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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1882

Senator GILES —My question is addressed to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. I understand that repatriation pensioners have been advised by letter of the intention to pay all repatriation pensions directly to bank, building society or credit union accounts and that they have also been requested to supply details of the accounts to which they wish to have their pensions paid. Why has this decision been made and have pensioners an option if direct deposits are likely to be inconvenient or otherwise unsuitable?

Senator GIETZELT —I recall a similar question being asked of me at the start of the Budget session. I pointed out then that the Department of Social Security had already moved to a direct credit system for all its beneficiaries and that, following the 14 May statement, it was proposed to do likewise with all repatriation payments. I indicated then that a small number of people such as those in remote regions did not want to have direct credit dealings for a number of other reasons such as the availability of nearby banks, and that the Government would apply a flexible policy regarding this direct credit system.

Letters have gone out to the remaining approximately 10 per cent of those who did not avail themselves of the first offer to change to the direct credit system. I reiterate to those honourable senators to whom requests are made by beneficiaries that it is in beneficiaries' interests to have direct credit arrangements made so that money can be paid directly to their bank accounts. But where they do not have bank accounts or are in remote areas, the Department is still prepared to be flexible and will post out the cheques, as the system previously operated. The purpose of the change in the system was to save approximately $1m in my Department, as well as it being in an overall sense a more efficient way of making regular payments to beneficiaries. However, if there are circumstances that require some flexibility, the Department is prepared to exercise it.