PM: No longer safe to assume Australia will treat Kiwis living there like their own

The relationship between Prime Minister Bill English and his Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, is looking less rosy by the day. (Photo: Pool)

Oz Kiwi Opinion

We appreciate Bill English’s acknowledgment that the NZ Government has an obligation to Kiwis in Australia due to the fact they had moved there on the basis of long-established understandings between the two nations.

This is a point that gets forgotten far too often. Free movement exists because it is seen to be an essential part of a mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

While it is Australia that has undermined core elements of these arrangements, both governments ultimately have a responsibility to sort out the current mess.

PM: No longer safe to assume Australia will treat Kiwis living there like their own

Jo Moir – Stuff

Bill English speaking on Australian policy that may affect Kiwis living there.

The drop in the number of Kiwis heading across the ditch is partly because they’re not getting a fair deal, says Prime Minister Bill English.

Speaking at his weekly media conference, English has made his strongest comments yet that the even break Kiwis used to be able to expect living in Australia is no longer the norm.

“What have been a set of assumptions and practices that we’ll treat each other’s citizens as if they were our citizens…we can’t assume that”.

PM: No longer safe to assume Australia will treat Kiwis living there like their own

The comments come on the back of subsidies for New Zealand citizens enrolling in tertiary education courses in Australia likely being withdrawn under proposed new changes.

That, along with recent volatility around citizenship laws and debates over deportees and welfare benefits has put the traditional Anzac relationship under threat.

Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee met with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Sydney last week where they discussed Australian changes to tertiary policy that would directly impact Kiwis. (Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

On Monday English said the government has been waiting for the normal cycle of Kiwis heading over to Australia to resume but it’s been a couple of years now and it hasn’t happened.

“I think probably part of the reason you’ve got significantly fewer Kiwis going there is an accumulated sense that the safety net’s not the same.”

“Part of the environment at the moment is a pretty strong focus on non-Australians and on Australian first policies from both major political parties. So if you combine that with the fact they’ve got government deficits that they’re pretty committed to clearing up, you can see how the kind of decision we got last week arises.”

English said the reassurance Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee got from his Australian counter-part, Julie Bishop, that policy affecting New Zealander’s would be discussed ahead of announcements in the future needed to be followed up.

“They’ve made decisions that seems likely to us that they weren’t taking account of the impact on New Zealanders.”

“It’s in our interest not to get too pessimistic about it but to do what we can to assert our interests and get the gains that may lead to less uncertainty for Kiwis there,” he said.

Opposition MPs have pointed to Australia’s concerns about New Zealand being used as a backdoor for people from other countries.

English said it would be good to establish exactly what Australia’s concerns are.

“This issue around whether New Zealand is a soft entry to Australia, that’s come up and I’ve heard the discussions myself but it’s hard to pin down.”

“We’re confident our immigration and border control is sound…we’d like to understand precisely what their concern is because there’s no evidence that the New Zealanders moving to Australia constitutes some unique or special burden on Australia. In fact the economic evidence is they’re good net contributors.”

Reciprocating and putting the same tightened conditions on Australians living in New Zealand was not something English is considering.

“We’d rather conduct a discussion with Australia off the back of a positive position about welcoming Australians here in the way we’d like them to welcome Kiwis over there,” he said.

The government couldn’t turn its back on Kiwis living in Australia because they’d moved there “on the basis of a shared view between Australia and New Zealand’s government”.

“It’s the job of the government to get certainty for them so for those who do fly over to Australia and those who come here know what the deal is – that’s a reasonable thing to assume,” English said.

[Read the Stuff article].

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