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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 509

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I rise to seek further information about the procedure that the Government is following in regard to negotiations with certain countries as to the portability of pensions.

Senator Little - Our parliamentary pensions are not portable, are they?

Senator MULVIHILL - I am referring to the portability of pensions in the social services field. I draw the attention of honourable senators to an answer I received from Senator Greenwood on 24th August 1972 in which he pointed out that negotiations were still in progress with some 28 countries. That takes me back to the last day of the previous session - 1st June 1972 - when, speaking for the Opposition on the Social Services Bill (No. 3), I advocated that Australia would be better served if it were to use the avenue available to it under section 137 of the Social Services Act and go it alone, as the United States of America did.

During the recess I received correspondence from the United Council of Immigrants on this subject. In a letter dated 1 2th July 1972 the Council stated:

We have the feeling that if we were to dissociate ourselves from the 10-year residence requirement but demand only the portability of old-aged pensions irrespective of any agreement between Australia and the proposed place of residence, some Government members would support our view.

The letter was signed by Dr Untaru, who is the President of the United Council of Immigrants. Naturally I could not say whether I would get any response from supporters of the Government if I were to attempt to pilot any proposition. 1 appreciated that certain legislation has been passed and it is not possible nowto unscramble the omelette. But I did take the matter a little further. I was curious when Senator Greenwood, who represents in this Chamber the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), said the other day that we were negotiating the portability of pensions with 28 countries. I have noticed that on the last day of the last sessional period a number of countries were listed but Poland was not among them. I have selected Poland in particular not because I think that every Polish immigrant necessarily desires to go back to that country and take with him an Australian pension right but because I lean heavily on an article in 'Time' magazine of 21st August 1972 headed 'Polonia. Come Home'. It is significant that numerous Polish born persons in receipt of United States social service benefits have returned to Poland. In case the point is made that they are a special brand of Polish citizen who are mindful of some of the post war upheavals that have occurred, I instance the attitude of people like Aloysius Mazewski. who is President of the Chicagobased Polish National Alliance and in turn a Conservative Republican. I suggest that it is not impossible that there are some Polish migrants who, although not being supporters of the Australian Labor Party and its policies, do want to go back to the land where they were born. That does not negate at all the services they may have rendered in this country. What I am seeking to know from Senator Greenwood is: If the Soviet Union is one of the 28 nations with which we are negotiating, would agreement with that country encompass Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which are now part of the Soviet Union? In addition, will Poland be one of the 28 nations? The important thing in the article to which I have referred is that Poland does not ask its people who come back from the United States to give up their American citizenship. As Senator Greenwood will appreciate, these are all things that the Government can latch on to in its negotiations.

I know from visits I have made to various elements that make up the Polish community that the Poles are somewhat divergent in their attitude to this matter. Some would support what Mr Whitlam puts forward while others would support what the Government puts forward. As a representative of New South Wales, I feel I have an obligation to get the best terms possible for any migrant irrespective of his political affinities. The same situation applies in the trade union movement. If every person is a member one tries for the greatest good for the greatest number. It has never been my policy in speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to talk unduly on any subject. I summarise my remarks in this way: Senator Greenwood said negotiations were proceeding with 28 nations. What are those nations? Can he be a little more specific as to what will be the status of, on the one hand, people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and, on the other, people from Poland. In view of the apparent concession by the Polish Government that Polish migrants who have acquired United States citizenship need not worry about their citizenship being in jeopardy, I think it is fair to put to the Government that it should, if it has not already done so, seek to obtain the attitude of the Polish Government to this matter. I leave it at that.

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