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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 562

Senator NEAL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Can the minister advise the Senate about Australia's new social security agreement with New Zealand and what it achieves?

Senator CROWLEY —I am very happy to tell the Senate about the new social security agreement that provides for a more equitable sharing of the cost of pensions paid to people who move between Australia and New Zealand. It allows for any possible fluctuations in future migration patterns, and it ensures that neither country will suddenly face an excessive burden in paying pensions to people who spend most or all of their working lives in the other country.

  Under the new agreement New Zealand will reimburse Australia for pensions paid to people from New Zealand with less than 10 years residence in Australia during their working lives and who have arrived here since 1983. Australia will similarly reimburse New Zealand for the pensions it pays to people from Australia. This arrangement captures the bulk of pensioners who arrived during the peak years of New Zealand's migration in the late 1980s. The level of reimbursement will be based broadly on the portion of a person's working life spent in the former country.

  It is important to know that the agreement does not cover unemployment benefits or basic family payments. Indeed, a year or so ago Australia changed the rules about the eligibility of New Zealanders for unemployment benefits in particular, and there is now a 26-week waiting period for jobsearch, newstart and sickness allowance that applies to all newly arrived immigrants, including New Zealanders. It encourages all new arrivals, particularly New Zealanders, to think about what kind of support they will be able to provide for themselves before moving here.

  The new cost sharing arrangements will begin from 1 January 1995, and when they come into effect they will cover all new pensioner arrivals from that date. They will be phased in for people who arrived between 1 January 1983 and 1 January 1995, and the first year of full reimbursement will be 1998-99. Reimbursement by New Zealand to Australia, currently at $23 million a year, is likely to triple over the next few years as the arrangements are phased in, so I think it is a very important extra step in our relationship with New Zealand. From those figures it can be seen that it will be of great financial benefit to Australia. We welcome New Zealanders, we are pleased to assist them, but we also like that sharing of the costs.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.