ZB

Nadine Higgins: Have we finally had a breakthrough with our Aussie cousins?

Author
Nadine Higgins,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Dec 2017, 7:28am
Jacinda Ardern hinted that she wouldn't rule out retaliating, by charging Australian students studying here like a foreign students. (Photo \ File)

Nadine Higgins: Have we finally had a breakthrough with our Aussie cousins?

Author
Nadine Higgins,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Dec 2017, 7:28am

Have we finally had a bit of a breakthrough with our Aussie cousins? I hope so, because they were starting to feel like estranged family members you don’t like talking to much anymore.

The Government there planned to ditch all Government tertiary education subsidies for Kiwi students studying in Australia and instead start charging them full whack as part of a move towards "Australia First" but it's now ditched the plan after the bill stalled in the Senate.

The reason this is particularly interesting to me is during the election campaign  and after she took power ..  Jacinda Ardern hinted that she wouldn't rule out retaliating, by charging Australian students studying here like a foreign student rather than locals - ie, much, much more. 

Her Government has been accused of getting offside with the Australians over issues like this and Manus Island while the previous Government arguably maintained a more deferential stance when the Australians made policy changes that affected kiwis, or in some cases, violated human rights. When this plan was announced earlier this year then-minister Gerry Brownlee simply said he’d ‘convey the Government’s unhappiness’.

I think this shows that while Bill English called any idea of a tit-for-ta ‘pretty silly’, sometimes it makes pretty good sense when you’re trying to stand up to the Australians on behalf of our people. 

Bear in mind that this isn't the same as the benefit issue. It’s pretty clear that there are proportionally far more Kiwi beneficiaries in Australia than there are Australian beneficiaries in New Zealand. 

But when it comes to students, it's a different story. In they make up roughly the same percentage of our respective student populations. There are at least a million tertiary students in Australia only 12,000 of them are Kiwis. Our student population is about 400,000 almost 5,000 of them are Australians. But we are more generous in allowing access to student loans and allowances than the Australians.

Why does this matter? Well the ANZAC special relationship has been becoming increasingly less special for more than decade hasn’t it. Australia has been eroding the rights of Kiwis in Australia since 2001, changing citizenship rules, access to benefits , deporting even longstanding residents if they’ve served jail time, often even keeping them in offshore detention centres for a bit first.  Meanwhile we continue to be more generous with Australians living in New Zealand. We treat Australians like our own, even when we ban foreign buyers, we'll treat Australians differently. 

So maybe Jacinda's hinted threats changed something. I'm going to chalk this up as a win for us. While you don't want these things to get out of hand and you have to pick your battles sometimes tiptoeing around all diplomatically doesn’t achieve all that much. Sometimes a bit of tit for tat is exactly what’s required to command a bit of respect.