Kiwis in Australia push for their rights

New Zealand opposition leader Jacinda Ardern has put Kiwi rights in Australia in the spotlight. (AAP)

The rights of Kiwis living in Australia has become an issue in the New Zealand election thanks to tough talk from the new opposition leader.

New Zealanders living in Australia hope whoever wins the NZ election will take a tougher line to stop them being treated as second-class citizens, but do not back talk of retaliation.

The main NZ opposition party’s new leader Jacinda Ardern has warned a Labour government would retaliate if Australia goes ahead with changes that would raise the cost of tertiary education for Kiwis studying here.

Volunteer campaign group Oz Kiwi’s chairman Dr Timothy Gassin says many New Zealanders living in Australia would support a tougher line but are hesitant about retaliation.

“The position of Oz Kiwi has always been that Australians in New Zealand shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip in this,” Dr Gassin told AAP.

“This is really something that needs to be sorted out between the two governments.”

Dr Gassin said many Kiwis living in Australia are frustrated that the NZ government does not react when their rights are eroded.

“The New Zealand government gives the impression that while they don’t like it, they’re not going to allow it to harm the relationship in any way,” he said.

“Whether a tougher approach is going to work if there’s a change of government, we’ll have to wait and see.

“Certainly I think a lot of people are saying that might be something worth trying in one way or another.”

Oz Kiwi argues the rights of New Zealanders in Australia have been eroded since 2001 changes to citizenship laws that meant they are no longer considered to be permanent residents and cannot access the full range of social security payments.

Dr Gassin said most people do not expect to go back to a situation where Kiwis can hop off a plane and be treated like an Australian citizen, but do want recognition for those people who have been living in the country and paying taxes.

“They’re probably going to spend the rest of their lives in Australia. It doesn’t really help them or really help Australia in the long term to keep them in a permanent second-class status.”

NZ Prime Minister Bill English does not believe retaliation on tertiary education is warranted, fearing it would harm the progress made with a new pathway for New Zealanders to gain citizenship in Australia and have the same rights as Australians.

Dr Gassin does not expect the Australian government will reverse the policies that have negatively impacted Kiwis living here, but says a tougher approach from New Zealand may prevent further changes.

“The key advantage I see of a tougher approach in the shorter term is to at least make it a thing where an Australian government might think twice before going down this path.”

[Read the SBS article].

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