On talkback, the topic has been running hot for a couple of weeks but news the Australian Government was withdrawing subsidised tertiary education for Kiwi kids in Australia shouldn't have been news at all.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. Commentators have been predicting the erosion of benefits for New Zealanders who choose to make Australia home since 2001 when John Howard's Coalition Government demanded our Government pay for the benefits Kiwis received in the lucky country.

The tension may have started earlier than that, when the transtasman Travel Agreement of the 1970s came to an end and New Zealanders were required to present passports when travelling to Oz.

Previously, New Zealand and Australia had an informal agreement and citizens of both countries could move freely across the ditch.


In 1981, that came to an end. We can thank the Mr Asia drug syndicate for that. An Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry found the admittedly lax system had been used and abused by drug traffickers and police were adamant it was time the porous borders were shored up.

Twenty years later the Australian Government brought in even tougher entry requirements and we can point the finger at another dodgy lot for that hard line approach.

Migrants from other countries would get New Zealand residency then make like kangaroos and bound across the ditch to their true country of choice - and promptly claim Australian residency.

It's not surprising the authorities got a bit grumpy. And really, can you blame the Australian Government for wanting to look after its own people?

New Zealanders have been absolutely vital to the Australian economy. During boom times, 1000 Kiwis a week were leaving here and jumping straight into jobs in Oz.

It was a win-win situation - Australian companies needed people to maintain profitability and productivity; Kiwis got jobs and pay they could only dream of back home.

But as every country does in an economic downturn, the Aussies are looking at their migrant worker pool and saying: thanks but no thanks.

It seems a little short-sighted to treat New Zealanders so harshly when we have, overall, been a force for good in Australia. Study after study has shown New Zealanders have contributed far more to the Australian economy than they have taken - at least until recent times.

But governments must look after their own. We would expect ours to do the same. We're neighbours and have a shared history - but that doesn't give us a right to the privileges of Australian citizens.

The message seems to be getting through. The number of Kiwis applying for Australian residency has plummeted. In 2012-13, 2500 applied for permanent residency; a mere 45 had applied over eight months to February of this year.

Now some are demanding our Government respond tit for tat to "punish" the Australians.

That's short-sighted. We want high calibre migrants here with skills, qualifications and a desire to succeed. And if they're Aussies, great.

We can afford to have migrants here - our economy isn't tanking. For the moment. And if bright young ex-pat Kiwis come back across the ditch to study here, so much the better. Yes, some will return to Oz with their New Zealand degrees but we'll hold on to a few.

We should accept that Australian politicians will make policies that benefit Australians.

There is no requirement for them to consider Kiwis - and I doubt Gerry Brownlee can change that - even with the skills he'll pick up from foreign affairs officials. It seem a waste of time. It would probably be easier to teach him ballet.

No talks will change the Australian Government's mind - until the next time it needs us. Then we'll be in a better position to make demands.

• Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB weekdays, noon-4pm.