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Tuesday, 8 February 2005
Page: 218


Senator Greig asked the Minister for Family and Community Services, upon notice, on 17 November 2004:

With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 2863 (Senate Hansard, 15 June 2004, p. 23810) in which the Minister advised in paragraph 10(b) that the 2001 Agreement covers all Dutch pension payments being made into Australia allowing closer cooperation between Centrelink and the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB), and in paragraph 10(a) that prior to commencement of the current agreement in 2003, SVB privacy rules did not allow for the exchange of information on customers paid without the aid of the agreement:

(1)   Can the Minister confirm whether these statements mean that not all Dutch pension recipients fell within the scope of the 1991 Agreement on Social Security between Australia and the Netherlands; if so, on what basis did a Dutch pension recipient fall or not fall within the scope of the 1991 Agreement.

(2)   Can the Minister confirm whether Centrelink or the department received information about individual customers who were paid because of the 1991 Agreement; if so, what was the nature of that information.

(3)   Of the 11 952 Dutch pension recipients who were subject to the Centrelink payment review that commenced in October 2002, did any of these fall within the scope of the 1991 Agreement; if so, how many.

(4)   Can the Minister confirm that the information of a general nature provided by the SVB to Centrelink under Article 16 of the 1991 Agreement, referred to in paragraph 10(a) of the answer, included information about periodic adjustments to rates of payment; if so, would that information have been sufficient to alert Centrelink or the department to the likely necessity for Dutch pension recipients to notify it of changes in their circumstances.

(5)   Did Centrelink or the department actively and specifically seek this information from individual Dutch pension recipients prior to the October 2002 review.


Senator Patterson (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   Not all Dutch pension recipients fell within the scope of the 1991 Agreement on Social Security between Australia and The Netherlands. Pension recipients paid under Netherlands domestic legislation, without benefit of the Agreement, were excluded.

(2)   Centrelink received information from the Netherlands’ authorities after 1 April 1992 about individual customers who were paid because of the 1991 Agreement, for grants of Dutch pension, for grants of an increase in Dutch pension claimed under the terms of the Agreement and some extraordinary rate changes such as from partnered to single rate.

(3)   Some of the Dutch pension recipients reviewed in 2002 did come within the scope of the 1991 Agreement. The number is unknown because the Netherlands does not collect statistics that distinguish between benefits paid under its domestic law and its Agreements.

(4)   Information provided by the Sociale Verzekeringsbank (SVB) to Centrelink included general information about periodic adjustments to rates of Dutch payments but not specific rises in individual pensions. It remains a customer’s obligation to notify Centrelink of variations in the rate of income that they receive from all sources, including from overseas pension authorities.

(5)   As with all recipients of a pension under an international social security agreement, customers are reminded of their obligation to notify Centrelink of variations in the rate of income that they receive when rate letters are sent to them. Centrelink also regularly publishes articles in News for Seniors and has previously used earlier publications to advise customers of their obligations to notify of changes in their income. These publications have been published in English and other languages, including the Dutch language.