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High level talks on trans-Tasman relations

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/05/2017 Peter Wilson

Gerry Brownlee. © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Gerry Brownlee. The government's concerns about the state of the trans-Tasman relationship will be discussed when Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee meets his Australian counterpart in Sydney.

Mr Brownlee's talks with Julie Bishop on Thursday take place against a background of uncertainty about how the Australian government views the special relationship between the two countries - and if it cares.

Prime Minister Bill English has questioned Australia's commitment.

"In the past there has been a common understanding of how we were treating each other's citizens - clearly, that understanding is changing in Australia," he said on Tuesday.

The catalyst has been the Australian government's policy change that will see New Zealand citizens paying full university fees.

About 6000 students will pay $8700 a year more - it's part of an overhaul of the tertiary system.

The government was blindsided, with Mr Brownlee given 24 hours notice of the change.

That unwelcome surprise followed several days of uncertainty last week over the impact changes to Australia's citizenship rules would have on New Zealanders who are on a fast-track path to permanent residency under an agreement brokered between the two governments last year.

Mr English has suggested that when the citizenship announcement was made, the Australian government hadn't thought about the Kiwi angle.

It took a phone call to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to sort it out - the New Zealanders won't be affected.

Mr Brownlee said in a statement before leaving Wellington on Wednesday that his discussions would go beyond the tertiary fees issue.

"I'm keen to have a discussion about the bigger picture, and how we can communicate sooner on these issues going forward," he said.

Mr English and Mr Brownlee have ruled out a tit-for-tat reaction to Australian decisions that adversely affect New Zealanders.

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