New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asked Scott Morrison to allow New Zealanders living in Australia to access unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs in the coronavirus downturn. (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)
Sarah Martin and Ben Doherty The Guardian
24 March 2020
The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, is urging her Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, to allow New Zealand citizens living and working in Australia access to welfare benefits as the Covid-19 pandemic triggers mass unemployment across the country.
Speaking on Tuesday, Ardern said she had raised the issue directly with Morrison, with a specific request for a “a short-term exemption” to Centrelink restrictions on the more than 650,000 New Zealanders living and working in Australia.
Australian Labor also urged the government to use expanded powers endorsed by the Senate on Monday night to allow the more than 1.6 million temporary visa holders in Australia immediate access to special benefit payments to prevent hundreds of “trapped” migrants who lose work becoming destitute. [Note: the LNP did not include any such amendment in the final Bill].
The social services minister, Anne Ruston, said on Tuesday that under new regulations passed by the parliament, she was able to make any necessary changes to the payment system to deal with the “evolving situation” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including in relation to special benefits.
The special benefit payment is currently accessed by only about 7,000 people and is available to people in “financial distress” who are not otherwise eligible for Centrelink benefits. The most recent data available from the Department of Social Services suggests the payment is predominantly made to those over 65, and people born in Iran and China.
[Read the full Guardian article].