Hockey hints at expat change

Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
John Key and Joe Hockey

ALLIES: NZ Prime Minister John Key and Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey held talks in Wellington.

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Australia's tough talking Treasurer Joe Hockey is signalling he may be willing to bend on the rights of Kiwi expats across the Tasman.

After meetings in Wellington yesterday, Hockey told Fairfax the vexed issue of the rights of expat entitlements had been raised in his discussions with Prime Minister John Key _ and ''there are some areas where we might be able to move''.

Hockey would not be drawn on specifics and the Australian Government is unlikely to make significant concessions given the size of both its budget deficit and the domestic backlash to its recent cost cutting budget.

But Hockey said Key had raised some specific areas in relation to welfare entitlements and he had given a commitment to ''go back and find out what's deliverable.''

Key later confirmed that he had raised some ''anomalies'' with Hockey, including New Zealand parents who had children in Australia born with significant impairment or disability.

''If you're a child that's badly disabled, born to New Zealnd parents in Australia, then you are not eligible for State support till the age of 10 under the current rules, because you're not a citizen and not a resident. But you would be, even though you're neither of those things, when the child turns 10.

''That's both very unfair on the child and on the parents and also doesn't make sense because long term the State would be paying anyway and actually it would make sense for the child to get as much support as he or she needs on compassionate grounds.''

There were a few areas ''that sit in that category'' that had been raised with Hockey.

But it was acknowledged that Australia was unlikely to change the broader policy in relation to Kiwi expats.

Several hundred thousand Kiwis living across the Tasman are denied welfare entitlements and other rights of citizenship under a hardline change of policy in 2001.

When Key last raised the issue with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, Abbott said he expected Kiwis to be ''lifters not leaners''.

Hockey said yesterday it was tough for the Australian Government in the current environment and extending the welfare safety net to non-nationals carried a big cost.

Key said New Zealand accepted that.

''I don't think there will be massive change in the short term.......I'm quietly confident that in some specific areas there might be movement. But for wholesale movement that's not on the cards at the moment.''



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