NZ PM hits out at university fee changes

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English speaking to SkyNews earlier today.

New Zealand’s prime minister Bill English has delivered an extraordinary trans-Tasman attack on the way Malcolm Turnbull’s government is making policy changes that affect Kiwis living in Australia.

Bill English now wants serious discussions about the policy of how New Zealanders in Australia are treated.

‘We want a serious discussion with them about where they’re headed with this policy, rather than announcements that are made either without telling us or at short notice,’ he said.

Mr English said Kiwis in Australia – and Australians in New Zealand – had an arrangement that was, traditionally, mutually beneficial. He said that begun to change following decisions made by former prime ministers Helen Clark and John Howard.

‘There is now significant uncertainty about that traditional arrangement,’ he said.

‘We need to have a discussion with them about the general policy so that people aren’t surprised, and to minimise the uncertainty particularly for New Zealanders in Australia, who I’m sure don’t know just what might happen next.’

New Zealand Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee will visit Australia on Thursday for frank discussions with his counterpart Julie Bishop about how expats are treated.

It’s pretty clear that New Zealanders are not doing well out of these decisions – so Gerry Brownlee is going there as his first visit as foreign minister, and we will certainly be raising these issues,’ Mr English said.

The unprecedented verbal serve comes after the Turnbull government announced changes to how New Zealanders in Australia pay for university education.

New Zealand expatriates will be forced to pay full fees to go to university, rather than enrol under a Commonwealth Supported Placement, or CSP, which Australian students have access to.

‘We’re pretty unhappy about it,’ Bill English said.

The changes aren’t all bad for New Zealanders in Australia – under the plan announced on Monday, Kiwis would be able to defer the cost of their education by accessing student loans.

This change marks the second time in two weeks Australia made domestic policy changes that could impact permanent Kiwi residents.

Responding to suggestions he could retaliate by reducing the rights of Australians in New Zealand, Mr English said there was a need to ‘avoid the temptation for (the) short term satisfaction of punishing Australians in New Zealand.’

Instead, he said he wants to have a ‘long term discussion about the long term situation’ of Kiwis in Australia.

‘We’d prefer to get a sound basis for the rules applying to New Zealanders in Australia that reflects the traditional arrangement. For now, that’s a better course than us trying to retaliate by punishing Australians here,’ the New Zealand prime minister said.’

However, Mr English said he has always had constructive conversations with Malcolm Turnbull.

‘In any discussions I’ve had with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, we’ve always felt that we’ve had a hearing. He’s specifically made decisions that assist the situation of New Zealanders in Australia so we want to make sure we maintain that positive relationship, so we can make some gains.’

[Read the SkyNews article].

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