Many New Zealand citizens permanently residing in Australian territory under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangements are currently excluded from the definition of ‘permanent resident’ in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, and the definition of ‘Australian resident’ in the Social Security Act 1991, as a result of legislative changes that applied as of the 26th of February 2001.
As a result of these changes, many people who live, work, pay taxes, and raise families in Australia are now never able to enjoy equal rights simply because they come from New Zealand.
In a media release dated the 26th of February 2001, Philip Ruddock, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs welcomed these changes by announcing that:
"The new arrangements have been introduced with the express purpose of implementing the new social security agreement and apply to all New Zealand citizens, regardless of place of birth”
The Australian Parliament passed these changes on this basis. However, the current Australian Government now acknowledges that these legislative changes were unilaterally implemented by the Howard Government outside of any treaty with New Zealand.
Such unequal treatment based on nationality is classed as ‘race discrimination’ under Australian State & Territory laws. It is also considered unlawful discrimination under international law. However, it is perfectly legal under Australian Federal law.
Australia has a duty to comply with its legal obligations under international law concerning the treatment of New Zealand nationals permanently residing within its territories – Specifically, all residents, regardless of nationality, are entitled to equality before the law and should be subject to the same reasonable waiting periods concerning access to citizenship and eligibility for social security and other social services.
This would put Australia in line with its legal obligations under the following articles of international law:
Article 9 - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by Australia – i.e.: legally binding)
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.
Article 16: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified by Australia – i.e.: legally binding)
Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 26: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified by Australia – i.e.: legally binding)
All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
- as described by the Committee on Economic, Social ,and Cultural rights in  of General Comment 19, The Right To Social Security E/C.12/GC/19:
37. Non-nationals should be able to access non-contributory schemes for income support, affordable access to health care and family support. Any restrictions, including a qualification period, must be proportionate and reasonable.