Student fees spat won’t harm ‘superb’ Australia and New Zealand friendship

The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, with her New Zealand counterpart, Gerry Brownlee, in Sydney on Thursday. (Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Gerry Brownlee, NZ’s foreign affairs minister, says anger over proposed budget measures would be ‘worked out

Gerry Brownlee and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, met in Sydney on Thursday and discussed proposed increases in Australian university fees and the Turnbull government’s push to make it harder for permanent residents to become citizens.

New Zealanders are particularly angry that students attending Australian universities could soon pay full fees for the first time under the government’s proposal to slash $2.8bn from the higher education sector in Tuesday’s budget.

New Zealanders call Australia’s university fee hike an ‘act of bastardry’

But Brownlee said the relationship between the New Zealand prime minister, Bill English, and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, remains “superb”.

His relationship with Mr Turnbull is superb and I don’t think we can say that the travel arrangements are a problem,” Brownlee said.

The recent issues could be “worked out or discussed in the future”.

“We’ve agreed today that officials from both countries will consider both of the country’s domestic policies in relation to how it might affect our citizens living in those countries,” he said.

The warmth of our discussions today reaffirms the friendship between our countries.

Bishop assured New Zealanders they would have “greater opportunities” to access the Australian higher education system but they needed to be aware “it’s not a free service”.

These are changes that have been made in the context of the Australian budget to ensure that our higher education sector remains high quality and sustainable,” she said.

New Zealanders across the board will have greater access to what is a very generous higher education loans program.

[And] my expectation is more New Zealanders will be seeking to gain a degree from an Australian university.”

Brownlee reiterated Australia’s crackdown on citizenship would not affect New Zealanders.

Bishop agreed and said “the pathway to citizen arrangement stands” for New Zealanders.

[Read The Guardian article].

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