Pension rules hit Fairy Meadow immigrant

Henryk Czubala believes the age pension policy puts immigrants at a disadvantage when they want to return to their homeland to die.

Henryk Czubala believes the age pension policy puts immigrants at a disadvantage when they want to return to their homeland to die.

Henryk Czubala wants to return to Poland to die.

Although the 74-year-old said he was far from ready now, when his time comes he wants to be surrounded by family and friends.

But if he moves back, the Australian government will cut his age pension and other benefits, leaving him in financial trouble.

Mr Czubala has started a petition against current rules governing the portability of the age pension, which dictate an immigrant's pension will be cut if they spend more than six months overseas and they have spent less than 25 years in Australia before they reach the pension age of 65.

Other pension entitlements such as rent assistance start disappearing as soon as six weeks after the pensioner leaves the country.

The Fairy Meadow resident said the policy was discriminatory - he has been working as a gymnastics instructor since his second day in Australia in the 1980s.

"If I had an army I would fight it, I would go to war over it," he said.

"I am looking for work now after I stopped a job a few weeks ago.

"So no-one can put me in the same category as people who don't work."

Mr Czubala was told his pension would eventually be cut down to $100 a week. "It's alms, not a pension any more," he said.

He has found support from people at the beach, on the street, in the library and at Port Kembla Hospital - 84 people have signed his petition.

Mr Czubala said he would knock on the door of every newspaper in Sydney to get his message heard.

Illawarra Legal Centre welfare rights solicitor Ian Turton said he supported the 74-year-old.

"If a person is eligible to receive a payment, and the payment doesn't have an employment test, why does the government care where that person lives?" he said.

A Department of Social Services spokesperson said those who disagreed with a decision made by the Department of Human Services could request a review.

If they disagreed with the review's outcome they could ask for another review by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.

"However, the rules relating to proportional portability of payments are contained in social security law and there is no discretion that can be exercised," the spokesperson said.

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