NZ, Australia to consider expats in policy decisions

New Zealand and Australia will take expats into consideration in their domestic policies following a stoush over proposed changes to university fees across the Tasman.

In new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee's first official trip, he met with counterpart Julie Bishop where they discussed the Higher Education Reform Package as part of Australia's Budget next week.

From next year, New Zealand students will be withdrawn from government-subsidised placements at universities, effectively making them fee-paying students. It could raise the cost of study by up to 500 percent in some cases.

There are currently 8000 New Zealanders studying in Australia, 6000 of whom could be affected by the changes.

They'd be charged the same as international students, upping the average fees Kiwis pay from about AU$7000 a year to more than AU$25,000.

On Wednesday, Mr Brownlee told the AM Show announcement, which took the Government by surprise, made him "unhappy" and said in future the Government would "like a little more notice".

In a joint press conference on Thursday, the foreign ministers confirmed that's what would happen in future.

"With a new foreign minister we took the opportunity to confirm our officials will continue even closer engagement on domestic policies of our respective governments as they impact on our respective citizens," Ms Bishop said.

Mr Brownlee said those ructions need to be seen in the "context of the long relationship" both countries have had.

"The fact sometimes in our two countries we forget we are separate governments and we do have responsibilities to our separate populations.

"These are not things that can't be sorted out or worked out or discussed in future."

Mr Brownlee said there'd "always be an issue about entitlements in each other's countries," but both countries run their own domestic policies.

Ms Bishop said the changes should be seen in the context of the Budget and the Government's aim to keep the higher education sector "high quality and sustainable".

She confirmed there'd be an exception for New Zealanders in narrow circumstances.

"What we have is an exception in the case of New Zealand for subsidised places - those New Zealanders who arrived as children and have been here longer than eight of the last 10 years will have access to government-subsidised places that are otherwise only going to be available to Australians."

But she says New Zealanders will still have access to the current "generous" student loan programme.

"But it is not a free service."

Under the current scheme, anyone who takes out a loan will need to stay repaying it when the graduate earns $42,000 a year.

She expected over time, the changes would actually mean more Kiwis would be looking to study at Australian universities.

She said rumours of possible further changes to the education sector involving Kiwis was just "speculation".

Mr Brownlee thought the blindside would be a "one-off".

"I appreciate if you're putting together a budget you can't necessarily have international bilateral negotiations about what's going to be in that budget."

He believed the agreement was "quite reasonable".

"It's no big deal about it, but it's something that goes onto the radar screen."

Newshub.

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