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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2483

Mr O'KEEFE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that an estimated 18,000 or more Australian pensioners are living overseas? How can the Government apply the assets test to migrants who have elected to retire in the land of their birth? Is it true that the average pension of $70 per week goes a long way in many overseas countries? When these people go back after a stay of 10 years or more, they put their Australian income into assets and property that places them in the well-off bracket in their native lands. Is this costing the Australian taxpayer between $ 50m and $60m a year? Can the Minister investigate this situation so that overseas assets tests are comparable with those on Australian citizens?

Dr BLEWETT —Reciprocal relationships have developed between this Government and overseas governments in relation to pensioners. There has been a bipartisan policy for years now which the Opposition developed and which we supported. I would expect the same support for the policies that we are now developing. I point out that when the assets test last applied there were also a number of these agreements with overseas countries. It was quite possible to work out the application of the assets test for pensioners with Australian pensioner entitlement in those overseas countries. I will follow up the honourable member' s specific question with the Minister for Social Security and give a more detailed answer. I would point out that the assets test operated at an earlier period in relation to pensioners living in overseas countries.