Kiwi ‘cull’ threat backfires badly for minister

Australian Immigration Minister's broadside at New Zealand has backfired.
Phillip Ruddock when he was Minister for Immigration with then Prime Minister John Howard (Source: Sydney Morning Herald).

6 December 2000

Sydney Morning Herald article

Australian Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock’s broadside at New Zealand has backfired.

Mr Ruddock warned Wellington at the weekend to curb the number of migrants using New Zealand citizenship as a stepping-stone to Australia, or risk the introduction of trans-Tasman visas.

But his comments in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph, under the front-page headline “Kiwi Cull,” met with cynicism or lack of interest from a media normally happy to attack rising New Zealand migration.

Most main newspapers have instead given emphasis to Prime Minister Helen Clark’s counterattack and her claims on Monday that Australia was gaining skills for nothing, and that expatriate Kiwis were less likely than Australians to be on the dole or claiming benefits.

Australian studies over the past decade have consistently shown that about one in five Kiwi migrants are professional, semi-professional, managers or administrators, and that 30 per cent are skilled.

Expatriate Kiwis as a whole are better educated, more likely to be skilled, and on average earn more than Australians.

The jobless rate for New Zealanders is only fractionally higher – 7.0 per cent compared with 6.8 per cent of Australians in September.

Mr Ruddock’s attack was aimed at New Zealand’s immigration policies, which have long been a thorn in the ANZAC relationship and led to the introduction of passports for trans-Tasman travel in 1981.

Canberra believes that Wellington’s more open policies provide a back door for migrants to avoid tough Australian entry requirements by enabling them to gain New Zealand citizenship and unrestricted rights of entry, residence and employment across the Tasman.

But New Zealand has refused to buckle, and Mr Ruddock conceded to the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia had no intention of curbing the right of New Zealanders to come to Australia.

He also said he believed Australians were comfortable with the arrangement.

The Australian launched its own broadside at Mr Ruddock, accusing him of using New Zealand to divert attention from his immigration policies and the scandals surrounding the refugee detention centre at Woomera, in South Australia.

The newspaper said his scaremongering over a minor problem could damage transtasman relations, overlooked the benefits migrants from New Zealand brought in terms of skills and economic stimulus, and held racial implications.

“We fear [Helen Clark] is right when she says Australia’s discomfort over backdoor migrants – many of whom were born in the Pacific Islands or Asia – has racial overtones,” the newspaper said.

“The problem with Mr Ruddock’s call for harmonising immigration is that it sounds more like an attempt to make New Zealand conform to our questionable policy.

“He should be fixing his own crisis at Woomera and tackling our need for more immigrants rather than taking cheap shots at the Kiwis.”

[Source article no longer available online].

Comments are closed.