Under present laws, people must be an Australian resident for 10 years, five of them continuous, before applying for a pension. The government wants to extend this to 10 years of continuous residence, including five years during a person's working life, or after 15 years of continuous residence.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter argues it is reasonable to expect people to have contributed to the economy and society before claiming a pension. He says the move will bring Australia into line with other countries. In most countries people have to wait from 15 to even 25 years to receive a pension.
When the Australian Age Pension was introduced in 1909, the residency requirement was for 20 years continuous residence. This was reduced to 10 years in 1962.
The measure will only affect about 2400 people per year, but is expected to save roughly $119 million.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Council of Australia and the National Ethnic Disability Alliance urged Parliament to block the measures in a combined written submission, claiming those most affected will be the most vulnerable section of the population, namely elderly people and people with a disability.
The organisations fear elderly Australians from migrant backgrounds will be forced to choose whether to abandon ill or dying family members abroad, or lose significant income support.
The change was proposed in May as part of the 2017-18 Budget. Last week a Senate committee investigated the proposed move.