Expat Party to contest 2017 election

Kiwis living in Australia will soon have a political party dedicated to defending their rights. (Photo: Supplied)

By Isaac Davison

A political party representing New Zealand expatriates is relaunching for the general election.

The Expat Party wants a stronger voice in New Zealand’s Parliament for the 650,000 Kiwis living in Australia, many of whom are ineligible for health, education and welfare entitlements across the Tasman.

Its relaunch comes just as Australia announces further rule changes which make it harder for Kiwis to get citizenship and more expensive to attend university.

The Expat Party had planned to run in 2014 and signed up 1200 paid-up members – well above the required threshold of 500 – but was unable to get registered in time because the Electoral Commission could not confirm some of its members.

That meant it did not contest the party vote and ran one candidate as an independent in Ikaroa-Rawhiti, who pulled just 70 votes.

Co-leader Grant Cheesman, originally from Oamaru and based in Perth, said the Expat Party would focus on the party vote this year. It needs about 150,000 votes to pass the 5 per cent threshold required to enter Parliament.

“We only really need to get one in five to turn up to the polls,” he said.

The party’s election platform is fairer treatment for Kiwis living in Australia, many of whom arrived after immigration rules were tightened in 2001 and had limited access to entitlements despite paying tax.

It wants more lenience for Kiwis who move to Australia with student loans, and greater flexibility around moving superannuation between countries.

Cheesman said the party also wants to make it easier for Kiwis overseas to vote. He said the process was overly complicated, and he wanted online voting to be introduced.

He partly blamed the difficult voting process for a woeful turnout among Australian expats. He said between 20,000 to 30,000 of them cast a vote in 2014 – less than 5 per cent.

Expat New Zealanders cannot vote in Australia unless they are citizens. Australians, on the other hand, can vote in New Zealand if they have lived here for a year.

The Expat Party is one of several new groups making a bid for Parliament this year.

The newly-formed Advance New Zealand party took out advertisements in newspapers last week saying it had formed “in response to the disheartening and unrestrained downward spiral of a myriad of issues including housing, immigration, transportation, the environment and personal well-being”.

Among its policies are the creation of an Upper House of Parliament, the introduction of a capital gains tax, phasing out petrol-powered cars by 2050, and putting a stop to all development permits in Auckland for two years until infrastructure can catch up with population growth.

Other parties which have been formed to contest the 2017 election include Gareth Morgan’s The Opportunities Party (TOP), the People’s Party, which is dedicated to immigrants’ rights, and the Seniors Party.

[Read the NZ Herald article].

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