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Officials bowed to pressure on Aussie agreement

Bill English National Deputy Leader

1 June 2001

Officials bowed to pressure on Aussie agreement

Treasury officials bowed to pressure from above in advising the Government over the Social Security Agreement which cut New Zealanders rights to benefits in Australia, National's Deputy Leader Bill English said today.

A mountain of Offiical Information Act papers was released to the media today, on the eve of a long holiday weekend to avoid scrutiny by journalists. They detail the background work of Treasury, Social Policy and Immigration officials leading up to the social security agreement signed with Australia in February.

The agreement cut permanent residency rights to New Zealanders in Australia, and Kiwis rights to benefits in Australia. Without permanent residency New Zealanders lose the rights to family tax relief, childcare and housing benefits, healthcare and even education for their children.

"Helen Clark called this a 'win-win' for Australia and New Zealand but the papers show her officials didn't think so and advised her and her Ministers against it.

"Helen Clark's 'win win' claim contradicts sharply with the Ministry of Social Policy paper: 'there will be a very sharp rise in the number of economically distressed New Zealanders living in Australia. Some of those who manage to struggle through and stay on in Australia will tend to drift down into an underclass status'.

"The same paper says Australia would 'cream off' a significant part of the professional and trade skills from New Zealand's workforce, adversely affecting the proportion of skilled workers left and New Zealand's long term productivity.

"Despite these warnings Clark folded to the Australians, as she often does when there is the slightest hint of pressure, and then she misled to the country about it claiming the deal was to New Zealanders' benefit.

"Not only were these papers dumped on a holiday weekend to avoid proper coverage, but many were only partly released so that New Zealanders can't find out what really went on behind the scenes before Helen Clark caved in to John Howard," Mr English said.

Ends

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