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Thursday, 12 April 1973
Page: 1452

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) - It is an occasion in these troublesome times to find that honourable members opposite are in complete agreement with this proposal. As the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) pointed out, this is a relatively small piece of legislation but there is an important principle embodied in it. For many years there has been conducted a campaign that those people who are entitled to Australian pensions should be able to draw them wherever they are living. As far as repatriation pensions are concerned, it has always been a part of the principle that they are absolutely inalienable and therefore the ordinary repatriation pension has for a good many years been payable irrespective of the country of residence of the beneficiary. We are now proposing to transfer this right to those people who happen to be in receipt of Service pensions. Therefore we are accepting the general principle applied under the Repatriation Act for all other repatriation beneficiaries.

But it seems to me that on an occasion such as this - and we discussed this question under the latest Social Services Bill too - that there are several important principles involved. My own view is that once an Australian always an Australian. The fact that a person is born in this country ought to give him some entitlement no matter where he goes, no matter what he does, no matter how long he is away from this country and that ought to be part of the general acceptance of our citizenship and rights. Therefore those rights which flow to a person while he is resi dent in this country ought in ordinary circumstances apply when he is away from this country.

We are approaching more rapidly to a state of what one might call one world when the barriers between humanity are falling down; people travel more, they live more freely in other parts of the world and they are away from home for longer periods. I think this is another important principle. I do not suppose that the proposal in this legislation will cost all that much. How many repatriation beneficiaries in this category are absent from Australia for such a length of time that they would need to draw their pensions overseas is unknown. It might be only a handful. I dp not believe that this Parliament should ever abdicate its responsibility to legislate because there are only a few beneficiaries but in this instance I believe that there is an important principle involved and I am glad that we have been able to bring forward some legislation at this stage with which honourable members opposite are in complete agreement. I hope that when we turn our attention more fully, to the repatriation system and approach it with a much more liberal minded attitude than has been the case in the past, we really will give the system a thoroughly modernised program and get such unqualified support from our friends opposite.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How is the inquiry progressing? '

Mr BRYANT - It is still progressing

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