Gerry Brownlee, left and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.Gerry Brownlee, left and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. (Photo: Supplied)
Benedict Collins, Political Reporter
The way the government was caught off guard by Australia’s sudden tertiary education price-rise this week was a “one-off”, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee says.
In a pre-budget announcement the Australian government said this week it would stop subsidising New Zealanders tertiary education from next year – more than tripling the costs for many students.
The New Zealand government had no idea the change was coming.
It said it would continue to subsidise Australians’ education.
In a news conference following his meeting with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop today, Mr Brownlee said he could understand what had happened.
“I appreciate it’s very difficult if you’re putting together a budget that you can’t necessarily go off and [have] international bilateral negotiations about what’s going to be in that budget.
“So I think this is a bit of a one-off,” Mr Brownlee said.
Ms Bishop said the changes being made to Australia’s higher education sector were designed to ensure it remained high quality and sustainable.
“What we have is an exception in the case of New Zealand for subsidised places.
“Those New Zealanders who arrived here as children and have been here longer than 8 of the last 10 years will have access to government-subsidised places that are otherwise only going to be available for Australian citizens,” Ms Bishop said.
She said New Zealanders across the board would have greater access to student loans.
The two Foreign Ministers said officials from both countries would work more closely together to understand how domestic policy changes would affect their citizens.
The chairman of the lobby group Oz Kiwi, Timothy Gassin, said Mr Brownlee’s acceptance of the change was outrageous.
“The government’s response is to roll over, and not just roll over and accept it, but to go out there as Brownlee was today, and essentially take the Australian government’s talking points and say, ‘Oh well actually this isn’t too bad because actually it will encourage more Kiwis to go and study in Australia because of their generous student loan scheme.’
“It’s frankly a load of nonsense.”
[Read the Radio NZ article].