New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit back at the Australian government for telling Kiwis to go home soon if they could not support themselves or access government schemes.
In a press conference this afternoon updating the public on the government's Covid-19 response, Ardern said Australia shouldn't be so quick to send New Zealanders home as they made up a key part of its workforce and it would need them when the epidemic ended.
"If they wish for Australia to be in a position to gear up in the aftermath of the outbreak then they will need a workforce to do that and New Zealand make up that workforce. They on average earn more and pay more taxes than others. They are a key part of the Australian economy and I would have thought they wouldn't want to be so quick to lose them."
Ardern said she had been very taken back by Australia's acting immigration minister Alan Tudge's comments that those who were on temporary visas who were unable to access support or support themselves should consider going home.
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Ardern said there was a wide range and wide number of kiwis who were not eligible for the Australian government's JobKeeper scheme - one of the few schemes kiwis on a 444 visas would be eligible for.
New Zealanders also helped make up the health workforce and while some may have lost their jobs because they worked in elective areas she also would have thought the government would have wanted to hold on to them, she said.
In a statement yesterday, Tudge said that while citizens, permanent residents and many New Zealanders had access to unconditional work rights and government payments (including the new JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments), temporary visa holders did not.
New Zealanders on 444 visas and who arrived in Australia before February 26, 2001 have access to welfare payments and the JobKeeper payment. Those 444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 had access to the JobKeeper payment. Those who have lived in Australia for 10 years or more have access to JobSeeker payments for six months.
"New Zealanders should consider returning to New Zealand if they are unable to support themselves through these provisions, work or family support," Tudge said.
Additional reporting RNZ