Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed his government will start making student loans available to young New Zealanders who have lived in the country for at least 10 years.
The announcement came after Mr Abbott met Prime Minister John Key in Sydney on Friday.
Under the proposal, New Zealanders under the age of 18 will be eligible for tertiary education or vocational training loans provided they entered Australia as a dependent minor at least 10 years before applying.
Mr Abbott said he could not take credit for the decision as it was made by the previous Labor Government before last year’s federal election. But he said given it is so important to New Zealand he will let the decision stand.
Mr Key welcomed the decision and said the Government was continuing to press Australia to provide other benefits, including disability care for New Zealanders living across the Tasman.
The Prime Minister said it was in the best interests of both countries to provide educational opportunities for young people.
He said New Zealand and Australia shared one of the closest economic partnerships in the world and it was critical that they continued to deepen the economic and business links between them.
Mr Abbott stressed the closeness of the relationship with New Zealand, referring to Mr Key as his brother Prime Minister.He said it was for that reason he invited New Zealand to participate in the G20 meeting of advanced economies in Brisbane later this year.
The leaders also announced that international visitors will only need one visa to attend games in the 2015 Cricket World Cup being co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
Access of New Zealand products to Australian supermarkets was also expected to be given focus at the talks, after revelations last week that Australia’s two big supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, were taking Kiwi goods off the shelves.
Meanwhile, supermarket chain Countdown said on Friday it has received complaints from customers concerned by this. The company owned by Woolworths Australia has had a backlash from some shoppers on social media.
New Zealand’s Food and Grocery Council said Woolworths and Coles are refusing to renew contracts with New Zealand suppliers for the sole reason that they are not Australian.
Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says the Prime Minister should be embarrassed with the outcome of his meeting with Tony Abbott.
Mr Cunliffe said on Friday that John Key has got nothing out of the meeting and is showing his desperation by re-announcing an old decision.
He said the agreement to extend student loans to children of New Zealanders who are long-term Australian residents was made by the Government in June 2013.
Mr Cunliffe said it is humiliating and not a good way to start the Government’s relationship with its Australian counterpart.
He said John Key should have been pushing to improve social welfare for New Zealanders living in Australia, who he says are treated as second-class citizens.
Courtesy – Radio New Zealand News
Some light at the end of the tunnel for our NZ residents, particularly for teriary students. This has been a bugbear for some time. Places are available for NZ student, but HELP (previously HECS) was not available, with payment required up-front. This initiative is not a carte blanche solution but at least long term NZ residents with children who meet the criteria will benefit.
Entitlement to the range of welfare entitlements, particularly since NZ residents pay Australia income tax, is a continuing disadvantage, and there is no immediate sign that The Australian government will revisit this stance.