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Wednesday, 11 April 1973
Page: 1341

Mr LLOYD (Murray) - Almost 12 months ago the Social Service'. Bill (No. 3) 1972 was passed by this Parliament. The result of that Bill, when it became law. was to allow the portability of pensions to certain countries when reciprocal pension agreements had been reached with those countries. As has been mentioned, agreements have been reached with Malta, Italy, Greece and Turkey. In addition, we have long standing agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The major changes that the Bill now before the House will bring about are to abolish the need for reciprocity and to reduce from 20 years to 10 years the basic period of residence. Henceforth the Australian pension will be available to a person who is entitled to receive a pension irrespective of the country to which he wishes to go. If attempts to reach agreements with other countries have been unsuccessful - the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) included in his second reading speech a long list which indicates that this appears to be the case - then I think that this Bill is a necessary and logical development of the Bill which became law 12 months ago.

Those people who wish to leave Australia for a variety of reasons after making a contribution to this country will receive due justice. However, with the general availability of portability there is a greater chance that this privilege will be abused. When no reciprocal arrangements are required, what checks will be able to be made, say, in regard to a widow who remarries in another country or a person who obtains a pension firstly from Australia and secondly from his country of origin or perhaps even the country in which he originally settled? This is something which concerns me. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that there will be some method of checking to ensure that this privilege which is easily obtainable is not abused. Perhaps the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) will convince the Minister that there is a need to have a greater degree of control than is at present envisaged by this Bill. 1 also wish to add my voice to those raised already by honourable members on this side of the House in stating that there has been no attempt to work out the additional cost that this legislation will create. I hope that the Minister will be able to reply to this when he sums up the debate. Various honourable members on the Government side of the House have criticised the previous Government and honourable members on this side for their attitude in regard to the progress of this Bill. I believe that Government supporters are in no position to criticise anybody in regard to this Bill because when one reads the debates on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1972 and the Social Services Bill (No. 3) 1972 one sees some rather incorrect thinking by the then Opposition - now the Government - on this matter. For example, a private members Bill was introduced by the then Leader of the Opposition. It was known as Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1972. That Bill restricted the portability of pensions to Australian citizens. That was the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the portability of pensions only 12 months ago. If that Bill had become law, more than 300,000 unnaturalised migrants who perhaps wished to return to their homelands would have been denied pension justice. That was the attitude of the Labor Party only 12 months ago, as indicated by the private members Bill introduced by the then Leader of the Opposition.

When the then Government introduced its Bill through the then Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Mackellar, the then Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment. The then Leader of the Opposition actually had to amend his amendment half way through that debate because

I support the amendment and, of course, the general proposition that there should be general portability of pensions: but I hope that the greater availability to pension rights to anybody who wishes to leave this country will not lead to abuse of what is a right and privilege for those people. I also hope that by the Government making it easier for people to leave Australia and to take certain rights with them the general pride and dignity in being an Australian and wanting to remain in Australia will not be lessened in any way. As I said earlier, I hope that the Department of Social Security will be able to maintain a check to ensure that, although inevitably there will be some abuse, it does not become too widespread. I support the amendment and the general proposition.

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