Jacinda Ardern slams Australian government telling Kiwis to go home

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit out at Australia’s new ruling on temporary visa holders after acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge told those unable to support themselves or access government schemes “it’s time to go home”.

The Australian government has advised to the 2.17 million people in Australia on temporary visas, including 672,000 New Zealand citizens on the 444 visa, that they should leave if they could not sustain themselves for six months outside the critical sectors. The sectors are health, aged and disability care, agriculture, food processing and childcare.

“Temporary visa holders who are unable to support themselves under these arrangements over the next six months are strongly encouraged to return home,” Tudge said on Saturday.

“For these individuals, it’s time to go home, and they should make arrangements as quickly as possible.”

Ardern said she had been taken aback by Tudge’s statement.

She said many Kiwis were not eligible to access the JobKeeper scheme despite making up “a key part” of the Australian workforce.

“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,” Ardern said.

“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.”

Kiwis who arrived in Australia before February 26, 2001 are eligible for Centrelink and JobKeeper benefits. The 444 visa holders who arrived after 2001 had access to the JobKeeper payments, but not the JobSeeker payments. However, others in casual work or without employment have no support, SBS reported.

“New Zealanders should consider returning to New Zealand if they are unable to support themselves through these provisions, work or family support,” Tudge said.

This article originally appeared on Over60.