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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 3134

Mr WENTWORTH (MackellarMinister for Social Services) - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has really excelled himself in this matter. First, he brought forward an absolute botch of a Bill, and then he brought forward an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill so badly drawn that he had to get leave to amend it; that is rather a humiliating position for a lawyer to find himself in. Now he has brought forward an amendment that not only exhibits a complete misunderstanding of the whole position but also has an effect quite different from that for which he himself apparently is contending. I find it rather laughable that the Leader of the Opposition should try to draw credit to his Party for the reduction years ago of the period of qualification for an age pension to 10 years. This would be impertinent if it were not absurd.

However, I will not labour that. What I would rather do is remind the Leader of the Opposition of the fact that the importance of a limit here has nothing to do really with people who live in Australia. What it is aimed at is the prevention of an abuse of the available facilities by persons who at present live outside Australia but might come to Australia in order to take advantage of a loophole in the law. We do not intend to leave the kind of loophole in the law that would enable people from overseas to come here and plunder Australia - and as I understand the position, the Opposition is inclined to take a strong view about people coming to Australia from overseas. If we allow people - for example, as the Leader of the Opposition wants to do - to come to Australia for 8 or 9 years while they are being educated or while they are having their working holiday, and then at some time later they become entitled to a full Australian pension which they can just take overseas, they will go away and laugh at us. That is not the Government's idea of a fair deal for the Australian taxpayer. There is to be no taking away of any existing right.

The Opposition talks nonsense about a new residence test. The residence test of 10 years remains exactly as it has been for pensions in Australia. I repeat, there is to be no change at all. What is proposed to be provided is a new concession - absolutely new - rightly restricted to those people who have lived in Australia long enough to make a real contribution to the wealth and productivity of the nation. I know that it is easy to go cheap cheer chasing, as some members of the Opposition are wont to do. It is easy indeed. However, this Government does have some kind of regard for the real interests of the Australian people. We are, after all, an Australian government, and we are here to protect the Australian people.

Mr Foster - Why did you introduce the Bill at all when you now go on as you do?

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