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Clark Dismisses Criticism Of NZ Immigration Policy

Prime Minister Helen Clark today suggested that comments from Australian Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock criticising New Zealand’s immigration policy had more to do with Australian domestic politics than New Zealand.

“Every so often they bring out the ‘Kiwi Bludger’,” she said.

She said she had been given no indication that Australia wanted to review the trans-Tasman travel agreement.

Miss Clark said that more New Zealanders in Australia are paying taxes than drawing benefits. “In our view the benefits are overwhelmingly for Australia.”

Mr Ruddock said, “New Zealand has to focus on what it is that has led to a very significant movement of their own people. New Zealand has seen a very significant exodus of its population.”

But Miss Clark said the New Zealand economy is picking up after the period of recession from 1998/1999, and said there would be less factors pushing New Zealanders away as the benefits of the improving economy are felt.

Mr Ruddock raised concerns about third country immigration to Australia, where immigrants to New Zealand who would not be allowed into Australia end up there via New Zealand. He called for a harmonisation of the two country’s immigration policies.

Miss Clark said she could see little difference that harmonisation would make. She said the only real difference in the two country’s immigration policies is New Zealand’s close relationship with the Pacific.

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