Information for New Zealanders living in Australia

Australian Labor recognises inequity faced by New Zealanders

Members of the Oz Kiwi group at a NSW community festival. Photo: Supplied
Members of the Oz Kiwi group at a NSW community festival. Photo: Supplied

30 July 2015

Shannon Gillies - Radio New Zealand

The Australian Labor Party says it will examine Australian laws that are discriminatory against New Zealanders.

Since 2001, New Zealanders living and working in Australia do so under a special category visa. This restricts access to social welfare benefits and means they cannot get jobs in the government and military. At the opposition party's recent national conference, two amendments that affect New Zealanders who entered Australia under the visa program were adopted into Labor's national platform. Labor said it was committed to ensuring that no migrant was classified as being 'permanently temporary', and would examine the issues and constraints around the visa scheme.

Joanne Cox, spokesperson for New Zealand lobby group Oz Kiwi, said she was pleased Labor had started the conversation around New Zealand citizen's rights. “What it means is that the Australian Labor Party has recognised the inequity of the situation of New Zealanders residing on the special category visa.”

Ms Cox said only New Zealanders were governed under this specific visa regime, which prevented them voting and excluded them from any pathway to citizenship. She said other nationalities could enter Australia with a skilled work visa, a permanent visa, or a spousal visa to reside legally. After that, she said, there was a two year waiting period for them to become entitled to social security and after four years they could apply for citizenship. She said New Zealanders were not asking for any special favours from the Australian Government, but did want fairness.

Ms Cox said she was unsure if this new stance would be a vote winner for Labor given New Zealanders only make up about one percent of the Australian population. She said New Zealanders often became members of blended families, one partner Australian and one partner a New Zealander.

“The children in that relationship would be born Australian citizens courtesy of the Australian parent, but the inequity of the situation is that because one partner is a New Zealander, the other partner is not entitled to any support. So if the Australian was to become ill the New Zealander couldn't care for them with a carer's payment and if the New Zealander became ill or disabled they wouldn't get the disability support pension.”

In another restriction, New Zealanders living in Australia on the visa cannot get help from a Government-funded family violence support program, she said.

Australian Shadow Minster for Citizenship and Multiculturalism Michelle Rowland said the visa scheme had resulted in unfair treatment of New Zealanders. She said New Zealanders paid taxes to a Government they cannot elect, and they essentially don't receive the same benefits that other Australians do. She said this needed to be looked at, and the principle of giving those New Zealand citizens the right to vote would be a good starting point.

Read the ABC article.