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Thursday, 12 November 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - I am' grateful to Senator McKenna for putting forward the position as he sees it. I have no criticism of his analysis of the historical background of the matter. As indicated by Senator McKenna, this matter was raised in another place by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). In reply, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) said that although he did not believe the matter came within his jurisdiction he would see that some consideration was given to it. Senator McKenna has set out the problem and given three possible solutions^ - in the Opposition's view of it. I shall most certainly see that the Minister's atten-tion is direced to his submission. For my own part, I should think that the first two solutions would pose some difficulty that would become apparent on closer scrutiny. There would be some difficulty in persuading a pensioner to relinquish a pension. It is a fact that a pension is an entitlement. I am told that the pension could not be relinquished voluntarily but that legislative action would be required.

As to the proposition that the Repatriation Commission should exercise a discretion, the Minister makes the point that, in fact, this is a taxation matter. The Repatriation Commission's function is to provide repatriation benefits. The Minister regards the exercise of a discretion in relation to a tax matter as not being his function. He points out that the pensioner receives the prime pension not in Australia but in the United Kingdom. The tax is not charged at the Australian level. It results from an arrangement between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government. The remission of tax would not be a matter for the Minister for Repatriation. The honorable senator suggests that a fairly simple amendment would suffice. I should think that action would have to be taken by an amendment. I believe that Senator McKenna set the position out factually and I shall most certainly direct the Minister's attention to it.

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