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Notice given 6 June 2011

679  Senator Cash: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing—With reference to the answer given to question on notice E11-050 asked during the 2010-11 additional estimates hearing of the Community Affairs Legislation Committee in regard to reciprocal health care agreements (RHCAs) for 410 visa holders, which states ‘b) The Department considered the usual circumstances of all 410 visa holders, prompted by a particular case, in making this decision’:

(1) Without compromising the confidentiality of any individual in the particular case, and with any necessary personal identifiers removed:

(a) what were the full details and exact circumstances of the particular case which subsequently led the department to make the decision to apply a policy change to all 410 visa holders;

(b) how can ‘the usual circumstances of all 410 visa holders’ best be described or defined;

(c) are there any circumstances of any subgroups within the total 410 visa cohort which differ from ‘the usual circumstances of all 410 visa holders’; if so, how can these best be described or defined; and

(d) are there any other temporary visas whose visa holders have the same usual circumstances of 410 visa holders; if so, which visas.

(2) In regard to the answer given to part (e) of the same question which states: ‘e) Yes. Holders of Temporary Business (Long Stay) - Standard Business Sponsorship (Subclass 457) are eligible for health care under the terms of the relevant RHCA’;

(a) if the 457 visa allows a temporary stay for a period of up to 4 years (with the possibility of renewal for periods of up to 4 years) and the 410 visa allowed an initial temporary stay in Australia of 4 years, with (at the time of the change in policy in 1998) the possibility of renewal for a further period of only 2 years, how does the 457 visa not imply an intention to take up residence in Australia, when a retirement visa strongly implies an intention to take up residence in Australia; and

(b) how is it possible for a 457 visa holder to work in Australia for 4 years or more without taking up residence here.

(3) How and why does the department differentiate the eligibility for RHCA benefits between two classes of temporary visa (457 and 410) both of which have similar limited and finite periods of temporary residence, given that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has been very clear in its description of the 410 retirement visa, insisting that its purpose was to allow people of retirement age ‘to spend some of their retirement years in Australia’.

(4) Which other temporary visas, other than the 457 visa, allow eligibility for RHCA Medicare benefits for visa holders who originate from countries with RHCAs with Australia.

(5) Given that, in a reply to British Expat Retirees in Australia (BERIA) the department stated that a retirement visa strongly implies an intention to take up residence in Australia, suggesting that the department classes all 410 visa holders as intending to live ‘permanently’ in Australia, despite the fact that a temporary visa does not allow permanent residency, merely temporary residency for the length of the visa, and in fact, many BERIA members spend only short periods of time in Australia, some no longer than allowed by a tourist visa, why then do these 410 visa holders not qualify for RHCA benefits.

(6) Given that 410 visa holders applying for parent visas are now allowed to retain their 410 visa rather than accepting a bridging visa, yet they immediately qualify for RHCA benefits from the time their parent visa application is made to the time they receive their parent visas (which could be up to 15 years), why do these 410 visa holders suddenly become eligible one day, when the previous day they were ineligible, even though their visa status remains exactly the same.

(7) Can details be provided as to who pays the costs of the RHCA and how and when this is paid (i.e. is the agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom (UK) the same as the European Health Insurance Card agreement where each country bills the other for the reciprocal health care costs incurred by their nationals in the other country, or is it a different model).

(8) An RHCA guarantees full health care benefits in one country and basic health care benefits while ‘visiting’ the other country, however the 1998 decision referred to in the answer to question on notice E11-050 subpart (a), denied reciprocal health care benefits to 410 visa holders in Australia because they were deemed ‘resident’ here (the department classes 410 visa holders as resident in Australia) and as a result they are denied the normal health care benefits in the UK for which UK residents are eligible: Given that 410 visa holders are treated as ‘visitors’ if they return to the UK for a temporary stay, how can 410 visa holders access government subsidised healthcare services when Australia deems them to be ineligible for Medicare and the UK deems them ineligible for the National Health Service.

(9) Does the eligibility for reciprocal Medicare benefits for parent visa applicants, whether on bridging visas or on 410 visas, apply to both the Parent (Migrant) Visa (Subclass 103) and the Aged Parent (Residence) Visa (Subclass 804).

(10) Are Temporary Business (Long Stay)-Standard Business Sponsorship (Subclass 457) visa holders deemed by the department to be still resident in their countries of origin; if so, why; if not, why not.

(11) Are parent visa applicants, whether on bridging visas or on 410 visas, deemed by the department to be still resident in their countries of origin; if so, why; if not, why not.