Australia agrees loan deal for Kiwi expats' kids

TRACY WATKINS
Last updated 16:34 07/02/2014
Tony Abbott, John Key
TRACY WATKINS

LEADERS MEET: Tony Abbott and John Key.

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Australia has agreed to extend access to student loans for the children of long-term Kiwi expats.

The announcement by prime ministers John Key and Tony Abbott is in line with proposals last year by the previous Australian Labor government.

The move was announced in a joint statement after a joint Cabinet meeting in Sydney this morning.

Key welcomed it as a "sensible and progressive step".

The two prime ministers also announced a special "Anzac visa" for visitors to Australia and New Zealand during the Cricket World Cup in 2015.

Key said the student-loan deal with the government of former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard had been up in the air since the Australian federal election in September. It was good to have certainty.

Under the Gillard government proposals, 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.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said Key had tried to save face by claiming a win out of extending student loans to children of New Zealanders, but it was already old news.

"He is taking the New Zealand public and media for a ride," Cunliffe said.

"This decision was reached by the previous Labor Government in Australia and was announced in June [2013]. [Foreign Minister] Murray McCully even welcomed it in a press release at the time."

It was "ridiculous" to say a 10-year qualification period was a concession when he understood Australians here had to wait only three years for the same entitlement.

"That hardly seems fair. How many generations does it go on?"

There had been no movement on the crucial areas of social welfare for New Zealanders in Australia, who were still treated as second-class citizens.

Cunliffe said he did not accept Key's argument that benefits for citizens on both sides of the Tasman were a tradeoff between improved rights in areas such as education and a reduced right for New Zealanders to live and work Australia.

The "full basket of options" needed to be on the table, for talks to be effective.

The Government should be committed to offering progress on what Australia wanted, where that was in New Zealand's interests, but also to withdraw rights Australians had in New Zealand if Canberra treated New Zealand unfairly.

Cunliffe would not say what those issues should be.

NO SUPERMARKET INTERVENTION

Abbott had less cheer to offer New Zealand exporters stung by a shut-out by the Australian supermarket giants. Abbott made it clear he would not intervene.

"These are commercial decisions. But anyone who fells they are aggrieved can apply to the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission]," he said.

New Zealand has pushed the line that the Aussie supermarket snub is a breach of the decades-old Closer Economic Relations pact between the two countries.

However, Key has stopped short of threatening a formal objection.

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