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Do you receive pension in Australia but spend more time overseas?

Pensioners say they're being unfairly treated Source: AAP

Groups representing migrants and older Australians say moves to reduce the time pensioners can spend overseas while receiving the full pension discriminate against those born overseas.

Quite a few of us receive pension in Australia but travel overseas for long periods to spend time with family.

Many Indian families claim their pension in Australia but spend months abroad in countries like US, India. However, federal government has proposed to reduce benefit for those retired people who spend more than 6 weeks abroad. This applies specifically to people who have spent less than 35 years of their working life in Australia.

Groups representing migrants and older Australians say moves to reduce the time pensioners can spend overseas while receiving the full pension discriminate against those born overseas.

The government is proposing that from the first of January 2017 pensioners who have spent less than 35-years of their working life in Australia have their welfare benefit reduced after six weeks of living abroad.

Their payment would then be adjusted according to the length of time the pensioner lived and worked in Australia between the age of 16 and the pension age, currently 65.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia says the change would discriminate against people not born in Australia.  Chairman Joe Caputo says migrants visiting sick relatives, those returning to their homeland for the first time and others taking the trip of a lifetime would be affected. But he can't put a number on how many.  "We know that almost 40 per cent of total pensioners in Australia were born overseas. But we don't have the breakdown in terms of those who have been here for less than 35 years. So we are not quite sure about the numbers of those that will be affected by it. But we understand it will be a considerable number. A huge percentage."

COTA Australia, which represents the rights and interests of older Australians, says it is understandable that people born overseas wish to visit their families for long periods of time, and believed they should not be penalised.  Chief Executive Ian Yates says the proposed changes are unnecessary. "This is not about anyone rorting the income security system. This is a bit of penny pinching on behalf of government. It doesn't save a huge amount of money over forward estimates."

The Senate Committee looking at the plan is scheduled to report on February 4th 2016.