PRIME MINISTER John Key has highlighted the treatment of New Zealanders in Australia, saying the current immigration system in Australian prevents Kiwis from applying for citizenship, claiming benefits and voting.
Key will meet with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Queenstown this week for the annual bilateral talks between Australia and New Zealand, and said that the rights of New Zealand’s significant emigrant community will be addressed at some point during the two-day summit.
The New Zealand Prime Minister’s major criticism of the treatment of Australia’s New Zealander population stemmed from the fact that New Zealander’s were required to pay taxes while working in Australia while being unable to claim financial aid.
Key said: “There are a number of factors they need to consider. One of them is obviously the financial implications but then there is whether they think there is fairness in the system as it currently sits,” he said. We always encourage a situation where New Zealanders are treated well and fairly, but that can have different definitions in different places.”
Around 280 000 New Zealand citizens have emigrated to Australia since 2001 and are living in the country on temporary or special category visas. These visas give New Zealanders the right to live in Australia, however precludes them from receiving welfare or voting for their government representation.
According to internal documents prepared by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship the government is currently considering a proposal to allow New Zealanders that have lived in the country for over eight years to apply for full citizenship. Australia’s strict immigration quotas and stringent selection criteria is projected to prevent 100 000 New Zealanders living in Australia from ever obtaining citizenship.
A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said that the government was reviewing its policy towards New Zealanders living in Australia, however denied claims that they were being discriminated against and said that they had the same rights to apply for citizenship as anyone else.
The disparity in the immigration relationship between Australia and New Zealand demonstrates a higher tendency for New Zealanders to immigrate to Australia, with Kiwis crossing the ditch at a rate around ten times higher than that of Australians moving to New Zealand. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade claims that there are over 600 000 New Zealanders living in Australia as opposed to the 65 000 Australians living across the Tasman Sea.
The immigration relationship between Australia and New Zealand was solidified through the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements of 1973 which allowed citizens of both countries to live, work and travel in either without restriction. This agreement is one of many bilateral treaties governing trans-Tasman relations and was designed to consolidate the traditional regional partnership between the two nations.
Prime Minister Key acknowledged the profound difference in trans-Tasman immigration levels in making his remarks about the Australian system, stating that the situation for Australians living in New Zealand was clearly different and that his government had no plans to change the current system.