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PMs Meet To Discuss Kiwi-Aussie Relations

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has told Helen Clark New Zealand needs to make the “strongest possible commitment” to defence.

After a ninety minute meeting with Prime Minister Helen Clark, yesterday, Prime Minister John Howard told a press conference of his plans to increase Australian defence spending by 2002.

While he said the amount of defence spending NZ committed itself to was up to the New Zealand government to determine, Mr Howard said Australia would like New Zealand to do as much as they could.

Ms Clark in turn told Mr Howard New Zealand would “keep our end up.”

She said while Government would not reduce defence spending, New Zealand as a small country could not afford to be as ambitious as it had been in the past.

Ms Clark is likely to cancel a deal to lease 28 F16 fighter jets from the United States government later this month. She planning to use the money saved on the purchase to upgrade New Zealand’s land forces.

At the meeting both Prime Ministers also agreed to review the costs and benefits of New Zealand migration to Australia.

The Australian Government is concerned with the large numbers of New Zealanders on the Australian unemployment benefit who push up Australia’s Welfare bill.

It says the New Zealand contribution of $150 million may not be enough.

Helen Clark is resisting pressure from the Government to top up the benefits saying Australia is benefiting from the New Zealand brain-drain, by receiving many of our best and brightest citizens.

Current immigration laws allow New Zealander to have automatic permanent residence Australia and to receive the dole after living there two years.

While many New Zealanders settle in Australia to live and work for the long-term few change their citizenship status and remain New Zealand nationals.


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