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Coalition takes feather duster to welfare loophole for wealthy.

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Coalition Takes Feather Duster To Welfare Loophole For Wealthy Wayne Swan - Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

Media Statement - 31 October 2000

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Around 30,000 wealthy welfare recipients will be allowed to continue to claim taxpayer funded social security benefits until 2002 after Labor moves to close the loophole sooner were defeated by the Coalition and Democrats in the Senate last night.

On the Government's own figures, the failure to support Labor's amendments will cost taxpayers up to $120 million next year.

The taxpayer funded break to these 30,000 wealthy Australians stands in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to the 474,435 jobseekers who had breach penalties applied to them last year.

While the Government has been quick to 'crack down' on the unemployed and struggling families who trip over the hurdles erected in front of them, those who collect welfare by hiding assets in private trusts and companies will get a two year holiday from scrutiny.

During the debate on the Social Security and Veterans' Entitlements Bill the Government admitted the lengthy lead-time was to allow those affected to sit down with their accountants and 'acquaint themselves with the content and operation of the legislation prior to the commencement'.

Labor's amendments would have brought forward the tightened means test from 1 January 2002 to 1 March 2001 - a full ten months earlier.

The Government knows full well that the new timeframe is achievable, with abundant examples of previous legislation tightening the means test being passed and enacted at short notice.

Added to this, the Minister is fully aware that changes to the means test could be implemented at any time with transitional debt recovery provisions to recoup any overpayments that may be made past the official start date.

Labor also highlighted other loopholes in the Bill, including the complete failure of one of two main tests in the legislation to crack down on those who channelled assets into trusts before 9 May this year!

There is simply no explanation for the Government's refusal to address these loopholes -except its willingness to apply different standards to Australians depending on their wealth.

This truly is a Government that is strong on the weak, but weak on the strong.

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