25 Mar 2013

Former Australian PM defends NZ immigrants policy

12:00 pm on 25 March 2013

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard is defending his government's policy and treatment of New Zealand immigrants.

His Liberal Party government introduced measures in 2001 that stop New Zealanders who live and work in Australia from receiving some welfare benefits, despite the fact they pay taxes there.

This has become a sore point for many who say they are being treated as second-class citizens.

Despite the resentment, current Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has ruled out any changes that would allow New Zealanders access to unemployment and other welfare benefits if they fall on hard times.

Mr Howard told TVNZ's Q + A programme the policies his party implemented were justified.

He said his government had responsibilities to the Australian population and there was an understanding reached between the two governments at the time.

Mr Howard said he does not believe he was viewed in any way as unfriendly or unsympathetic to New Zealanders.

He admitted, however, that many Australians are condescending towards New Zealanders.

He said he never intended to create a situation where people felt second-class in the country in which they were living, but there were justifiable reasons for the change at the time.