Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Social Security Changes for New Zealanders

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today detailed new Social Security arrangements for new arrivals moving from New Zealand to Australia.

Senator Vanstone said the changes, effective today, would mean people have to first gain permanent residence status before claiming some Social Security payments, like Newstart Allowance.

“However, the Federal Government would like to reassure the estimated 400,000 New Zealanders already here that these changes do not affect them,” Senator Vanstone said.

“Also many of the payments which help families, like Family Tax Benefit and associated Rent Assistance will still be available to eligible people moving here from overseas.

“Australia and New Zealand have both benefited greatly over the years from the free flow of people across the Tasman to live, work and travel, and from their free access to each other’s labour market and this will not change.

“However, while we are keen for this exchange to continue and recognise the enormous benefits to Australia – we have had to look at ways to contain our escalating social security costs.”

Senator Vanstone said the new arrangements, announced by Prime Minister John Howard and New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, today, would result in balanced responsibility for Social Security payments between the countries.

“These changes are an important element of the review of the bilateral social security arrangements, set in train by the joint prime ministerial task force on bilateral relations which started in August 1999.”

Also a new Social Security Agreement with New Zealand is planned to start on July 1, 2002. This will change the range of pensions paid, however, people receiving benefits and pensions under the existing agreement will not be affected.

Details of New Social Security Arrangements with NZ

The new social security arrangements between Australia and New Zealand provide a more stable, durable and affordable underpinning for the free trans-Tasman flow of people.

The changes will not affect New Zealand citizens who are already living in Australia. They will be able to access the full range of social security and other benefits. These people will automatically retain current rights and privileges as if they are permanent residents of Australia. We recognise that these people have already made Australia their home and want to ensure they are not unfairly disadvantaged by the new arrangements.

New Zealanders who move here in the future will find that the new social security agreement, covering pensions for people who are aged and support for people who become disabled after moving here, is similar to our agreements with other countries. Both countries will share financial responsibility for these pensions, based on the proportion of working life residence spent in each country.

New Zealanders who seek to move here in future will only be able to access the full range of income support payments and employment assistance if they become permanent residents of Australia – by successfully applying for a permanent residence visa.

New Zealanders in Australia will still be able to apply for a range of payments, including Family Tax Benefit A and B (including associated rent assistance), Maternity Allowance, Maternity Immunisation Allowance, Double Orphan pension and Child Care Benefit. They will have access to Low Income Health Care Cards and Seniors Health Care Card and will be able to use Medicare and public hospital services. If they are unemployed, they will still be able to access assistance in getting a job.

We will also introduce legislation to provide short-term assistance for New Zealanders who come here as temporary residents, live and work here for ten years, then fall into hardship.

Generous transition arrangements have been developed for New Zealand citizens not in Australia on 26 February 2001:

  • New Zealanders who are residing here or have lived here for a total of one year out of the last two, are not in Australia today but want to resume living here, can do so with rights and privileges as if they are permanent residents.
  • Those who had decided to move here when the changes were announced may still be eligible for permanent residence under the old arrangements, provided they take up residence within three months from today. They will then have three years from today in which to apply to Centrelink for a certificate of residence status that, if granted, will give them rights and privileges as if they are permanent residents
  • To protect New Zealanders who are seconded to work overseas, those unable to be in Australia by 26 May 2001, but who can demonstrate that they meet the residence requirements under social security law on 26 February 2001 (which includes an assessment of assets and relationships in Australia), have 12 months from today in which to return to Australia and apply to Centrelink for a certificate of residence status that, if granted, will give them rights and privileges as if they are permanent residents.
  • New Zealanders who are currently receiving a pension or benefit from Australia, but who are temporarily overseas under the short-term portability provisions of the Social Security Act, will be able to return and resume living here as long as they return to Australia within the portability period – they will be granted a certificate of residence status giving them rights and privileges as if they are permanent residents.

A new social security Agreement will commence from 1 July 2002. The new Agreement will cover age pension, disability support pension and carer payment. Until the new Agreement commences, New Zealanders will be able to apply for any payment that they are eligible for under the current Agreement (age pension, disability support pension, parenting payment and partner allowance) without first gaining permanent residence.

Those who are receiving payments under the old agreement will have their eligibility preserved. Some payments covered by the old agreement will not be covered under the new agreement (some forms of disability and single parenting payment). However people will still be able to apply under the current agreement after 26 February 2001 to receive these payments without first obtaining permanent residence until the new agreement comes into force (likely July 2002). People receiving payment under the current agreement when it terminates will continue to be paid until they cease being eligible for that payment. However once they drop off payment they may need to acquire permanent residence in order the regain access to payments, unless the payment applied for is included in the scope of the new agreement.

Details of the changes are outlined in an information booklet available at Centrelink Offices or by contacting the NZ to OZ Helpline 13 3242 during business hours. Information is also available on the Internet.