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A fresh start to social security with Australia

26 February 2001 Media Statement

A fresh start to social security with Australia

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that the new Social Security Agreement with Australia removes a longstanding irritant in a very important relationship.

"Both the New Zealand and Australian governments have been dissatisfied with social security arrangements for some time," Helen Clark said.

"The new arrangements preserve the right of New Zealanders to move to and live and work in Australia. New Zealanders presently living in Australia will see no change in their eligibility for social security.

"The revised Social Security Agreement will see New Zealand and Australia cost-sharing for superannuation and for payments for people with severe disabilities.

"Instead of wrangling over the level of reimbursements paid by New Zealand to Australia, our two governments will pay their share of superannuation and disability benefits to eligible New Zealanders and Australians living in each other's countries directly, based on the years of working life spent in each country.

"From today New Zealanders will have to be granted permanent residency, as well as have lived in Australia for two years, before they can access social security payments other than for superannuation and severe disability, as provided for in the new agreement.

"If New Zealand were to demand that every New Zealander crossing the Tasman should get full social security entitlements, then Australia would be fully justified in asking for hundreds of millions of dollars more in reimbursement, given the disproportionate migration flows between our two countries.

"It should be noted that under the existing Social Security Agreement New Zealand has not reimbursed Australia at all for unemployment and sickness benefits, and nor will it under the new agreement.

"The cost of those benefits for New Zealanders in Australia has fallen on the Australian taxpayer.

"In making this announcement John Howard and I are reaffirming the fundamental freedom of New Zealanders and Australians under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements (TTTA) to freely travel, work, and live in each other's country.

"This free flow of people is a central factor in the Closer Economic Relations agreement which is a key plank in our close links with Australia and reflects the fact we have so much in common.

"The agreement being announced today, and the manner in which it has been forged, underscores our ability to work together on issues of common concern," Helen Clark said.


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