Ryan Bridge urges Labour to push ahead with immigration changes for nurses

  • 06/07/2022

AM host Ryan Bridge says Labour should push ahead and change immigration settings for nurses, saying the party "won't be in Government" in five years anyway.

It comes after Opposition MPs grilled Immigration Minister Michael Wood at a Select Committee on Tuesday after the Government's immigration "reset" took effect earlier this week.

As part of the changes, there were 56 jobs that qualify for residency straight away - but nurses or midwives weren't on the fast-track pathway list despite dire staffing shortages. Instead, they could only apply for residency after working for two years

Former Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi defended that decision in May, saying "it would not be good if we attracted nurses here, gave them residence then they went off and did something else… we need them in those positions because of the health position we're in".

But Wood, who took the Immigration portfolio from Faafoi following his resignation from Parliament, indicated on Tuesday he was open to immigration tweaks for nurses.

"If we need to make adjustments as we move forward to get to the outcomes, then I'll certainly be open to doing that," Wood told the Select Committee.

Bridge, however, said Wood's comments were "absolute nonsense" and believed the Government would U-turn on Faafoi's policy.

"Why wouldn't they? What have they got to lose?

"Their argument for not doing a U-turn is that some of those nurses, once they come to New Zealand, they'll be nurses for a little bit and then they'll go and drive taxis or work in restaurants, or do something else."

Michael Wood.
Michael Wood. Photo credit: Parliament TV

Bridge said it wouldn't affect the Government should nurses decide to change careers down the track.

"For Labour, who cares if [nurses] do that in five, six years' time? Jacinda [Ardern] won't be in power, Labour won't be in Government, who cares?

"Just let them, look like the good guys - taking one for the team… What is the political downside for them? I can't see it."

Speaking from Melbourne on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government had been hammering away at identifying skills gaps.

"We have worked very hard to identify the skills gap New Zealanders have, the issues that businesses are facing and actually ease the path for those businesses to bring in those skills that we need."

But National Party Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford said there was a shortage of nurses and there was no justification for making them wait two years for residency.

"The Government's actions simply don’t make sense and Kiwis are paying the price," Stanford said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. "The only common sense and logic that the minister should be applying is that nurses will continue to choose Australia which is rolling out the red carpet in comparison. It's that simple."