A New Zealand politician has urged Australia to give Kiwis living in the country a “fair go”.
Opposition Leader David Cunliffe has used a high-level meeting in Sydney to lobby for New Zealanders to be treated the same as Australians living in New Zealand.
“For all sorts of historical reasons, New Zealanders living in Australia are not treated the same as Australians living in New Zealand,” he told the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum on Wednesday.
“For example, Australians studying in New Zealand can access our student allowances and loans after two years, while most Kiwis studying in Australia are denied similar payments.
“New Zealanders living in Australia are also forced to pay public disability insurance, but most will get no support if a tragedy occurs.
“In contrast, Australians living in New Zealand pay into our ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) system and are given that support if the need arises.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has signalled there’ll be no significant change to rules enacted in 2001 that deny new Kiwi arrivals some key benefits of permanent residency while keeping the right of abode in Australia.
The one concession so far to New Zealand lobbying on behalf of its so-called “second-class citizens” is that – subject to legislation being passed in Canberra – student loans will be available from January 1, 2015 for Kiwis who’ve lived in Australia for 10 years.
Mr Cunliffe, who is leader of the NZ Labour Party, said another fundamental area where there wasn’t a fair go both ways was citizenship.
“Australian nationals who come to live in New Zealand can eventually become full participants in New Zealand life, but many New Zealand nationals in Australia cannot become fully-fledged Australians.”
He said there was a widespread misconception that New Zealand migrants to Australia had lower than average skills and were more likely than average to be unemployed.
“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.”