Kiwis seek support from PM’s wife

Kiwis entitlements Australia
Expat New Zealanders entitlements in Australia (Graphic: Sydney Morning Herald)

Oz Kiwi opinion

The Prime Ministers’ wife Margie Abbott is unlikely to have any influence on, or inclination to change, the LNP Government’s policies towards New Zealanders living in Australia. Particularly because she is not impacted due to arriving in Australia prior to February 2001.

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Kiwis seek support from PM’s wife

15 September 2013

Andrea Petrie – Sydney Morning Herald

Australians and New Zealanders have fought side by side in world wars, can move without restriction between countries under the trans-Tasman arrangement and share a mutually beneficial free trade agreement.

Yet when it comes to each others’ expatriates, Australia has been accused of treating Kiwis as second-class citizens.

Illustration: Matt Golding

And while prime minister-elect Tony Abbott might still be only a week into the top job, New Zealanders are already hoping that because his wife, Margie, is a Kiwi it will help influence change.

Under travel arrangements reached in the 1970s, expats can live, work and study in each country indefinitely. But legislative changes introduced by the Howard government 12 years ago – as well as amendments to several other laws thereafter – changed things.

Although Kiwis can permanently live and work in Australia on special category visas, they are not entitled to permanent residency. Nor do they get automatic rights to citizenship.

The then Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, said the changes were designed to place New Zealanders ”on an equal footing” with people of other nationalities.

”Basically, anyone who arrived here after February 26, 2001, or who had been living here and for whatever reason was living overseas the year the law was changed, is affected,” said Tim Gassin, the spokesman for Oz Kiwi, a group campaigning for equality for the estimated 300,000 unprotected Kiwis affected.

The actor and academy award winner Russell Crowe is among them. Despite moving here in 1968, Crowe was working overseas filming Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind when the Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (New Zealand citizens) Act 2001 was brought in.

He had planned to become naturalised in 2006, only to discover that despite living here for 37 of his 49 years he was ineligible.

Crowe has described the immigration loophole as ”arbitrary and ridiculous”. [Note: Russell Crowe is eligible for PR via a Resident Return Visa].

”This is the country I chose to live in, this is the country in which I spent my formative years, so it’s kind of frustrating,” he said. ”There’s a whole bunch of New Zealanders who have committed to a life here, who have had children here, who bought their first houses here, who have been productive, taxpaying members of society … Until recently I had an Australian wife. I have two Australian children. But I still fall between the cracks.”

Mr Gassin said Kiwis had the highest workforce participation in Australia, and it was ironic that many residency and citizenship applications had been rejected because their skills were not in demand.

Without citizenship, Kiwis cannot vote, nor get any form of social or disability welfare, even though they contribute an estimated $5 billion in income tax annually and have to pay levies, including for the national disability insurance scheme.

Furthermore, children born here to New Zealand citizens are no longer considered Australian. Such children qualify for citizenship only after living here for 10 years, meaning those born with disabilities are not eligible for government assistance. Mr Gassin said Kiwis were not coming here to ”bludge” off Australians. ”They’re working and contributing to the economy and paying taxes and levies,” he said.

”While they’re covered health-wise by Medicare, they’re not entitled to access any benefits from their contributions should they fall on hard times.”

In contrast, Australians are granted residency on arrival in NZ, can vote after living there for a year and become eligible for citizenship after five years. They are also entitled to welfare benefits after two years.

The Productivity Commission of Australia and New Zealand completed a joint report last year on the trans-Tasman relationship and found Australia’s treatment of Kiwis was unreasonable, unjustified and required change.

[Read the Sydney Morning Herald article].


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