New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has strongly criticized Australia’s decision to tell temporary workers in Australia who have been left unemployed due to the coronavirus crisis that “it’s time to go home”.

Last week, Australian Immigration Minister Alan Tudge advised the 2.17 million people living in Australia on temporary visas to return home. The suggestion also includes the 672,000 people who hold the 444 visa, which is New Zealand-specific.

Ardern confronted PM Tudge on the decision, saying that they should better support New Zealand citizens living in Australia. She added:

“What (Mr Tudge would) do well to remember is that if they wish for Australia to be in a position to gear up in the aftermath of the outbreak, they now need a workforce to do that. New Zealanders make up that workforce. 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,” she said

She also reminded the Australian minister that New Zealanders are also a substantial part of the healthcare workforce, which she, “would have thought again, would be a workforce that they would wish to keep.”

The decision does not affect those who have a secure and permanent, full or part-time work or anyone who’s been living in Australia before 2001 and has access to COVID-19 benefits. But those with insecure or casual work or unemployed were asked to depart.

The Australian government also asked the 203,000 international tourists currently visiting Australia to leave “as quickly as possible”. Anyone with a working holiday visa or backpacker visa who cannot sustain themselves for the next six months was also advised to leave.

Exempt from the decision were those involved in one of the “critical sectors” which include healthcare, childcare, aged and disability care, as well as agriculture and food processing.

Another measure to combat the Coronavirus pandemic has been taken last week by the Australian authorities, as the country closed the internal borders of the Australian states, disabling residents to move from one state to the other.

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