More than half a million Kiwis live across the ditch but many will not be able to vote in Australia’s election at the weekend.
01 July 2016
by Ruth Wynn-Williams – TVNZ
Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who live across the Tasman will have no say when Australia goes to the polls on Saturday.
2006 Census figures show around 37 per cent of Kiwis have become Australian Citizens which means around 400,000 New Zealanders won’t be able to vote.
New Zealander Vicky Rose has been living in Queensland for 10 years but, according to the Special Category Visa she was issued the day she arrived, is still considered a Temporary Resident.
“I would have thought 10 years was a commitment to Australia, a commitment to living here and therefore I should be able to have a say,” Ms Rose said.
Ms Rose, who received a Queensland Inspiring Woman award for her community work at the Nerang Neighbourhood Centre, says without the right to vote, issues facing New Zealanders in Australia will continue to be ignored.
Right now 200 Kiwis remain in Australian-run Immigration Detention Centres and following a law change in 2001, thousands of New Zealanders are unable to access welfare including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which is funded by taxpayers.
“I’m going to be paying for that, and I’m not even able to access it,” Ms Rose said.
“It’s extremely frustrating, that is what my taxes are supposed to be for.”
Advocacy group OzKiwi is among those lobbying for Australian-based New Zealanders to have more rights.
Governance adviser Natasha Maynard says the group isn’t calling for special treatment but reciprocity.
She says Australians who cross the Tasman are afforded greater rights and are allowed to vote after just two years in New Zealand.
South Brisbane’s Rankin electorate has one of the highest Kiwi populations outside of New Zealand, but only a fraction of the 14,000 who have settled there have the right to vote.
Labor MP Jim Chalmers has represented the area for three years.
“I’ve got it today. All of this week, all of this month people have come up to me and said they would love to have a say in Australia,” Mr Chalmers said.
He says any suggestion that New Zealanders in Australia are “bludgers” is a myth.
“We know hard data that the benefits of having New Zealanders here far outweigh the costs. And I know here in my own community the tremendous contribution [they make].
“My commitment to them is that we do need to have a proper conversation in this country about how we get hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders properly involved in our democracy as well as our society.”
Under current legislation, Ms Rose admits the best way for New Zealanders to guarantee their rights in Australia is to become citizens, but she says the cost of applying puts it out of reach for her and thousands of others.
“Voting is the key. The people who you vote in are the ones that are going to determine your future here. And if we can’t have a say in that, our future is going to be determined by people who don’t care about us.”
Oz Kiwi says their research tells them only a few thousand New Zealanders will actually vote in Saturday’s election.
[Read the TVNZ article.]
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