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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2477

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - Conscious of the time, I will endeavour to compress the views of the Opposition. In essence this Bill provides, subject to Australia's enacting reciprocal agreements with other countries, for the portability of age, invalid and widows' pensions after the recipient has been in Australia for 20 years. I move:

Ac end of motion add: 'But the Senate is of the opinion that the Bill should provide for the continuation of the payment of age pensions after a period of 10 years residence in Australia and irrespective of any agreement between Australia and the current place of residence'. 1 propose simply to submit a series of quick points which in the opinion of the Opposition justify support of the amendment.

The Government could have followed a different course. It could have utilised section 137 of the Social Services Act and avoided any legislation. The United States of America, which is a new world country like Australia in the sense that it has not had on it the pressures that Europe has had. went it alone and provided coverage for people overseas whether American or non-American citizens. The Opposition says that this could have been done by Australia. Under the United States scheme less than .08 per cent of the total United States annual social services payment is involved. Whatever system we use to enact this, it will affect only people who are subject to a means test. It will be not for someone in a high income bracket, but only for those battlers who have worked arduously for years in the Australian work force. In respect of fringe benefits, if we adopt a 10-year limitation much of the cost of free travel and hospital treatment would not be carried by the Australian economy. There is a very strong precedent for our attitude. At the 1959 Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party Mr Clyde Cameron pioneered the idea that migrants who had resided in Australia for 10 years should be eligible for the age pension, subject to all other requirements being met. lt is history that in 1961-62 Si' Robert Menzies adopted that suggestion.

In summing up I think 1 should say that the entire ethnic group Press agrees that the improvements which are proposed should be made. Speaking from what is perhaps a selfish Australian standpoint, the system of reciprocal agreements would be ideal if the Government were prepared to enter into similar rranngements with respect to health services. Unfortunately, as honourable senators are well aware, that cannot be done because to a large extent in Australia our health benefits scheme is orientated towards private enterprise. The Minister has said that in order to achieve reciprocity with other nations it has been necessary to shop around, lt is dubious whether it is possible to arrange reciprocity with every nation. 1 have a copy of the minutes of a European conference on immigration held in central Europe in April and attended by christian socialists, social democrats and communist trade unionists. What they want is far more than we are prepared to offer. So it will be difficult to bring some governments to the conference table and to reach agreement. Even if we are able to make reciprocal arrangements with a majority of nations, a sizable group of people will be left outside the agreements if the Government is prepared to have the system operate only in nations which have reciprocal agreements with Australia. I have expressed the salient views held by the Opposition. Our views are echoed not only by the major trade unions with ethnic groups but also by all the foreign language newspapers. I. leave the amendment to be judged on its merits.

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