Aussie immigration rules flout the spirit of Anzac

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Editorial: Aussie immigration rules flout the spirit of Anzac

OPINION: There is always a problem when New Zealand and Australia disagree about something important. The two countries say they are “family” and “closer than any other two countries on earth”, so they can’t have a decent argument. Family members tend to feel ashamed when they start shouting at each other.

But many Kiwis are wondering what it might take to get New Zealand leaders to have a go at Australian misbehaviour. Last week Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that it was going to be tougher for foreigners to gain Australian citizenship. And it seems that he meant “tougher for Kiwis as well.”

His announcement, which came not long before the annual Anzac love-fest, seemed to betray the agreement he made last year with former Prime Minister John Key. Turnbull said last week that anyone applying for citizenship must have been a permanent resident of the Lucky Country for four years. Previously, they could spend three years on any visa and one year on a permanent visa before applying for citizenship.

This seemed to mean that New Zealanders would have to wait another three years after getting permanent residency in order to get citizenship.

It’s not easy to see how this squares with the deal Turnbull did with Key, which promised an “easier” path to citizenship for Kiwis who arrived after the infamous tightening of immigration rules back in 2001.

Under the Turnbull-Key deal, Kiwis who had earned an annual salary of A$59,000 over five years would have been allowed to apply for permanent residence and then a year later for citizenship.

Now Prime Minister Bill English dangles his bonnet and plume and desperately seeks clarification of this apparent Aussie u-turn. It does not inspire confidence when he adds that “in the long run it’s going to be tighter and more difficult to become an Australian citizen.”

Australia loves to invoke the spirit of Anzac and to stress the close relationship it has with New Zealand. It’s getting harder and harder for New Zealanders to swallow this when Australia is being so unfair to our people.

Turnbull’s apparent about-face, of course, comes after months of wrangling about the blatantly unfair Australia policy of deporting New Zealand-born Australian residents who, in many cases, have no meaningful ties with New Zealand at all.

Australia’s arbitrary and draconian policy has no counterpart in New Zealand’s treatment of Australians who have broken the law in this country.

Some now call for New Zealand to give tit for tat, to treat Australian residents in New Zealand the way Kiwis are treated in Australia. That would be satisfying and fair.

But everyone knows our politicians won’t do it. We can’t afford to annoy the Aussies that much. We need them as a source of work when our economy does poorly. That’s not the case now, because we (unusually) are doing better than Australia. But we will need Australia again some day.

Australian politicians shouldn’t be too smug, though. New Zealand anger is rising. When Aussies propose a toast to Anzac, one day they might get a rude Kiwi reply.

[Read the Dominion Post Article].

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