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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1189


Senator COONEY —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Have any delays occurred in the transfer of Italian pension payments from Italy to Australia from October 1986 to the present? If so, what has been the longest delay during that period and what has been the average delay? What arrangements, if any, exist between the Italian and Australian governments to facilitate the payments of such pensions?


Senator TATE —It is a fact that delays have occurred since October 1986 although I think the Department of Social Security regional officers have reported a great falling off in the number of complaints about such delays in the last several months. Though precise figures are not available, the number of DSS appeals, which might be taken to be some indication of the problem, received during the last three months shows that there have been 10 appeals in New South Wales and only four or five in Victoria. So the problem seems to be lessening somewhat. Nevertheless, there obviously is a need to put in place certain arrangements to overcome delays in the transfer of pensions from Italy to Australia, the problem being that the Department here cannot legally ignore the entitlements of the Italian pensioners even though they are not received during some period of the transfer.

At the time when we first became aware of this problem, in about August 1986, we were informed that delays commonly ranged from 12 to 18 months. The problem was raised with Italian authorities in Rome and Canberra. In September 1986 the Italian Embassy advised that the Italian social security authority, INPS, had instituted a special service-Unita di Co-ordinamento-to deal with the problem. Access to the service would be through the Italian consulates. Also the social security delegation raised the matter with INPS in Rome in November 1986. INPS admitted that the situation was unacceptable and had taken action to remedy it.

On 29 October 1986, INPS instructed its officers that all transfers of INPS pension payments from Italy to Australia were to be forwarded direct to their international section, which would arrange advance payment of pensions in Australia pending completion of the transfer process. It is too early to say whether that has been an entirely effective system, but at this stage, as I said, the number of complaints seems to be lessening. If I receive any further information to give to Senator Cooney, I will make it available to him.