New Zealanders in Australia eligible to access $130 billion wage subsidy scheme

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said New Zealanders were "part of an ongoing economy in Australia".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks to reporters.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has conceded it's difficult to understand the true spread of coronavirus because of testing limits. Source: Getty

New Zealand citizens at risk of losing their job in Australia will be eligible to access the government's $130 billion wage subsidy scheme during the coronavirus crisis despite being ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Announcing the "Job Keeper" package on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to allow New Zealanders on the Subclass 444 visa to access the $1,500-a-fortnight flat payment was made after a discussion with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"The reason for that is we have New Zealanders who have been making a life here, work here, connected to businesses here, they have commitments here and they own properties and rent properties," he said.

"They are part of an ongoing economy in Australia."

The unprecedented wage subsidy package will cost the government $130 billion over six months as it provides wage support to businesses and not-for-profits that have lost 30 per cent or more of their revenue due to measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Last week, Ms Ardern called on Mr Morrison to temporarily lift the ban on New Zealanders receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I have specifically sought, 'could we have a short-term exemption?' Just for these exceptional circumstances for New Zealanders to be supported," she said.

"Not least because it will encourage compliance during this time when we need people to be self-isolating for instances."

Mr Morrison said no other temporary visa holders would be allowed to access the scheme. 

Under the subclass 444 visa, New Zealand citizens are allowed to live, work and study in Australia for an indefinite amount of time but they are unable to access government benefits.

The subsidy will be available for full and part-time employees, sole traders and casual workers if they have been with an employer for more than 12 months. 

It will be paid from May, but will be backdated to 1 March.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. 

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.


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Published 30 March 2020 at 6:30pm
By Maani Truu