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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 3124


Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I support the amendment moved and just varied by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which will now read: whilst not opposing the provisions ot the Bill the House is of opinion that the Bill should provide for the continuation of the payment of age pensions and other benefits after a period of 10 years' residence in Australia and irrespective of any agreement between Australia and the current place of residence.

Whilst this Bill is a definite improvement to some extent, it is nevertheless a sleight of hand as it cannot really be effective unless reciprocal arrangements are made between Australia and the countries of origin of the various migrants. It is hard to understand, therefore, why this is insisted upon because although this legislation may be introduced and become law, it still will not at this point of time give anything to migrants who wish to return to their homelands. Furthermore, the legislation provides only for the payment of such pensions under the reciprocal arrangements or the portability arrangements after a period of 20 years. This in itself is difficult to understand because a migrant is entitled to an age pension after residence in this country for a period of 10 years. After migrants have been here for 10 years they receive their pensions and if they were made available to them under the portability arrangements it still would not cost the Government any more. Under this legislation a migrant who returns to his homeland sometime during a period of residence in Australia of from 10 years to 20 years will actual!) save the Government money by way of pension payments, so surely it would have been a reasonable proposition at this point of time to give to migrants who return to their homeland the same facilities as they receive here in Australia and the facilities which are offered in their homeland. These are important issues at which we need to look.

I do not intend to speak at any great length. 1 can recall approximately 2 years ago - the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will remember this - that there was a deputation of migrant people in his office asking for these portability arrangements. At that time the Minister had hoped that some decision would be made by the time the following year's Budget was presented but this did not occur. I do not necessarily blame the Minister for this. Undoubtedly Treasury leant on him very hard. In fact if there had not been a private members Bill moved by the Leader of the Opposition I do not believe he would have been able to overcome the opposition of Treasury even to this watered down proposal that we now have before us. It is a watered down approach. It does not provide anything in hard cash for any migrant who returns to his or her homeland unless reciprocal arrangements are made between this country and the migrant's country of origin. In addition, the Bill grants reciprocal arrangements, if they are finally organised only after a period of residence in Australia of 20 years. To have given it for the normal period of 10 years would not have cost the Government any more in hard cash and I find it very difficult to understand why this was not done. For these reasons I support the amendment moved by the Opposition. I think it is common sense. It touches these two issues - that is, to grant a pension after a period of 10 years residence in Australia and to grant it irrespective of any agreement between Australia and the current place of residence - and for those reasons I support the proposed amendment.







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