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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 3112


Mr STALEY (Chisholm) - The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has said that the Australian Labor Party has acknowledged this question of portability of pensions for a very long time. Therefore, one would think that honourable members opposite would have had time to think about it. One would think that they would have had time, when they introduced a Bill on this very matter only a few weeks ago, to have included in it the propositions which they advance today. One would think they would have included in that Bill the sorts of propositions which they now want to enshrine in this Bill, which are set out in the amendment which they have moved to this Bill. But that is far from the case.

The honourable member for Hughes talked in terms of the unequivocal commitments which the Labor Party has made on this question of the portability of pensions. I should have thought that the only unequivocal commitments which the Labor Party has made on this and just about every other question are to a 10 bob each way bet on policy issues and to overall bribery of the Australian people by promising what is very nearly the earth. lt has promised to spend thousands of millions of dollars of the Australian taxpayers' money. As I say, the Labor Party's stand on this issue is typical of its whole approach to policy formation.

A few weeks ago the Labor Party came forward with a quite clear policy on this issue, it presented a Bill which the Leader of the Opposition described as a Bill in good simple English. Indeed, it was a Bill in good but simplistic English, because it stated that people who are Australian citizens will be able to carry their pensions outside Australia. The Leader of the Opposition included a number of types of pensioners. He included widow and age pensioners. The Labor Party, in its amendment to the Government's Bill, is completely ignoring its previous proposition that portability of pensions should apply to Australian citizens. Another absolutely fundamental proposition was advanced in the Opposition's earlier Bill, and it was that pensions should be paid to Australian citizens who went abroad, no matter what period of residence they had had in Australia before either going to their homeland or to some other country. There was no residential qualification whatsoever in that Bill, apart, of course, from the naturalisation requirement.

When I came into the House today and saw the amendment which the Opposition had moved I was amazed to find that the

Opposition wants to enshrine a 10 year residence qualification in the Bill which is before us. Under the Government's proposal standard pensions will be paid to people who leave Australia after 20 years residence in Australia. That 20 years period of residence can be an aggregate period; it does not have to be one continuous residence. But it is important to point out that under the Bill a pension will be paid to any invalid pensioner, no matter what his period of residence in Australia has been. A pension also will be paid to a widow pensioner who leaves Australia to live in any other country with which we have a reciprocal arrangement. There is no residence qualification required in regard to invalid and widow pensions, but I point out that the proposition which the Labor Party previously advanced contained the qualification that those who would benefit had to be Australian citizens.

The effect of this legislation is that a pension will be paid to those who go overseas after they have resided in Australia for a reasonable period, and there are very good reasons for this provision. It would be absurd for Australia to become a sort of Mexico pension haven, lt would be absurd to pay pensions to people who might come and live in Australia for only a year - at whatever point in their lives - and then go and live overseas from then on. 1 think the people of Australia would regard it as a highly reasonable proposition that there should be a period of residence qualification except, of course, in cases involving problems such as widowhood or where the new arrival in Australia is at some point struck down by illness. I think the good sense of the Australian people will enable them to understand fully the reasoning behind this measure.

We want to do all that we can for those migrants who come to Australia but who decide that they want to leave, at the same time not being unfair to the basic Australian taxpayer. In one important respect the Government's propositions are more generous than the propositions of the Labor Party in this area. I refer to Labor's original proposition regarding naturalisation. If we did not pay pensions overseas to persons who had not been naturalised we could exclude a large number of people - nearly a quarter of a million

Australians - from receiving pension rights. Nearly a quarter of a million people who have come from other nations to live in Australia and who have qualified to be naturalised as Australians have not been naturalised. In other words, nearly a quarter of a million Australians could not possibly qualify for a pension under the basic proposition which, as we heard propounded by the honourable member for Hughes, the Labor Party has brought forward and which had been given so much consideration over so many years.

Let us compare and contrast that proposition with the number of people who would miss out under the Government's proposal contained in the substantive legislation which we are now considering. Under the Government's legislation those people who would miss out would be those standard age pensioners who have not put in 20 years in Australia. The Leader of the Opposition attempted to show by citing figures that because the bulk of migrants from other countries has arrived in Australia only in the last 20 years, therefore they would miss out under the Government's proposal. What an extraordinary proposition. The whole question is: What are the ages of the migrants upon their arrival in Australia? Whatever measure we use, the ages of migrants on arrival in Australia make it quite clear that the overwhelming majority of all settlers in Australia, permanent or long term arrivals, involve people who are under the age of 45 years which would therefore place them in a position to take out the full benefits of the age provision. Of course, like anyone else they are entitled to the other social service benefits.

If we look at the statistics relating to the age of permanent and long term arrivals in Australia for the period 1945 to 1971 we find that 11.3 per cent of all arrivals in Australia in that period were older than 45 years of age. They are the ones who would not qualify under the Government's legislation. But of course a good many of them may well qualify for the widow pension or an invalid pension. In terms of numbers the 11.3 per cent is equivalent to approximately 400,000 people who have arrived in Australia during the whole period of the post-war migration programme. Many of those people would, of course, be deceased. I do not have the sort of figures that would disclose how many of them are living but a very large number of them would be deceased. So we take a figure way under the 40,000 and compare that with the 230,000-odd people who would not qualify under the proposal which the Labor Party originated in a Bill before this House. We now find that the Labor Party, having perhaps seen some of the errors of its ways, has changed its whole approach and decided to attempt to alter by way of amendment the provisions contained in this Bill by seeking to reduce the period of 20- years residence to 10 years. If this period is reduced to 10 years I believe - and I am open to correction to this - that we would still run into the possibility of people staying in Australia merely to qualify for the pension and then moving on.

We heard from the Leader of the Opposition a good deal of talk about reciprocal arrangements and the fact that it was necessary for reciprocal arrangements to be made before any person could qualify for a pension. This looks all right at first sight. It looks as if there might be some ground for criticism, until we get an assurance from the Minister for Social Services, which I am sure he can give, that he does not expect to encounter difficulties in making reciprocal arrangements. It is clear also from what he has said already that his whole aim in making reciprocal arrangements is to safeguard the interests of those people who have migrated to Australia in recent years and who might have trouble with their pensions if reciprocal arrangements are not made.

The Minister has been chastised by the Leader of the Opposition for refusing to make or for not making arrangements with what the Leader of the Opposition described as 'captive nations'. The Minister, so far as I understand it, has at no point said that arrangements would not be made with captive nations. The Minister would be as aware as is any other person in this House or in this country that there would be remarkably few people in Australia who migrated here from captive nations who would want to return to those nations. It would be clear also to any one who knows anything about this that those people who have come to Australia from captive nations and who have decided to move from Australia to another country, apart from the country from which they originally came, will have the benefit, wherever they go. It is always open to the Government to attempt to make arrangements, should the need arise, with the so called captive nations.

In view of the limited time that we have in which to dispose of the rest of the business of the House before the House rises, perhaps at a later hour today, I say in conclusion that I find the whole approach of the Opposition in this area to be absolutely typical. It is a 10-bob each way approach. It has flung a proposition into the ring in an attempt to buy support or bribe support. The Opposition finds that it is a goer, so it comes forward with an amendment to a substantial measure which the Government has brought forward. It is an amendment which does not really meet the needs of the basic Australian taxpayer or the needs of the pensioners whom we are aiming to help with this legislation.







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