Auck, NZ: New Zealanders in Australia should be treated the same way as Australians in New Zealand are treated, Labour leader David Cunliffe has told an Australian audience this evening.
Mr. Cunliffe made his speech at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney.
“The fact is, for all sorts of historical reasons, New Zealanders living in Australia are not treated equivalently to Australians living in New Zealand.
The law was changed in 2001 preventing New Zealanders in Australia from accessing most government support and welfare programmes.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared his Government was unlikely to remove discrimination against expatriate Kiwis after Prime Minister John Key raised the issue during talks in Canberra last month.
Mr. Cunliffe said Australians studying in New Zealand can access New Zealand’s student support payments after two years, while most New Zealanders studying in Australia cannot access equivalent Commonwealth payments at all.
New Zealanders living in Australia must pay for public disability insurance, but most cannot access any if they become disabled. Australians living in New Zealand pay into our ACC system and can access it if the need arises.
Another fundamental area where the fair go does not go both ways lies in paths to citizenship.
Australian nationals who come to live in New Zealand and wish to become New Zealanders; who work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the community can eventually be full participants in New Zealand life.
But many New Zealand nationals who come to live in Australia, and who wish to become Australians; who work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the community have no equivalent path.
Australians who move to New Zealand become permanent residents on arrival, whereas most New Zealanders who move to Australia are not accorded the same status.
No one could argue against a reasonable and credible pathway to permanent residence for New Zealanders in Australia. But our shared commitment to a fair go requires us to have a hard look at the status quo.
There is a widespread but misconceived impression that NZ migrants to Australia are of lower than average skill levels and more likely than average to be unemployed.
The reality is very different. New Zealanders moving to Australia, of whom we have regrettably had over 200,000 in the life of our current government alone, tend to have higher than average skill levels and to be from younger than average age cohorts.
In many cases they bring with them the benefit of years of investment from the New Zealand education system, including at tertiary level.
Mr Cunliffe said he was committed to working with Australian counterparts to make sure that the ANZAC tradition of equality and respect was strengthened.