Dear <insert your MP's name here>,
As one of your constituents I wish to kindly ask for your assistance to communicate to the Minister for Citizenship (the Hon. Chris Bowen) on my behalf regarding my eligibility to become an Australian citizen.
I am a New Zealand citizen who permanently moved to Australia in <insert date>, and to you electorate this month. I have since continued to permanently reside here as a fully-employed taxpaying Australian resident of good character. As I am a New Zealand citizen I am allowed to permanently reside in Australia under the reciprocal Trans Tasman Travel Agreement as the holder of an automatically issued Special Category Visa ('SCV').
A while ago I decided to apply for Australian citizenship, only to discover the Ministers' current policy is that New Zealanders who arrive after 26 February 2001 are now never eligible to apply for Australian citizenship, no-matter how long they may reside, or no-matter how much they may contribute to Australia during their lifetime here. This policy appears to permanently deny me Australian citizenship based upon my nationality.
In doing so, the Ministers' policy (implemented under the ministerial powers afforded under Section 5A(2) of the Citizenship Act) appears to breach Article 1.3 and Article 5 of The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ('ICERD') as ratified by Australia - which states:
Art. 1.3: Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as affecting in any way the legal provisions of States Parties concerning nationality, citizenship or naturalization, provided that such provisions do not discriminate against any particular nationality.
Art. 5: In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
(c) Political rights, in particular the right to participate in elections-to vote and to stand for election-on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, to take part in the Government as well as in the conduct of public affairs at any level and to have equal access to public service;
(d) Other civil rights, in particular:
(iii) The right to nationality
After enquiring to DIMIA about applying for citizenship I was informed that as an SCV holder I can now never do so as a result of the 2001 bilateral social security arrangements between Australia and New Zealand. However, there appear to be no provisions whatsoever relating to citizenship in any agreement between the two countries – let alone in the 2001 agreement that purely deals with aged and disability social security payments.
DIMIA also informed me that the Ministers' policy is not discriminatory, as I can eventually become a citizen and vote if I can qualify to re-immigrate to Australia (apply for and obtain a permanent residence visa "PRV'). As I have already immigrated permanently to Australia over four years ago then it seems to be an extraordinary condition based upon my nationality and immigration status to have to re-immigrate and start all over again just to be able to eventually qualify for citizenship.
The United Nations Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Committee also seems to agree with me, because in 2004 they affirmed in General Recommendation 30 - Discrimination against non-citizens: Paragraph 4:
"Under the Convention, differential treatment based on citizenship or immigration status will constitute discrimination if the criteria for such differentiation, judged in the light of the objectives and purposes of the Convention, are not applied pursuant to a legitimate aim, and are not proportional to the achievement of this aim."
Therefore the UN Racial Discrimination Committee apparently confirms that (under international human rights law ratified by Australia) it is unlawful for the Minister for Citizenship to deny me the right to apply for citizenship because of an immigration status that corresponds directly to my nationality (Special Category visas can only be issued to New Zealand citizens) – given that I am otherwise allowed to permanently reside and work in Australia without restriction. It is only New Zealanders that can now live their entire lives in Australia, but are now never eligible for citizenship under the Ministers' current policy.
Under the same general recommendation the UN Racial Discrimination Committee also states that: "14. Recognize that deprivation of citizenship on the basis of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin is a breach of States Parties' obligations to ensure non-discriminatory enjoyment of the right to nationality;"
"5. States parties are under an obligation to report fully upon legislation on non-citizens and its implementation."
Under Australia's' mandatory reporting guidelines DFAT has failed to report the 2001 policy changes to citizenship that only affect New Zealand citizens to the ICERD Committee.
Given the above, I would appreciate any assistance that you can provide in asking whether the Minister is also willing to consider changing the policy regarding eligibility for citizenship for New Zealanders such as myself – as I will also eventually become a long term resident of Australia, and am also permanently denied citizenship because of my nationality and immigration status. The only difference being that I did not lose my right to citizenship, but simply never had it to begin with because of the Ministers' new policy.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination does not appear to make any such distinctions as to whether I ever had such a right to citizenship and lost it because of my nationality, or never had it to begin with – only that I should not be treated differently because of an immigration status that corresponds directly to my nationality.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
<put your contact details at bottom>