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Thursday, 5 April 1973
Page: 1151

Mr BARNARD (Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply) (Minister for Defence) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend repatriation legislation to enable repatriation Service and other means test pensioners to continue to receive their pensions when they leave Australia. Repatriation war pensioners, as you know, Mr Speaker, rightly receive their entitlements no matter where they live in the world. The Bill will mean that Service pensioners and other means test pensioners such as widowed mothers and aged parents of deceased ex-servicemen will be entitled to continue to receive their pensions under the Repatriation Act if they leave Australia. This will honour, in the repatriation field, the Government's undertaking to allow all Australian residents who have gained the right to receive any social security pension, to enjoy that right wherever they choose to live.

Under the amendments to the Repatriation Act to be effected by this Bill a Service pensioner will be free to leave Australia and live in another country while retaining his pension entitlement. While supplementary assistance will not be payable overseas, the Bill provides that, if one of a married couple receiving supplementary assistance travels overseas, the spouse remaining will be paid supplementary assistance at the single rate during the absence of his or her partner. Any former resident at present living overseas who returns to Australia may receive the Service pension, if eligible. However, he will not be able to transfer the Service pension overseas unless he remains in Australia for a period of at least 12 months. This is designed to prevent persons normally resident overseas from returning to Australia just to receive a pension and take it back with them.

In addition to providing for continuation of payments to pensioners wherever they choose to live outside Australia, the provisions introduced by this Bill will also allow a social security pensioner living overseas, if he wishes and is otherwise eligible, to transfer to a repatriation Service pension, or vice versa, thus giving him the same rights in this respect as would be available to him in Australia. Because the intentions of the population affected by this measure are unknown, it is not possible at this time to assess the overall costs but, generally speaking, they will be relatively small and insignificant in comparison with the effect of removing this unnecessary limitation on people who have earned the right to benefits in the service of their country.

Other matters provided for in the Bill are minor amendments to: Re-draft the definition of 'child' in section 83 to clarify the intention that a child who has attained the age of 16 years must be undertaking full-time education and be wholly or substantially dependent upon the pensioner parent before being recognised for Service pension purposes; authorise the extension of benefits under the repatriation regulations to student children over the age of 21 years - Parliament has given its approval in the Repatriation Act 1973 to the recognition of these children in the Repatriation Act itself and this amendment will enable the relevant provisions of the repatriation regulations to be extended to them; and apply to the principal Act new drafting principles which are being introduced by the Parliamentary Counsel. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.

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