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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26335

Senator RIDGEWAY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her answer. I make reference to the meeting that took place on 4 July 2002 between the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, and the then Greek Prime Minister, Mr Simitis, which Mr Howard said was going to bring the matter of a joint social security agreement to a head and achieve `a speedy and satisfactory resolution'. Whilst I accept that there has been work going on behind the scenes, can the minister give any indication as to when this matter will be dealt with speedily and satisfactorily and brought to a head? Is it going to be in the foreseeable future—perhaps during, or soon after, the time when the Olympics are held?

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —I think I gave Senator Ridgeway the answer to his supplementary question in my first answer. We have a generous offer on the table, and negotiations will start when the Greek government elected on 7 March wishes to continue the discussions. They do have implications for Australia and, as I said, there is a disparity in the flow of benefits between the two countries. The offer we have made is very generous. There have been some discussions, as I said. They were interrupted as a result of the Greek election and I presume they will be interrupted as a result of our election. We will work towards it, but we have to take into account the fact that we do have a generous existing offer on the table.