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Wednesday, 11 April 1973


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) - I think that most of the substance of this Bill has been discussed not at any great length but to the point by the various speakers who have taken part in this debate. I propose to be brief in my remarks. In doing so I might mention that there is so much tedious repetition in this House that, knowing how acutely aware you are, Mr Speaker, of what is happening from time to time here, you will particularly watch members of the Government who get up and take their full time and merely repeat what has been said time and time again. Of course, we understand that there is provision in the Standing Orders which allows the Chair to deal with members who indulge in tedious repetition.

I think that the Bill is a good Bill. I commend the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) for enlarging something that was pioneered by the honourable member tor Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) when he was Minister for Social Services. I am sure that the former Minister would forgive me if I make mention of Mr Pettitt, the previous honourable member for Hume, who together with his committee and under the guidance of the then Minister came forward with some splendid proposals and co-operated with the Minister in pioneering this measure. The Labor Party, having taken a lead from the previous Government, has projected the measure into an area which I think it is necessary to cover. I commend the Minister for this action.

The Bill can be summed up very precisely by saying that in normal circumstances the legislation will apply to beneficiaries wherever they may choose to live providing that they have lived in Australia for 10 years. However, an invalid pensioner will receive the pension after 5 years residence in Australia and pension portability will apply to any country to which that pensioner may return. Of course, the final provision is that no residential qualifications are necessary in the case of widows who have been permanently resident in Australia. I represent an area which has numerous migrants. They come from just about every country from which people have migrated to Australia. I would particularly express my appreciation to the Minister for the provision in lbs legislation that a period of only 5 years residence is necessary in the case of anyone who may return to their country because of invalidity. Most mining communities continually have the possibility of accidents occurring. Over a period of about 4 years now I have known of a case of a migrant who speaks practically no

English who suffered almost irreparable physical damage from an accident. I rather feel he will be taking advantage of the new provision regarding 5 years residence. This sort of situation occurs particularly in mining communities which have a great number of migrants and this provision of the Bill will be particularly appreciated by them.

I do not want to talk about the amendment that is not yet before the House. But surely, if reason prevails, there should not be any objection from members on the other side of the House if the amendment is approved. In fact, one would anticipate that if there are any reasonable men over there - and this is very doubtful - they would most certainly in all fairness support the amendment. After all, this is what our job is all about - to strike a balance. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) said that 1 53 persons abroad were receiving benefits under the Act. Therefore there has not as yet been a great demand on the Treasury. So it may or may not be necessary to protect the interests of the taxpayer. But while there is a possibility of someone exploiting this clause of the Bill it is most reasonable to look at the amendment and give it reasonable treatment.

In a debate which concerns the transferability of pensions to other countries we might refer perhaps to some of the unique and special difficulties of migrants who live in unusual places, such as the numerous migrants who live in the city of Mt Isa which is my headquarters in Queensland. It may be suggested that I am getting off the track a little but my remarks are most certainly tied up with the Bill before the House. People are perhaps not aware of the changes in the law and the concessions that may be granted from time to time under various governments. It is to the credit of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) that he has introduced a system whereby a migrant in Melbourne can telephone and receive immediately the services of a linguist who can interpret and explain legislation such as this. I think that such advantages which are enjoyed in the metropolitan areas should most certainly be made available to people in the far flung areas of this great Commonwealth.

People often ask: Why the blazes do migrants not get away from the major cities? Those people should look beyond the horizons of the metropolitan areas and they will find that great numbers of migrants - thousands of them - live in places far from the major cities and, more particularly, in mining centres. I ask the Minister for Social Security to give heed to my suggestion - and to pass it on to his colleague, the Minister for Immigration - that special facilities should be created in these areas to inform the migrants about such matters as portability of pensions. The honourable member for Perth said that 153 people living overseas were receiving Australian pensions. That may not be a realistic figure. If an aged migrant has been in this country for 10 years that means he probably came out here late in life. If. he has spent 10 years here he would be well and truly settled in. I do not think this situation would create any great difficulty. I do not think that great numbers of people would be wanting to return to their homelands. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) mentioned that elderly migrants always have a yen to return to their particular fatherlands to die, but I do not think many of them do.

I hope that the Bill and the proposed amendment will be accepted and passed. I feel sure that, if any sort of reason prevails, they will be passed. The message must be got across to people living outside the metropolitan areas. Any honourable member representing a country area, from whichever side of the House he comes, will say that one of the great difficulties for a Federal member in these areas is that he has to deal with all sorts of questions; he has to be the great informant on all departments and their activities. In other areas people can telephone the department and receive the information without delay, but we in the country areas have to be able to supply information in regard to all these matters. If this Bill is passed - I am quite sure it will be, with the amendment, I hope - the next step will be to convey the information regarding the new provisions to migrants throughout the length and breadth of the country. I commend the Bill and strongly urge people of reason - there must be a few left on the other side of the House - to give full consideration to the proposed amendment. Rumour has it that an amendment full of common sense may shortly come before us.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lamb) adjourned.







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