Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott says he likes what he has seen in the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Oz Kiwi Opinion
It is being reported that Tony Abbott is about to throw his support behind the establishment of a much closer relationship with the UK, modelled on the trans-Tasman relationship and incorporating the elimination of tariffs and quotas, the mutual recognition of standards and qualifications, and the essentially free movement of people.
There is no doubt that exactly this sort of relationship between like-minded countries has been highly beneficial to Australia and New Zealand and there is good reason to believe similar results could be achieved in any deal with the UK.
However, Oz Kiwi are concerned that Mr Abbott has said any deal must ensure that ‘no one’s bludging’.
We are as opposed to bludging as anyone. Our worry is that what Mr Abbott is proposing is to replicate the arbitraty and permanent restrictions that apply to New Zealanders in Australia in any deal with the UK – the sort of restrictions that do not only give bludgers a kick up the backside, but which hurt hardworking families, students, domestic violence victims, and disabled children amongst many others and disenfranchise long-term, law-abiding residents.
Free movement arrangements between cuturally similar nations with comparable living standards have many advantages – they enrich our cultural life, give people new opportunities, and allow for a more efficient distribution of labour.
They, however, must be structured in a way that maximinises benefits and reduces risks.
It is obviously undesirable to have an arrangement in which migrants are free to abuse the hospitality of their host nation and willfully become a burden on the taxpayer.
It is equally undesirable, though, to have policies that lead to the establishment of a population of hundreds of thousands or millions of tax-paying, law-abiding residents with a permanent second-class status that denies them access to a range of government services and effectively bars them from citizenship.
Neither the open slather granting of full rights to migrants on first arrival nor the application of absolute and permanent restrictions on them is good policy.
Whether in re-examining the TTTA or in exploring the expansion of free movement to the UK or other nations, Australia must adopt policies on the rights of migrants that seek a reasonable balance.
The easiest way to achieve this is through the application of reasonable waiting periods that migrants must serve before gaining full and equal rights to existing residents.
This is the approach Oz Kiwi have advocated since our foundation and one that has been backed by the Productivity Commission.
[Read the full Guardian article].