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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Page: 11740

British Pensions

(Question No. 1121)

Mr Oakeshott asked the Prime Minister, in writing, on 14 August 2012:

In respect of a recent media report in the United Kingdom "Canada salutes frozen pensions fighters" by Ava Hubble (The Telegraph, 5 June 2012), has she pressured the Government of the United Kingdom to index British pensions for the 550,000 United Kingdom expatriate pensioners living abroad; if not, why not?

Ms Gillard: I am advised that the answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The Australian Government considers the United Kingdom (UK) Government's policy of not indexing pensions in most Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, where the majority of its expatriate pensioners reside, to be unfair and discriminatory. The Government strongly supports the efforts of UK pensioners seeking equal treatment on the indexation issue. All UK pensioners paid their contributions under the same rules and should be paid their pensions under equal conditions.

Prior to the media report cited by the honourable member, the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, issued a statement on 21 May 2012 that also appeared in the online edition of the The Telegraph, reiterating that the Government considers the indexation policy to be unfair and discriminatory and urging her UK counterparts to look at options for resolving this longstanding issue.

Minister Macklin recently met with her UK counterpart, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP and reiterated the Government's views on the indexation issue. In this context, the UK Government has agreed to an officials dialogue with Australia, including examination of options for indexation.

On previous occasions when Government Ministers have approached UK Government Ministers on the indexation issue, the consistent message is that the indexation issue is not open for negotiation due to concerns about the cost to the UK Government. I understand the Canadian Government has made similar approaches on this issue and has been given the same response.

I note that there have been requests that Canada and Australia work together on this issue. The Government will consider the possibility of joint action with other affected countries, such as Canada, if an opportunity arises. In the meantime, the Government will continue to press the UK Government on this issue, whenever appropriate.