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Trans-Tasman Must be Retained - National

28 February 2000

Trans-Tasman rights long fought for; must be retained

Prime Minister Helen Clark must give New Zealanders an assurance she will fight to retain hard fought-for travel rights for New Zealanders to Australia, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"The Prime Minister needs to defend New Zealanders rights of travel and work freely between the two countries when she meets with John Howard this week, rather than calling those who chose to work in Australia "disgusting". I call on the PM to make clear she is not softening New Zealanders up to accept any change in the work and travel entitlement between New Zealand and Australia.

"Many individuals and families rely on this to expand economic opportunities for themselves and for New Zealand. Successive New Zealand Governments have fought hard to retain this right over the years. Free travel between New Zealand and Australia has been an integral part of keeping both labour markets fluid and dynamic.

"I am very concerned that Helen Clark may be signaling with her comments today, that she would be willing to look at giving Australia what some Australians have wanted for years - a requirement that New Zealanders travelling to Australia will require work permits.

"If the PM wants to retain New Zealand's brightest and best she should listen to business and investors who are calling on the Government to retain the improvements in ACC rather than adding new costs, and to retain the flexibility in the labour market which has been so instrumental in creating employment for many New Zealanders.

"The special relationship, embodied by CER, and which has brought such significant economic advantage, dictates that both countries continue to operate open immigration policies, so that New Zealanders and Australians can enjoy each others countries unhindered by visas and work permits.

Mrs Shipley also called on the Prime Minister to ensure that New Zealand was not forced to pay more to compensate for New Zealanders on unemployment benefits in Australia.

"With the two year stand-down for benefit entitlement for New Zealanders moving to Australia, and Kiwis having the lowest rate of unemployment of any foreigners in Australia, New Zealanders are not a drain on the Australian taxpayers as some Australians have suggested in the past.

"Tax-paying New Zealanders in Australia more than contribute to the cost of unemployment benefit for those New Zealanders in Australia who are unemployed.

"While there has been a need to update the amounts New Zealand has paid for long-term benefits, New Zealand should not be drawn into paying unemployment benefits or accepting any changes to New Zealanders travel and work requirements.

"I call on the PM to strongly push New Zealand's case for continued free work access to Australia, and reject any suggestion that alterations to our social security agreement can be used as a justification to alter New Zealanders' rights to work in either country.

"She must not give Australia the excuse they are looking for to introduce work permits for New Zealanders," Mrs Shipley said.


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