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Monday, 29 October 2012
Page: 12444

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (20:13): I speak in strong support of the honourable member for Kingston's motion and commend her not only for bringing this issue before the House by way of the motion before us that we are speaking to but for her ongoing advocacy on this matter—in fact, ever since we both came to this place in 2007. She has spoken on this matter before by way of her previous private member's motion on 15 September 2008. So I thank her for her ongoing advocacy on behalf of all the UK pensioners across Australia.

I have people in my electorate who find themselves in this situation, and they and their family members have made representations to me. It is an almost incomprehensible situation that they find themselves in, particularly when, in other countries that UK people have migrated to on a permanent basis and where they have taken up residence, they get it, but in Australia and a few other Commonwealth countries they do not. So it just does not seem to make sense.

I also commend Australia's ongoing efforts to get this issue fixed for UK pensioners—but it should be the other way round. The UK should be advocating on this issue. Currently, Australia spends around $110 million a year providing means tested assistance to Britains who have become needy as a result of their frozen pensions. We continually press Britain to rescind the policy. From what I can read, ever since Britain refused to pay it, it has been one of those issues on which Australia has made representations. In recent times, the Minister for Foreign Affairs raised it with his counterpart, the Foreign Secretary. In September of this year, the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs also raised it with the UK secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

In the House the honourable member for Lyne asked the Prime Minister a question on this. She answered—and I am paraphrasing—that the Australian government considers the United Kingdom's policy of not indexing pensions in most Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, which is where the majority of the expats reside, to be unfair and discriminatory. I think every member in this place, without verballing people, has said either privately or when speaking to the motion publicly that this practice is really unfair and discriminatory.

Who can forget the case of Mrs Annie Carr reported in the Guardian newspaper on 4 May 2012. The article was titled: 'The 100-year-old woman whose state pension is frozen at just £6 a week'? It is unconscionable. Thank goodness we have safety nets and systems in place which can cover that.

I would like to put a few things on the record from Pension Justice, which is a campaign being run by the International Consortium of British Pensioners. It is rather sad that they have to resort to having to lobby on this issue, particularly when many of these pensioners have paid into a whole range of things and paid taxes in their country. Pension Justice state:

… 4.4% of pensioners … have their state pensions frozen at the rate first paid when they emigrated to mainly Commonwealth countries or when they have become entitled to a state pension having moved to those countries before retirement age.

… Nearly 5.3% of pensioners … who emigrated to Europe, the USA and over 40 other favoured countries, have their pensions indexed annually, just as if they had stayed in Britain.

Why can't it happen here? It should just happen here. Further:

The State Pension is paid in accordance with the number of years of mandatory contributions into the National Insurance Fund … made by British workers between the age of 16 and retirement age.

…   …   …   

The National Insurance Fund consists of the balance over and above the cost of paying the State Pension and other benefits. It currently stands at around £40 billion pounds.

I am sure the UK can afford to pay them. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.