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Aust uni fee changes blindsides NZ

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/05/2017

Newly sworn-in Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee says one of his first jobs will be ensuring New Zealand isn't in future blind-sided by Australian decisions affecting Kiwis living there.

Mr Brownlee's first overseas trip is to Australia, and he leaves for Sydney late on Wednesday.

He will meet his counterpart Julie Bishop on Thursday morning.

High on the agenda will be the problem facing New Zealanders studying at Australian universities, who now face the prospect of paying full fees following a $2.8 billion cut to Australian education spending.

Mr Brownlee was given 24 hours notice about the proposed changes, as he was on the way to being sworn in as foreign minister.

"A particular item for discussion is Australia's policy changes that will see New Zealanders paying higher fees," Mr Brownlee said in a statement before leaving.

"Our relationship with our trans-Tasman neighbour is both close and important, so I'm to have a discussion about the bigger picture and how we can communicate sooner on these issues going forward."

Prime Minister Bill English, who on Tuesday questioned Australia's commitment to the special relationship between the two countries, told reporters on Wednesday there were "very deep ties" between the two countries.

"We want to make sure that what we thought were shared understandings get re-established," he said.

"That is that there is a particular relationship that benefits Kiwis going to Australia and Australians coming here."

Mr English confirmed there had been recent informal text message contact between himself and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Asked whether Mr Turnbull had been surprised by his comments about the state of the relationship, Mr English replied: "I wouldn't think so. I wouldn't think any Australian would be surprised about our comments."

The university fee issue follows last week's uncertainty over how changes to Australia's citizenship regime would affect New Zealanders who are under a special agreement that puts them on a fast track to permanent residence.

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