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Urgent action required on GST Bonus debacle.

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Urgent Action Required On GST Bonus Debacle Wayne Swan - Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

Media Statement - 25 July 2000

Urgent action is required by the Minister for Family & Community Services, Senator Newman, to rectify the incorrect calculation of GST Aged Persons Bonus payments to thousands of elderly Australians.

In some instances people who should be entitled to a bonus payment of $1000 have received a payment of just $1.

Despite promising an 'easy' application process, thousands of elderly Australians have been short-changed on their bonus payment because the Government has calculated their entitlement on out of date information held by Centrelink.

Many pensioners and retirees have appealed their bonus payments (as indicated on the back of the letters informing of their bonus payment) only to be told that they will have to submit a tax return next financial year to receive their proper GST compensation.

To make matters worse others have been able to provide up to date information on their financial situation to Centrelink and receive a top-up payment.

The resulting chaos has seen Centrelink workers put in the firing line as the elderly vent their frustration. But the blame for this fiasco rests fairly and squarely at the feet of the Howard Government.

The combination of building retirees' hopes up for a 'windfall payment' and the complete inadequacy of the application process has produced a justifiable reaction from those affected.

As an example of the appalling application process, pensioners were sent one page claim forms that didn't even give recipients an opportunity to update the financial information that the bonus payment is based on.

Without accurate records on an individual's savings and investments the Government has taken a stab in the dark in calculating payments, short-changing pensioners in the process.

With this latest debacle Minister Newman is close to topping the reputation of the Minister for Aged Care in the maladministration of her portfolio.

The time has come for Senator Newman to take responsibility for this latest bungle and put in place a commonsense solution to end the distress.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.