income or has other income up to $722 a year, or again more if he or she is entitled to concessional deductions.

These figures give the lie to the assertions which have been made by the honourable member for Mackellar. We will raise the general standard of living of retired people in the community and we will not cease our work in this field until we have given every retired person in our society a guaranteed income of 25 per cent of the minimum male average weekly earnings. This Bill is an historic document. It is another pledge redeemed by the Government and it is part of a consistent and well-planned policy. It is a move along the road towards the situation where no pensioner or pensioner organisation will have to ask for increases, to a situation where hand-outs will be a thing of the past. Australia is a rich country when our society can allow huge capital appreciation, untaxed profit's from land deals and, despite inflation, a high and rising standard of living. We can easily afford justice to our elderly, our sick, our unemployed and others who have earned and deserve our assistance. I congratulate the Minister and the Government and look forward to a continuation of the present program. I commend the Bill to the House.

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