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Tuesday, 29 August 2000
Page: 19604

Mr Sciacca asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, upon notice, on 29 June 2000:

(1) Are the changes proposed by the Migration Legislation Amendment (Parents and other Measures) Bill 2000 designed to offset some of the cost in terms of social security and health incurred by the Australian taxpayer as a result of aged parent migration; if so, will the changes breach the reciprocal Social Security agreements that Australia has with Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

(2) Will the changes proposed by the bill impact upon the less formal arrangements for reciprocal social security arrangements Australia has with the United Kingdom and New Zealand; if so, how.

(3) Will the benefits available under reciprocal social security arrangements to Australian citizens migrating overseas be compromised by the legislative changes proposed by the bill.

(4) Will the bill introduce a significant financial criterion that a specific class of people will be required to meet before they will be eligible to migrate to Australia; if so, how is this consistent with the claim that Australia's migration policies are non-discriminatory and, in particular, will the proposed $64 000 charge per couple impact disproportionately on applicants from developing countries.

Mr Ruddock (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation) —With assistance from the Minister for Family and Community Services, the answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes the changes proposed by the Migration Legislation Amendment (Parents and other Measures) Bill 2000 are designed to offset some of the potential health and social security costs associated with aged parent migration.

The proposed legislation changes are not in breach of Australia's reciprocal Social Security agreements. Social Security agreements normally provide for access to pensions, such as Age Pension. Pensions are not recoverable under the Assurance of Support scheme. Aged Parent migrants from a country with which Australia has a social security agreement will still have access to pensions covered by that agreement. Administrative arrangements will allow for the immediate release of their Assurance of Support bond, once a pension has been granted.

(2) No. For people over Age Pension age, these agreements provide access to Age pension, which is not recoverable under the Assurance of Support scheme. For the Honourable Member's information, the agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand are no less formal than those with other countries, although they are different in that they are based on a model of 'host country' responsibility, rather than 'shared' responsibility. However, it should be noted that the agreement with the United Kingdom will terminate from 1 March 2001.

(3) No. Benefits covered by an agreement will not be affected in any way.

(4) No, the Bill does not introduce a criterion to be met by a specific class of people either in Australia or overseas. The proposed criteria for aged parents are of universal application and there is no distinction based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The framework proposed in the Bill is largely the same as that introduced by the Government in 1991, only the level of financial requirement is higher to recover a higher percentage of costs currently incurred by the taxpayer.