ABC Radio National Pacific Beat
Wed Oct 10, 2012
Hill: A former New Zealand foreign minister says he’s prepared to fly to Australia to appeal directly to the Government for what he says is discrimination against New Zealanders. Opposition Labour Party Spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Phil Goff, and also a former Labour Leader, says Kiwis in Australia are being denied a path to citizenship – contrary to claims by the Australian Government of equal treatment.
Pacific Beat has asked Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to speak about these concerns. A spokesman said he would be unavailable. A spokesman said that the claims are incorrect, that New Zealanders have to be permanent residents first before applying for citizenship. The statement says many Kiwis mistakenly believe that their right to live and work in Australia automatically qualifies them for citizenship, but their special category visa is still temporary. Phil Goff though, disagrees.
Goff: That’s not correct. Alone among people living permanently in Australia, New Zealanders are denied the rights of permanent residency and the benefits that go with it. Look, you can’t talk about having a single labour market, and aiming to achieve a single economic market between Australia and New Zealand, and then implement discrimination that contradicts that concept of everybody being treated in the same way.
Yet, you know, it’s really about fairness. So, were approaching the centenary of the ANZAC tradition, yet New Zealanders are singled out as being the only group that can live permanently in Australia, that work hard, that pay their taxes, but are denied the same things that every other permanent resident of Australia can take for granted - in terms of a path to citizenship, in terms of, you know, you pay your taxes so that if things happen that aren’t planned for, you become sick, you’re made redundant, there is a safety net there. I don’t think Kiwis think that’s a fair go, and what’s more, I don’t think that Aussies think that that’s a fair go, and this is about fairness.
Hill: Well, if the Australian Government says that this was all worked out as the result of an agreement with New Zealand, you were actually foreign minister at the time. Is it true that this was all done with New Zealand saying yes this is fine?
Goff: No - Absolutely not. The Australian Government of 2001 and the New Zealand Government agreed on two things: That people who were old age pensioners should get a pension paid for by both countries in proportion to the time that they’d spent working in each country, and that people who had major disabilities would be entitled to receive a benefit. Anything outside of that was left to the country itself to determine what path it would take.
In New Zealand we continue to treat Australians living permanently in New Zealand with exactly the same rights as Kiwis. In Australia it was done differently.
Hill: Well, the Immigration Minister of Australia, Chris Bowen says that New Zealanders are possibly just – they mistakenly believe that this visa gives them the right to qualify for citizenship. That’s just not true. But look at it from Australia’s perspective – New Zealanders are given this right to work and live in Australia which other people don’t have, so aren’t New Zealanders, you know, still better off than others?
Goff: Well, in every other region of the world – take the European Union for example – were you have a single labour market you don’t say to people you can come here and you can work here and you have to pay your taxes here, fair enough, but you’re denied the benefits that go with the payment of that taxation.
Hill: We’ve asked Chris Bowen the Immigration Minister to come on to talk about this but that’s been declined, they just sent us this statement. It doesn’t really sound as if anything’s going to change.
Goff: I think there has to be political engagement on it, and I’m happy to go over and have a talk to Chris, and have a talk to Bob Carr and others – because I think that when you look at the facts of the case, it’s not that New Zealanders are going there to bludge, they’re going there to work. They go there to work because there’s work there, and they go there to apply their skills. In fact, Kiwis have a higher rate of participation in the labour market than any other migrant group to Australia, and Australians themselves.
Hill: Are you doing anything about this yourself politically in New Zealand as well?
Goff: Well, I’ve raised the matter with our Government, and I’m awaiting their reply, because expect our Government to stand up for the rights of Kiwis in Australia, and to say that Kiwis in Australia should be treated in the same way as Aussies are treated in New Zealand – and I’ll go there and make the case myself to people on both sides of the political fence - I don’t think it’s a party-political issue – just to say this is about a fair go, this is about an ANZAC tradition, this is about trying to achieve a single economic market between our two countries that are so similar, and nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of their nationality.
Yeah, have a period of time before people can get benefits – that’s fair enough - but to say that someone who’s lived there for ten years, have their kids born in Australia and raised in Australia not having the right at a time of extreme illness, such as a brain tumour, being able to get income support so that the family isn’t in destitution – that’s wrong, and what really worries me is that some groups within the New Zealand population that have gone to Australia like the Pacific families, they’re raising their kids in Australia, but their kids have a ceiling that they can’t go beyond in their education because they’re not, for example, eligible for student loans. These are kids that grow up thinking of themselves as Australians. Surely, in Australia you want every kid to have the same chance to do the best that he or she can to make the most of themselves and their potential, and to contribute as much as they can to Australia – and policies like preventing them getting access to student loans is something that stops that happening.