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Wednesday, 11 April 1973
Page: 1347

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I am afraid that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has not understood the position. I ask him to apply his mind to it again. He cited clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill. These clauses do not apply at all to the cases of which I am speaking. I shall go through the matter again for the Minister so that he will understand it. I am not talking about people in the Territories; I am talking about people in Australia. I am not talking about people who left immediately before the commencement of the provisions of the principal Act. I am talking about people who may at some time in the future, perhaps years in the future, leave Australia. Let us turn our attention to the position of these people who are at present drawing an Australian pension by virtue of section 137 of the principal Act.

At present if such a person decides to have a holiday in the United States of America and is away for 30 weeks, on his return to Australia he is eligible to be paid that 30 weeks pension. That is his existing privilege now. If this Bill is passed he will lose this privilege which stems from sections 49 and 78 of the principal Act, sections which are repealed by this Bill. So he would lose this right at present provided under those sections. If this Bill is passed in its present form can that right be reinstated by regulation? The answer is no, because proposed new section 83ae of the Bill states:

Except as provided by regulations giving effect to an agreement referred to in section 137 a pension payable by virtue of those regulations is not payable in respect of any period during which the pensioner is outside Australia.

If a man goes to the United States and is outside Australia for a period the Act states that a pension is not payable to him in respect of that period. I know that the Minister is new in the game and does not perhaps understand all aspects of the Act. He has not really turned his mind to this aspect but I am sure that when he does he will see the real import of what I am saying.

This Act, not by any intention of the Minister but because of the way in which it is drawn, is taking away from a certain class of Australian pensioner a privilege which he possesses at present. This is something which I know that the Minister did not intend. I do not think we should pass the clause in a form which does something which the Minister does not intend. I know that the Minister has a certain degree of stubborn pride. He does not want to admit that he has been wrong. But in this case he is wrong. What I have said about this clause is quite incontrovertible. The fact that the Minister cited clauses 14 and 15 to me, which were utterly irrelevant to the point under consideration, shows that he does not really understand, or did not a few moments ago, what the amendment is all about. I do not think he means to penalise this class of pensioner.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps he does.

Mr WENTWORTH - Well, does he? There is all sorts of fine print in the Minister's mind. We are entitled to know about this fine print. I suggest to the Minister that he would lose nothing by accepting my amendment, so why does he not accept it? Why does he not at least have the grace to admit that he has been wrong? Perhaps this is a minor matter but he has been wrong. Why should the Minister be stubborn about it? Why does he not admit that he is wrong and allow this little, quite formal amendment to be accepted? it would really be no skin off the Minister's nose. The fact that a few moments ago the Minister cited clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill to me, which are utterly irrelevant, shows that perhaps through my lack of clarity I had not explained to him what my amendment was all about. I have tried to explain it now.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He wants to save money; that is all.

Mr WENTWORTH - The Minister would save money at the expense of the pensioner? I do not think so. There is fine print in the mind of the Minister for Social Security but it is fine print on much bigger issues than this. I do not think that he means to do this, so I suggest that he thinks again.

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